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Business Continuity: How To Keep Your Business Survive And Thrive With Erika Andresen

In this unpredictable environment, it is essential to set up safeguards to protect your business. Because what if you wake up tomorrow without a job or discover your business is no longer operational? These worries matter; that is why, in this episode, we have a business continuity expert to help you address them. Rosie Zilinskas interviews Erika Andresen, CBCP, JD, MPA, a business continuity professional, army veteran, lawyer, and professor of emergency management. Erika helps us understand what business continuity is, why it is important, and how we can apply it to our corporate career. She also lets us in on her journey from the military world to the corporate world, imparting important lessons she has learned that continue to contribute to her success. Just like with all things we care about, we need to protect our business. Weather any storm with the help of Erika’s wisdom in this conversation!

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Business Continuity: How To Keep Your Business Survive And Thrive With Erika Andresen

 

Welcome back. Have you ever thought about what you would do if you lost your job tomorrow? What would you do if your business was inoperable? We have a business continuity expert now. Erika Andresen is a business continuity professional, army veteran, lawyer, and professor of emergency management. After a career working in actual disasters with life-and-death consequences, Erika saw business owners needed similar services to survive but did not know where to start. Erika started EaaS Consulting LLC with the goal of keeping businesses in business.

 

Erika has a background in the military. She’s a military veteran. One of the things we’re going to talk about is her experience in the military world compared to the corporate world, why it is that she got interested in business continuity, what business continuity is, why it is important, and how you can apply business continuity to your corporate career. With that, stay tuned for my conversation with Erika.

Hi, Erika. Thank you for being here. You have been in the military before and you have been in corporate. The very first question I want to ask you is, what are some similarities that you think we can learn from your military experience in the corporate world?

 

There are some similarities, but there are also some differences that are interesting that I wish took place in the corporate world. I was having a discussion with somebody about how normally, in the corporate world there is a division between males and females, especially with the assignment of roles. If there is a meeting with food, the person who goes and takes the Saran wrap off of the food is usually the woman because men are hanging around with their arms folded waiting for somebody to do that and expect a woman to do it, or a woman inherently too think it’s her job for some reason.

 

I never saw it that way when I was in corporate. I was hungry so I was going to open that wrap off. I’m never shy about being the first person. I’m like, “These are good cookies and they’re going to go quick. I’m getting them right now.” It wasn’t about that. In the military, it was not something. Because taxpayers’ money was not being abused, we never had food catered. However, if the food did show up, the person who brought it was all too proud to do the unwrapping. It had nothing to do with gender. It was like, “I brought this for everybody.” Also because based on rank, it wasn’t the female in the room, it was the lowest-ranked person in the room who had to do the work of cleaning up and whatnot. That wasn’t necessarily dictated by gender. It was 100% based on rank.

 

However, the one thing that I can say was similar is how women interact with men when asking for things. This is unfortunately something that is endemic amongst a lot of women. I know this because I did it differently. For whatever reason, maybe because I was a tomboy growing up, I never saw that I was a female and had to ascribe to any norm. I was a person and I work with people. They weren’t male or female.

 

Typically when a person will go and ask for something like, “Can I get vacation time?” In the military call it leave, “Can I go on leave?” Men would say, “Here’s my leave form, I’m going away these days. Sign it, please.” Women would be like, “Would it be okay if I go on leave? Here’s my form.” I was always the person like, “I’m going.” I never worried about being rejected because I told them I was going, and it was my entitlement to have a leave. I knew that I took care of everything so that was never a problem.

 

I even had to tell one of my sergeants. She had her name mispronounced all the time. That’s something I’m used to having as well, but I correct people right away. I even corrected a general and someone’s like, “You corrected a general on your name.” I was like, “It’s my name. Why would I not?” This one woman kept allowing this guy to say her name incorrectly. She was my sergeant, so I called her over. I was like, “Next time he calls you by the wrong name, you will correct him.” She went, “Yes ma’am.”

 

I’m like, “It’s you. It’s your name. Be proud of it. Say who you are.” The next time he called her by the wrong name, she was like, “Yes, sir.” I’m listening because I’m right by her. She then goes, “By the way, sir, my name is pronounced this way.” He’s like, “I’m sorry.” I looked at her and I gave her a thumbs up. That’s the thing too. Women will also do more of this closed-off or shy, which does not promote any confidence or authority. It’s less likely they’re going to get what they’re asking for. There’s no reason for it based on body language and what you’re expressing because you say a thousand times more than you think.

 

For my undergrad, I got a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Both interpersonal media and whatnot, but that was the first time I started learning things. Everybody has this misconception. For example, when you stand like this, your arms are folded. It’s not that you’re closed off necessarily. It could mean that you’re thinking. That’s what I do when I think. I have my arms crossed and I have one hip out. It’s a thinking thing, not a closed-off thing.

