Eagle Capital Management, a Metairie-based financial services company, was able to strengthen and improve their business continuity plan with the help of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at University of Louisiana Lafayette. When Hurricane Katrina struck southeastern Louisiana in 2005, it was a wake up call for many small businesses. Thousands of business owners had to temporarily relocate their operations to Baton Rouge and Lafayette for weeks, even months. Some closed their doors with Katrina and never reopened, others never went back to New Orleans.
Those who weathered the disaster learned that a business continuity plan was essential to their recovery. Metairie-based Eagle Capital Management, with over $180 Million in assets under management, survived Katrina's fury, but Executive Vice President Ken Ross eventually saw need for improvement. Sometimes a continuity plan needs to be put to the test before vulnerabilities can be discovered. Until Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleans businesses were used to evacuating for a few days then returning home. Few were prepared to be shut out of their city for a month or more. "You're always looking to make things better. You always planned on being back in a few days but it wasn't that way in Katrina. There were some glitches we wanted to work out," said Ross. Ross contacted the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at UL Lafayette in 2009 and enlisted the services of Business Continuity Consultant Glen Curole.
They worked together to identify areas where the continuity plan could be improved and went over insurance information, relocation contingencies and how to get the business back up and running in the event of a disaster. They also reviewed many risks the business faced from hurricanes and floods to technology failures and national disasters. For each one of those events, they identified ideal solutions and contingencies. Because Eagle Capital Management's most important asset is its client and market information, one of the most important elements was checking double redundancy to protect data and be able to access it in the event of a disaster. A contingency was also set up to secure temporary office space in Lafayette to allow for a seamless transition should another disaster arise. "One major problem we had was that our cell phones didn't work. The problem surfaced when the local phone company lost several central offices due to flooding. As a result, the database containing information to allow incoming cell phone calls to be completed was also lost.
With assistance from LSBDC Business Continuity Consultant Curole, Eagle Capital Management developed a new strategy to ensure continued communication and operations of their firm. The revised plan now includes securing cell phones with area codes outside of New Orleans. That way, even though the local cell phone database is lost Eagle Capital will still be able to receive incoming calls if towers are operational because the database needed to complete the call will reside in a different city. One of the most important things about the new business continuity plan is that it has been codified and put in writing. Curole said it is critical to document plans so they can be shared with employees and provide a solid roadmap to recovery. "The purpose of business continuity planning is to increase the odds that your company will survive a disaster. We help small businesses thoroughly prepare for the risks and help them plan accordingly. Your clients and employees are counting on you," said Curole.