Your Next Big Thing: Growth Market — Disaster planning

Written by ProfitGuide Staff
Pardon the insensitivity, but there’s opportunity in every crisis — real or potential. As it happens, there’s good money to be made helping entrepreneurial firms prepare for or deal with emergencies. “Small to mid-sized businesses are generally not prepared,” says Adrian Gordon, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness (CCEP). “Sadly, they’re a growth business.”No one has hard figures on emergency-preparedness spending, but Gordon points to one sign of a bullish market: the number of vendors at CCEP’s trade show has tripled in two years, from 30 to 90. The recent disaster wave has made risk management a hot topic for businesses, especially publicly traded ones, which increasingly see crisis readiness as a saleable competitive edge: “We’ll be there for you, no matter what.”

This offers an opening for people such as Scott Ashley, a Waterloo, Ont.-based emergency-management consultant whose SME-specific toolkit features online tutorials and webcasts, plus a business continuity plan in a binder.

One barrier to setting up a disaster-recovery business, such as data retrieval and storage or high-tech machinery repair and recertification, is the capital cost of equipment and facilities. But many firms have existing resources that could serve double duty. Graeme Jannaway, a Toronto-based disaster recovery consultant, cites a clothier that repackaged an underused fur storage facility as a secure, climate-controlled data storage site. He says anyone with excess space and computers could lease them as an alternative worksite in case of disaster, and add revenue by having clients test the facilities at least once a year.

Wal-Mart’s image boost from its well-co-ordinated humanitarian response to Hurricane Katrina suggests another possibility. Plan which supplies or services you could provide as a community service in response to disaster. Once you have a success story under your belt, lobby to become an official supplier to authorities in future emergencies.

© 2005 Allan Britnell

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