 

You said a lot there. First of all, being in the military is a tremendous sacrifice for you. All of our military do such an amazing job so thank you for your service. How long were you in the military?

 

Ten years.

 

What type of work did you do in the military?

 

I was a JAG officer, which is a lawyer in the military. It ran the gamut from doing legal assistance, which is basically legal aid, helping soldiers with issues like dealing with contracts for their leases when they’re breaking them. There are a lot of unscrupulous property managers out there that wanted to take all their security and not necessarily. I’d give them advice on divorces and any kind of administrative punishments against them.

 

I did prosecutions. Everybody who thinks of the JAG thinks of A Few Good Men or the TV show JAG where you’re in doing court martial stuff. That’s only one part of it. I was prosecuting sex assaults, domestic violence, child porn, and fraud. I also did National Security Law, domestic operations, and international operations. When I was in Afghanistan, I was advising on the Geneva Conventions, the Law of War, and engagement stuff. There was a whole wide thing. I was also an ethics advisor to a general.

 

You now are transferring all of that information into your corporate job and then now your own business?

 

I did corporate first and then I went to the military. I was a corporate lawyer. This is back in the Mid-Ox and I was helping defend the banks that helped the world economy collapse in 2008, and I did not like doing that. I decided to do something that my law degree was used for something good. That was deciding to join the military because I was doing pro bono work for veterans, and it felt dirty to charge veterans.

 

I decided to do it full-time and take a big salary cut. I don’t regret it at all because everything I did legal-wise in the military, I loved more than as a civilian. As part of male-female norms, I moved around a lot. I joined late. I joined when I was 31. I moved around a lot, and then you have to pick up and start your whole life again. What was problematic is when you’re dating, no man is going to be like, “I’m quitting my job to follow you around.” That’s the woman’s job. I was like, “If I want to stop being single, I got to do something.

NWB 69 | Business Continuity
Business Continuity: What is problematic is when you’re dating, no man is going to be the one to quit their job and follow you around. That’s the woman’s job.

 

That’s so interesting. Let’s go back to the first answer that I asked you. The differences between the military and the corporate. You brought up a lot of male versus female actions. When you were growing up, were you more vocal? Did your parents encourage you to be more vocal? You said you didn’t even think about who would take the wrap off of the food. You would go and take it because you ate and you were hungry. Do you think that’s more of how your parents brought you up or is it more of that’s your nature?

 

I think it was my nature because I was a tomboy growing up. I got made fun of mercilessly by boys in school because I started karate when I was ten. They would call me Bruce Lee. I was also extremely flat-chested. I didn’t start growing until my junior year of high school. I got made fun of looking like a boy. I never thought, “Why do I have to be different? Why is it not okay for me to do karate?” I wasn’t the only girl in my karate class. There were other girls. It’s predominantly more boys, but there were still other girls. There was nothing wrong with them there. I realized there was nothing wrong with me.

 

With my parents, it was like, “You can do whatever you want to do.” They never said, “No, you can’t do that because you’re a girl. You can’t do that because of this.” It was always, “You’ll do whatever you want to do anyway,” which I wound up doing whatever I wanted to do anyway. The first time I thought about the fact that I was a female and that meant something was when I was 26 or 27. I was planning a trip through Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. The things that I needed to do, I’m like, “I need to buy clothing that I would never wear to cover myself.” This thing I want to go see, I can’t see because it’s restricted to men only because I was going to a Muslim country.

 

I was annoyed and I’m like, “Why is this different?” It was and I respect the culture. I‘m like, “That’s interesting.” At that point, I started perceiving the difference more so at work. I’m like, “Women are treated differently.” Certain women hated me. I talked to one of my guy friends about it and I’m like, “We’re exactly the same type of person.” He goes, “We are, but you’re a woman and you act like a dude. I’m a dude so that’s one thing. You’re a woman who acts like a dude and they hate you for it.”

 

Let me ask you a little bit more about that. What did you do specifically that women hated you for acting like a dude?

 

Speaking my mind, being loud and jokey with the guys, and having a bad sense of humor because I wasn’t fitting the mold of what they thought. I think because that brought attention, it was more of a projection like, “I wish I could be that way. Because I can’t, I’m going to be mad at you for it.” I’m not saying all women, but the particular women who railed against me in the corporate legal world were very vocal about it. How much they couldn’t stand me. They would say to the guys, “I don’t understand. I like you but I hate her.” The other thing that bothered them is I didn’t care.

 

A grown adult woman was screaming at me and I’m listening to her go on and on. I was like, “I’m going to stop you right now because you are saying stuff at me. It’s not that I have nothing to say, because I do. It’s not that you intimidate me because you don’t. No matter what I say, you’ve already made up your mind about me and nothing I say is going to change that. I want to tell you this, when you go home, all you do is think about how much you hate me. You talk about me to your husband, and then you come to work and you talk about how much you hate me to everybody else. I go home and I don’t think about you at all. When I’m here, I don’t think about you at all because I don’t care enough about you to hate you.” That set her off. It was true.

 

When you realize that people want attention and it’s not given to them, it bothers them. For me to throw that in her face too. That became a thing. I’ve had a lot of other women who hate me or strongly dislike me. I will say, “The thing is I feel neutral about you because I don’t care enough to hate you. That’s not a bad thing. You’re just not something that I’m letting impact my life.”

“When you realize that people want the attention and it's not given to them, it really bothers them.” – Erika Andresen Share on X

To your point, it’s so important for us. I actually heard someone say, “It’s none of your business what anybody else thinks about you.” That’s exactly what you’re saying because especially in the corporate world, you’re so busy worrying about what other people think about you. The only person that you need to worry about how your performance is going is your manager. You need to have open communication with your manager as far as your performance. You’re right, you can’t go around worrying. I don’t care what anybody else is doing or not doing at work or how they behave.

 

I got too much going on in my life. I’m not giving up the free real state in my mind to let that stuff bother me. I have a job and I’m going to do it. What you said is pretty much almost a quote from the movie Adaptation, the Charlie Kaufman film with Nic Cage starring as Charlie Kaufman twins. In one of the scenes, he’s like, “Do you remember this girl?” He was like, “Yeah, I had such a crush on her. I loved her so much.” He was like, “Remember that day you talked to her? When you walked away, she started laughing at you.” He was like, “I heard.” He was like, “You did?” He was like, “I did.” He was like, “She was making fun of you.” He’s like, “That’s her business. How she feels about me was her business. I know I loved her. She couldn’t take that away from me.” It’s like, yeah.

 

That’s incredible. Once you left the military, did you transition into your own law firm then?

 

I actually don’t do law. I’m a recovering lawyer. I do business continuity. Which is basically helping businesses avoid having to close their doors and shut down because of a disruption or a disaster.

NWB 69 | Business Continuity
Business Continuity: Business continuity is helping businesses avoid having to close their doors and shut down because of a disruption or a disaster.

 

How did you transition from being in the military? You were in corporate and you were in the military. Did you then come out of the military into business continuity?

 

Circuitously, yes. I put in my paperwork to leave the military, which I needed a six-month lead time on. It was required in January 2020.

 

Not too many years ago.

 

Originally, my plan was to be in-house counsel for a tech firm. I had a verbal promise for a job from a very large tech company. At the end of March, I was like, “This thing is not going away soon. Do I still have this job?” I reached out to the person and they pretty much did a new phone, “Who is this?” I’m like, “Whoa, hold up.” I had to worry and scramble. Now I got to start applying for jobs, which is also the worst time to start applying for jobs. I had the option of pulling my paperwork back and staying on active duty for another two years.

 

I decided to leave unemployed. Through a whole bunch of serendipitous events. Serendipitous usually means good, but there are a lot of bad things that happened. I was unemployed and I was invited to move back home. I was turning 41 and moving home, but my best friend thankfully said, “Won’t you move into my room in my apartment? I’m going to move with my boyfriend.” I said, “Okay, fine.” I did that. Six weeks later my dad died unexpectedly, I was able to be home and see him more than if I had taken a job and moved out to California. That was good.

 

That day with my dad, I was supposed to be starting PTSD therapy. Doing estate for my mom and doing PTSD therapy, if I also had a job, that would’ve been a terrible mix. I was given the opportunity to take care of all this stuff. I kept applying for legal jobs, which I didn’t want to do. I think the universe was blocking me from getting those jobs. Someone’s like, “What do you want to do?” I said, “Help businesses prepare for disasters and survive.” “Then do that.”

 

Where did that come from? A lot of times when you’re looking for a job, people are stuck and that’s one of the things that our audience struggles with as well. What are some exercises or activities that you did to figure that out? Was it something that you noticed during your career? How did helping small businesses come into play for you?

 

It first started when I was stationed in Missouri as one of my given duties. That summer we lost eight JAGs and only got four. That meant that there were not enough people to do all the work. Most JAG officers come from law school and go straight to the JAG work. Because I had been a real lawyer before, they gave me three extra duties. I was like, “Okay, awesome.” They’re like, “One of them was the emergency operations center legal advisor. You have to go to one meeting a quarter. That’s it.” Two weeks later, there was a state of emergency around us because we had flooding, and I had to work on this. I was like, “This stuff feels awesome.”

 

I like what’s going on here. I like enabling a response. I like advising the authorities that get people’s lives back on track. I looked for a degree that I could get that would help with that, and if I ever got into the military, it’s something I wanted to do extra. It’s a Master of Public Affairs Administration. I forgot what the program was called. It’s an MPA, which is the nonprofit version of an MBA. I got that and one of the courses, I was finishing while I was in Afghanistan. I was reading a business review article about businesses that suffer through Superstorm Sandy. They were all asked the same question. The fourth question is, “What do you do to prepare for next time?” Almost all of them said, “This won’t happen again.”

 

I’m like, “You’re so wrong. You need to pay someone to tell you how wrong you are. Let that be me.” That was in 2016 that I had that idea. At the same time in Afghanistan, we were doing risk management, and business continuity is risk management extra. It’s mitigating the risk, but mitigating is not eradicating. You’re still planning for when everything fails. What we were doing in Afghanistan with all the missions were going on to engage with the local leaders was always the most likely, the least likely, and the most deadly course of action. Most deadly can be overkill. It was something that was required to do. These are things all businesses should be doing.

 

I realized that large corporations were doing it. Financial institutions do it. The government does it, but small and a lot of mid-sized businesses don’t because they don’t know about it. I’m like, “This is an answer that helps people if they knew about it.” One of the famous phrases in the military is, “You don’t know if you don’t know.” It’s okay if you don’t know, but once you do know, you’re responsible for it next time, so I educate people. I feel it’s my passion because I’m empathetic to a fault. I was walking past a restaurant that had closed. It had an identity crisis which probably led to its closing. It was both an Irish pub and Tex-Mex restaurant at the same time. Somebody had that dream.

 

When they closed, I’m like, “They closed.” My buddy was like, “They sucked.” I was like, “I don’t think of it that way. Somebody’s dream died.” Everybody who worked there had to go home and tell somebody, “I don’t have a job anymore,” which means they can’t pay for their necessities, never mind paying for things that enhance their lives. If I can stop that and allow a dream to stay alive, which serves the community, and then also help people pay for the things that they have to, plus also pay for the things that they want to, it keeps this wonderful cycle going.

 

That’s where I feel like I can impart my fingerprint and teach people to fish, and empower themselves to make sure that they’re keeping the community thriving. That’s where my drive and passion came from. The pandemic started and I couldn’t do anything yet. I’m like, “I’m going to be behind the eight ball on this.” My buddy’s like, “Erika, you are your product. The way you explain things, your expertise, and your experience.” Which is why it’s EaaS, Erika as a Service, that’s my business name.

 

I love the way you put it where your buddies said, “They closed because they sucked” and you said, “Don’t look at it that way. Someone’s dream died and all those employees are now having to go home and say, ‘I don’t have a job anymore.’” That’s so beautiful the way you look at it. You’re right. It’s the little guys that are the ones that have the most to lose. The bigger corporations are going to keep going. They have all these business continuities, other companies backing them up, and whatnot. The solopreneur or the entrepreneur that is a small business are the ones that are suffering the most. If something happens and they’re business burns to the ground or something, then what’s the next step?

 

Tell me a little bit more about your process. This is one of the main reasons why I invited you to come on to talk about business continuity because even being a solopreneur like myself, I’m like, “What is my business continuity plan? It’s just me.” Tell me a little bit more about some of the things that you talk about to the solopreneurs or entrepreneurs that you work with to think about what are some of the things that they need to consider.

 

The funny thing is I wrote a book. In my book, chapter seven was not originally part of the book. I’d given a couple of pre-reads. One of them was a solopreneur. I did a scattershot of who my audience could be. The solopreneur who makes cupcakes out of her kitchen as her business said, “I learned a lot about business continuity, but I don’t think I can do that until I grow.” I was like, “Hold my beer. I’m going to ask you some questions.” This is how I start the process with everybody. I will ask some of the most basic questions and steal the line from Philadelphia in Denzel Washington, “Explain to me like I’m a five-year-old. I know how to make cupcakes, but I want you to explain to me what your ingredients are, how you do this, and what you need.”

 

NWB 69 | Business Continuity
How to Not Kill Your Business: Grow Your Business in Any Environment, Navigate Volatility, and Successfully Recover When Things Go Wrong

As she’s going through things, I’m like, “Do you have a secondary supplier for all of the things that you need? You get your flour from somebody. What if they’re out of flour? Where are you getting them from?” She’s like, “I never thought about that.” I said, “Let’s talk about icing. Do you have a safety supply stock of icing?” She’s like, “What’s that?” I go, “Talk about the properties of how far in advance you can make the icing.” She’s like, “Room temp, 7 days. Refrigerator, 1 month. Freezer 6 months.” I go, “You haven’t done that.” She goes, “I never thought about it.” I said, “What if your daughter has to go to the emergency room and you have an order due in an hour?” Who are you going to pick?”

 

She sat there for a second. I was like, “If you had a safety supply stock, you wouldn’t have to choose.” She’s like, “I got a lot of work to do.” There were a whole lot of other things I asked her. Here’s the thing, “Is there anything you know too much about?” There are things in the background that you’re not considering. You cannot edit your own paper. When I come in and I start asking these things, you’ve glossed over them because it’s second nature to you. It’s super basic. That’s where the discontinuity lies and that’s where the tricks are. It’s on those things you assume are going to be there because they’ve always been there. It is at the most basic level that can hamstring your business.

 

That’s from a solopreneur perspective, but even going larger, it’s the same thing with other companies. One company I talked to was like, “We don’t need to worry about physical building security type stuff because we’re fully remote.” I said, “How many employees do you have?” “I have 120 employees.” “Are any of them clustered in maybe Florida or the North Carolina Coast or Houston, Texas?” He’s like, “Actually, we have a lot of people in Carolina.” I said, “Have they ever been impacted by hurricanes?” He goes, “Yes, they were. A couple of years ago, we had people who couldn’t work for about two weeks.” I said, “That was an influx of work brought onto the other people. You do realize when you tell me you don’t have one physical building but you have 120 employees?” He was like, “I didn’t think about that.”

 

This is how my brain is always working. My two favorite analogies for business continuity are one, if you’re driving, you have a map to go from A to B. It’s like, “Great. I got to my destination.” Risk management is having an overlay on that map of where potholes are in a two-lane highway. You’re driving along and all of a sudden, there’s cattle on the road or there’s a landslide and you can’t drive anymore. You have the pothole on the other side. Business continuity is when you pop open your trunk, pull out your bucket full of asphalt, shovel and fill in the pothole, and keep going. I think business continuity is easy, but it’s my passion.

 

We do this every single day. If you have a goal of going out for a walk or a run in the morning, the first thing you’re going to do is check your weather app. That one piece of data makes you agile because you’re going to go, “It’s going to rain this morning. It’s going to be a sunny afternoon. I’ll go in the afternoon,” or vice versa, “It’s going to be colder in the afternoon. There’s going to be a cold snap coming. I should go now.” It also impacts what you wear. You’re going to achieve your goal with the least amount of discomfort possible. I don’t say the most comfort because I can’t guarantee that you’re going to be comfortable doing any of this.

 

I love that analogy because you’re absolutely right. I usually walk in the morning and if it’s raining, I’m like, “I’m not walking out there,” but I do check my app and then I see it clears up at whatever time. I plan my day around that so I can walk during that time. I love also that you said that when you’re risk management is driving down the road and having the asphalt in the back of your car so you can plug the potholes and then continue on your merry way.

 

There were so many businesses, especially in the last couple of years, because of the pandemic and because of the state of the corporate world and the Great Resignation, there’s been an influx of entrepreneurs. All of these new businesses over the last couple of years are more than likely trying to figure it out and not necessarily thinking about business continuity.

 

The thing is if they’re putting all this effort into starting a business and put a little more effort into keeping it alive, that’s all I want to do for you.

 

Do you have maybe an example of a client for whom you recently did a business continuity plan and what was the result of that?

 

I do have examples, but none of them have hit a disaster just yet. That’s the thing. You get instant security. Also, an issue with business continuity is that the first thing people worry about, they go, “There’s no instant gratification because I don’t have a tangible like, ‘Look. This is the thing I’ve got and it now works.’” It needs to be tested. The thing that you do get instantly is a level of security you didn’t have before. If you have business insurance, you can go to your insurance company and show them you have a business continuity plan. They will reduce your premiums because it showed that you put effort in to make sure that their payouts are less if there’s ever less of a payout. You’re automatically starting to make money back on that.

 

I was saying the other day, business as usual includes disasters and disruptions, but they’re usually minor. They’re blips and you move on. You could prepare for those. If you haven’t actually used your business continuity plan because it’s not a major thing, then it’s already working. People call 911 multiple times a day. How many of those things are making headline news? Not everything is a five-alarm fire, a robbery, or an active shooter. There are other things going on that need to be taken care of.

 

One of my clients had a very robust program already. Because he is the only person in the world who could do what he does, I said, “What happens when you become incapacitated?” Succession is also a part of business continuity. I said, “Have you planned for someone to be an apprentice? Does your wife have the authority to do this and this?” He was like, “I never thought about that.” “Let’s start working on that now.” That included him having to talk to his personal lawyer to put things in the will because he never put the fact that he has a business in his will. He hadn’t done his will in years. I think about all of this stuff for you so you don’t have to.

“Succession is also a part of business continuity.” – Erika Andresen Share on X

That’s wonderful. You’re absolutely right. I bet you most entrepreneurs or solopreneurs don’t think about, “What happens if something happens to me? If I end up in the hospital, who has the authority to go into whatever business accounts and move money around or whatever the situation is?” It’s so incredibly important to the work that you’re doing. For example, if you’re a solopreneur and your computer dies, what is your backup plan? That’s part of the business continuity. You have to think about those things. Do you have a checklist or do you have something that you generally start with when you start talking to your clients about all the different things that they have to think about?

 

First, I have to evaluate what they have in their business currently. It helps if there are SOPs in place. If there are not, we build the SOPs with risk analysis and risk management built into them. We’re not doing two different steps and combining those steps. The first thing is like, “I wanted to know what makes your business work. What are the major things that need to happen for you to make money at the end of the day?” First, I’m going to go narrow with a woman who makes cupcakes. I said, “How do you make them? What do you need? You need electricity for the beaters, gas for the stove, and your ingredients. The three most basic things. What are these things rely on?”

 

There’s a trickle-down effect. “You need supply chain issues with this. Do you have alternative means of cooking in other kitchens? Do you have this available to you? Is that something that’s possible?” You look at all these things and we start breaking down what’s most important. We get into a more technical in-the-weeds thing. I’m going to do an evaluation differently for somebody in Houston, Texas than I will in Chicago because they have different concerns, specifically climatological concerns. Those change all the time too when you’re expanding. This gives you the ability to grow.

 

That’s the thing I forgot to mention about the cupcake woman. After she did this stuff, she was like, “I thought I couldn’t do business continuity until I grew. I realized I can’t grow without business continuity because now I have a level of security I didn’t have before.” Even through my book, I ask a lot of questions to the reader to get them thinking. My goal is first to get you thinking and then I have a worksheet at the end that they can fill in, and build a very rudimentary business continuity plan that moves the needle if you’ve never had anything. That’s a general one for anybody, but everybody needs something that’s tailored to their business, and you’ll be better. When you buy clothes off the rack, they fit, but if they’re tailor-made, they really fit.

 

What’s the name of your book by the way?

 

It is How to Not Kill Your Business: Grow Your Business in Any Environment, Navigate Volatility, and Successfully Recover When Things Go Wrong.

 

That’s awesome. Now, shifting a little bit but still staying on the business continuity topic. Applying it to someone in the corporate world, they still need to have a business continuity plan even though they’re employees. What are some things that someone in the corporate world would need to think about from the employee perspective regarding business continuity?

 

Part of the problem with business continuity is leadership buy-in. You need the leaders of the company, it’s going to be the employers or the people in charge, who are saying that this is an important thing to do. I think if you’re an employee who starts doing business continuity within your department or within your little section, you are making yourself out to be a rockstar and an invaluable asset and value-add to your company, especially when you start explaining what it is and why you’re able to continue working because you thought of these things. They’ll go, “That’s a great idea. We should do more like this.” You’ll get put in charge of a project, get a raise, and all these wonderful things.

NWB 69 | Business Continuity
Business Continuity: If you’re an employee who starts doing business continuity within your department, you are making yourself out to be a rockstar and an invaluable asset and value add to your company.

 

Even law firms and every single business need to be doing business continuity because everything supports everything else we think about. Even within the departments, you can think that you have three important operations and procedures in your company. Something that you think is not important, you don’t know because you’re not talking. That’s the other thing too about business continuity. You get to crosstalk and learn about your business and all the departments, and how they interact with each other. If you have a department that says, “I need this to be short up because if we don’t have this for an hour, then we’re done.”

 

There’s something else that takes like, “It could be fine offline for fifteen hours.” You’re like, “It’s not that important.” You don’t know that if you’re offline for an hour and then they’re done. If you don’t know that that process relies on that 15-hour process, then you’re throwing good money because it’s not working. There’s a lot about how you need to take pride in ownership of what you do, but also share your information with stakeholders. People like to talk about breaking down stovepipes and I do, but sometimes you have a lot of pride and there’s a lot of ego within the stovepiping in the department. That’s human nature plus also smart.

 

If you could have porous stovepipes where you could still have your thing, but you’re at least open to talking to and you’re realizing there are synergies that you didn’t realize before and you’re informing everybody about how you all work together, I don’t see anything other than wonderful things of that happening. That’s the other thing too. If you’re in your single department as an employee doing your own business continuity, nobody else is aware of this. You’re still going to be hamstrung to a point. You’re going to do better but you’re still going to be hamstrung without everybody else supporting it.

 

For the individual employee of a large corporation and something happens to a corporation where they have to lay off 200 people, I think the individual’s business continuity plan is having that safety of 6 to 9 months’ worth of money saved up so that if they lose their job, they have a way to pay their bills. I think that’s the most common individual business continuity plan. During the pandemic, many people got caught off guard because they didn’t have that. Are there any other things that obviously are like having a resume ready, and making sure that you have that money saved up? Are there any other things that you can think of for the individual that comes to mind as an individual business continuity plan?

 

Even having the resources back home can help them on their journey, or having things that you can control. You have a laptop but you don’t have a second one as a backup in case one goes down. I have two because why would not a business continuity expert have two laptops? Doing a backup of all your data and all your contacts is another thing too if you lose access to your contacts. I knew somebody who has a business that’s 100% on Facebook. I had mentioned, “Everything is on Facebook.” She’s like, “I should probably get them offline.” I’m like, “I would.” She wound up being in Facebook jail, but you can’t tell people you’re in Facebook jail because you can’t communicate while you’re in Facebook jail.

 

This woman who has a legitimate business and makes a couple of $1,000 a month in her business was shut down for a month and nobody knew why. She looked like a flake because she wasn’t responding to everybody. She’s like, “Sorry, I was in Facebook jail.” I’m like, “You never took the communication and contact them offline?” She’s like, “No I didn’t.” There you go.

 

That’s a great plan.

 

Also backing up your phone contacts. Nobody backs up their phone contacts. Your contacts are going to be your lifeline. Figure out a schedule of how often you’re backing stuff up. I back stuff up to my external hard drive every time I open up my laptop because I don’t want to lose that. That’s time and energy expended that you’re not going to get back. That’s one. I have my internet on a different provider than my cell phone. If one goes down, I have the ability to still communicate with the internet on a different provider.

 

That actually happened to me because I was doing some stuff at work. The internet went down and I have a different provider for my phone, so I was able to get on my phone. The thing that you said about the woman with Facebook, if you don’t have a way to communicate with your clients, it kills a month of productivity. That’s huge. I think that’s why I hear so many different people recommend that you should have an email list and not rely on third-party vendors and stuff like that because that’s huge for small businesses.

 

Unfortunately, the optimism bias happens not just in business. It happens in everyday life and in emergency management. I’m also a professor of emergency management. You assume that it’s not going to happen to you. If the statistic is there’s a 30% chance, everybody is assuming they’re in the 70% chance, which 100% of people cannot be in 70%. That’s a mathematical impossibility. They’re willing to roll the dice on that. I like to ask people, even with their own personal plans, “You’re going to explain to somebody that you could have done this and you knew to do it but decided not to. If you have a business and your plan is to not plan and roll the dice, are you going to share that with your clients and your vendors? Probably not because they’re not going to do business with you.”

NWB 69 | Business Continuity
Business Continuity: There is a 30% chance of everybody assuming they’re in the 70% chance, but a hundred percent of people cannot be in 70%.

 

I have an external hard drive and I’m going to get another one because this one is getting to be halfway full. I’m like, “I need to get another one.” Also, I don’t know if you watched Sex and the City, but Carrie Bradshaw was a writer and then her computer got fried. Everybody was like, “Don’t you have backed up?” She bought a new one and then they showed how she had an external hard drive where she was backing stuff up. Those are the simple things that people and I are guilty of like, “That’s never going to happen to me,” until it does.

 

One of the things is if you work from home like me, I didn’t plan it this way. I just got lucky. I’m on the same power grid as the local hospital. If you know that about your location, it means when the power goes out, guess who’s getting their power back first.

 

That makes a lot of sense.

 

If you can plan around that, do that.

 

Erika, you have given us a ton of tremendous information already. Are there maybe two tips that you can leave us with, whether it’s an entrepreneur or maybe a corporate employee that can use to continue to be savvier on how to continue their careers or their businesses without interruption?

 

The first thing is to be aware and care. Being proactive is better than being reactive. When you have everything on your terms, it’s easier and it’s cheaper and you’re less stressed out. If you’re going to wait until it happens, then you’re going to be stressed. You’re going to be given to the whims of vendors who now know that their services are in higher demand than they were prior to an incident. If you do it in advance, it’s an asset. You’re investing in a money-creating and money-saving program. This is a thing that a friend of mine who was a CFO of some major banks had said to me when he would talk to people about continuity. I’m going to use this number. It’s his number.

“Be aware and care because being proactive is better than being reactive. When you have everything on your terms, it's easier and cheaper and you're less stressed out.” – Erika Andresen Share on X

If you’re going to start a business that requires you to spend $1 million a year to run it well, don’t start the business with and spend $500,000 because that’s a different business. If you’re not going to be willing to spend what it requires to be, at a minimum, good at that job, pick something else that costs and lines up with whatever it is that you can afford. The shortcut is not going to work. The shortcut works only for so long, and then by the time it catches up to you, you’re losing so much money trying to either reestablish your business or redo everything. You’re losing manpower and hours trying to get where you should have been originally. The third thing is it’s never too late to learn what you wish you knew earlier.

“It's never too late to learn what you wish you knew earlier.” – Erika Andresen Share on X

Those are great, especially the last one. It’s never too late. Sometimes you’re like, “I should have would have, could have.” You still don’t do anything about it which brings us to the point of the business continuity. Thank you so much for all of the amazing information that you have given us. Things that you don’t normally think about when it comes to either your career or your business as a solopreneur or an entrepreneur.

 

Can I do one more thing?

 

Yes.

 

I mentioned the body language thing. There’s one exercise I would like to leave the audience with. It’s an experiment because I’ve done this with something else and the difference was insane. The exercise is close your eyes and imagine yourself at the lowest point in your life. Sit there for a couple of minutes, open your eyes, and check how your body sits. You’ll notice that you’re going to be closed off slumped. Close your eyes and imagine yourself at the highest height you’ve ever had. I can already see you changing, Rosie.

 

I literally thought of when I had my kids because it’s one of the highest. I immediately lifted up my shoulders and my spine without even thinking about it.

 

It was instantaneous. These two things, if you’re going to ask for something or you’re going to an important meeting, do the first one first so you’re aware of what sad and down feels and looks like. Go right to the happy and amazing things, and then walk in and ask or tell them what you want or give that presentation. That will carry through with you.

 

I love it. Thank you again, Erika, for all of the information that you’ve provided us. It was an amazing conversation. Have a good rest of your day.

Thank you. You too.

Erika gave us some awesome information on why business continuity is so important in your individual career or in a small or large business. Clearly, there are many things that we can do to promote business continuity. One of the things that she suggested is that if you are an employee of a corporation and you start talking about, “What are we going to do in the event that our servers go down? What are we going to do in the event that one of our call centers gets flooded?” If you start talking about the possibilities, the leadership team is going to notice you. You’re going to be looking like a rockstar because they know that you’re interested in maintaining the business in the event of any type of interruption.

 

We also talked a lot about the differences between the military world and the corporate world. She gave the example of someone mispronouncing a young woman’s name, and Erika was encouraging her to correct the last name. It’s your last name, so make sure that people are pronouncing your last name. I know well because my last name is Zilinskas and people always mispronounce it.

 

Erika also left us with some great tips. 1) Be aware and care. Being proactive is way better than being reactive. It is much easier to be proactive and it’s much cheaper. 2) If you start a business, make sure that you have the money to start the business properly and do it the right way. The example she gave is if you have a business that needs $500,000 and you only have $100,000, then you are looking at doing a different type of business. Be clear on your goals, your expectations, and be prepared to start that business as it should be. 3) It’s never too late to learn what you wish you would’ve known earlier. We all know that personal and professional development is always ongoing and learning is key.

 

All of Erika’s contact information is going to be on the episode website. She provides us with a link to her book. Her book is called How Not to Kill Your Business: Grow Your Business in Any Environment, Navigate Volatility, and Successfully Recover When Things Go Wrong. She is also very active on TikTok, and she’s on LinkedIn as well. As a reminder, if you haven’t done so already, please don’t forget to take my free quiz, which we’ll be able to tell you one of the three ways that you may be sabotaging your career. It’s important for you to know how you may be holding yourself back. My free quiz helps you do that, and you get some free resources as well. With that, remember to be brave, be bold, and take action.

 

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About Erika Andresen

 

NWB 69 | Business ContinuityErika Andresen, CBCP, JD, MPA, is a business continuity professional, army veteran, lawyer, and professor of emergency management. After a career working in actual disasters with life and death consequences, Erika saw that business owners needed similar services to survive but did not know where to start. Erika started EaaS Consulting, LLC, with the goal of keeping businesses in business. She authored “How to Not Kill Your Business: Grow Your Business in Any Environment, Navigate Volatility, and Successfully Recover When Things Go Wrong,” a conversational introduction to business continuity. She has been quoted in Forbes, Dark Reading, Smartsheet, and MoneyGeek.