Brought To You By Emily Parks
Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
Helping You Make Every Minute Matter!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Keep Communications in Your Preparedness Plans

Communicate With Team & Clients
When your business is impacted by an emergency, the normal and expected gets thrown off track; everyone must adapt amidst the new scenario. Team members want to know how they are expected to function, where to report and when they can expect payroll. Clients want to know how to reach you and how they'll obtain your products or services. These elements are crucial for your business to operate with continuity regardless of the circumstances, but no one knows the answers unless you communicate those details to them.

First, since you'll need to notify customers, vendors and employees alike of your operation plans as well as how to interact with you during each step of the recovery process, sustain contact records so they are always up-to-date. You will want to make sure you have the most accurate phone numbers and email addresses to reach each of these partners in any emergency.

Consider the following when creating your business' preparedness plan for any sort of emergency:

1. Your team members need to know how to respond, including when to report to what location for work. Where should employees look for necessary directives? Will these be on a website, sent via email or text, recorded on a voice mail greeting to which they can call in or communicated in an alternative fashion?

2. Different team members fulfill different functions for your company, meaning each employee might need different directives to continue their jobs in an emergency situation. Which team members will need to know what?

3. Every business partners with others to function. What questions will arise from vendors about how business will continue? How can you communicate that information to those partners beforehand as well as reminding them of the details in the emergency itself?

4. There is no business without customers, and your clients will need clarity on certain details. How will you notify them of your operating plans and the ways they can interact with you? If you have to temporarily relocate, will your contact information remain the same? How will this impact your hours of operation? Will there be a break in service or a change to how they make payments?

5. Beyond your existing customers, there are always prospects considering your company's products or services. Is a press release necessary to alert the general public of your plans?

Catch a summary video of these points by clicking here; then, as you contemplate each of the aforementioned details, engage your entire team in the planning process. Each employee will have a different perspective and bring new ideas to the process.

Plan maintenance is key... Things change and evolve; therefore, make sure to review your plans and supplies every 6 months, ensuring all updates are clearly and completely conveyed to all concerned parties. Train each new hire immediately as that person joins your team. Conduct fire and emergency drills regularly for each possible scenario, including regular reviews of how to operate your fire extinguishers. Include regular training for all team members on First Aid, CPR and AED through your Red Cross or local medical facility. Test your smoke alarms monthly, changing the batteries twice a year and replacing every 10 years. Then, when disaster does strike, document how it worked for the future.

Are you prepared with a communication plan for your customers, team members and vendor partners? What's worked well for you, and how do you maintain this plan?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Honored by 40 Under 40 Leadership Award

Holding Wake Forest University
basketball signed by team that won
1995 ACC Championship
I am truly honored and humbled to be included in the Triangle Business Journal's 2015 class of "40 Under 40" Leadership Awards. Announced on Tuesday, April 21st, these "recognize outstanding professionals under the age of 40 for their contributions to their organizations and to the community". Per the announcement, "Five judges from TBJ and the local business community pored over nearly 300 nominations to come up with the final list of 40 winners"... Wow!

Over the weeks to follow, several members of our class volunteered at a Habitat for Humanity build in Wake County, we were treated to a photo shoot with Christer Berg of Portraits with Purpose, and each winner answered a set of questions to aid the Triangle Business Journal's news team in creating content for our print and online profiles as well as introductions at the awards luncheon.

During our celebration luncheon on Thursday, June 11th, each winner was given the opportunity to share a few words, but there was a catch to it... Triangle Business Journal used each acceptance speech for its 40 Under 40 awards to raise much needed funds to benefit Habitat for Humanity of Wake County. Winners commit to donating $25 per word of their acceptance speech with the first three words being covered by the TBJ itself. As you can see in the event highlights here, our class raised a total of $39,000, which surpassed last year's record of nearly $30,000.

After my name was announced, I worked my way to the stage while "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang played in the background, and, then, here is what I shared with attendees:

Attendees of 40 Under 40 Lunch
This is an honor and a time to remember that accomplished women and men don't do things on their own. It truly takes a village: Teachers shared knowledge and inspired me; those in my athletic and automotive careers helped me learn each day; colleagues with whom I collaborate; friends and family to love and encourage me. In 2007, I created Organize for Success. Today, I endeavor to make a difference every day, running my business, raising money to cure lung cancer and making the world a better place. Like others in this room, I'm giving it everything I've got. Yet, right this moment, I'll enjoy my "15 minutes".

While TBJ subscribers can see my write-up by clicking here, I wanted to share my questionnaire answers with everyone below:

Name: Emily Parks 

Company: Organize for Success, LLC

Title: Owner, Productivity Consultant and Office Organizer

Birthplace: Kernersville, NC

Family members:
I am the 6th of 7 siblings as well as favorite aunt to 3 nieces and 3 nephews.

Education: B.A. in Psychology from Wake Forest University; Certificate from Organizing Academy Professional Organizer Training Program

• What accomplishments are you most proud of?

With a background in the automotive industry and college athletics administration, I am accustomed to working in team environments.  Having stepped out on my own 7 years ago, I have successfully created my own business and developed a team of clients, professional organizers and other partners across the Triangle.

• What is your professional goal five years from now?

Continue to have Organize for Success, LLC be well regarded and thriving by providing valuable solutions to clients with whom I have a genuine connection while making a difference in time and resources donated to local non-profits.

Celebrating 40 Under 40 Award from TBJ
at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary
• What community cause or charity have you been involved in during the past year?

Although I was unable to take away my father’s pain and suffering as he was battling lung cancer, I am passionate in supporting the Lung Cancer Initiative’s efforts at increasing awareness of the #1 cancer-killer of American women and men.  LCI is positively impacting North Carolina through lung cancer research, education and access to treatment programs. I serve on the Board of Directors as well as chair the LUNGe Forward Run, Walk and Rally in Greensboro.

• What is the greatest obstacle you have overcome in your career?

During my first week as a manager in the automotive industry, I had to fire one of our team members. I talked with human resources, mapped out what I would say and practiced replying to different responses. It was tough, but it was the right decision. This person was not a fit for our team, and the job was not a fit for this person, both of which are necessary for any team’s success. Learning the importance of a “right fit” for both employer and employee was both difficult as well as necessary. Based on this experience, I recommend clients think through “right fit” scenarios for their teams.

• Finish this: What the Triangle really needs is …

… a proactive solution for our transportation options to meet our population growth.

• Nothing makes me madder than …

… watching the San Antonio Spurs lose a really close game!

• Who is your mentor?

I have received guidance and counsel from many individuals throughout my life: Mrs. Obryant at Atkins Middle School; Rob Slater at East Forsyth High School; Jay Vidovich and Davis Whitfield in the Wake Forest University Athletic Department; Ellen Culler, Willie Scroggs and Dr. Beth Miller at UNC Chapel Hill; Tim Michael, James Berry and my father, Hubert Parks, in the automotive industry; Geralin Thomas in professional organizing; as well, throughout it all, my mother, Joellen Parks.

They have supported me in becoming the woman I am and continue to evolve into. It truly does take a village!

• What is your favorite Triangle restaurant?

Winston’s Grille

• Who would make the guest list for your dream business lunch?

Joanna Coles, Arianna Huffington, Phil Libin, John Skipper, Kate Snow & Kerry Washington

• What is your secret talent?
 Able to function well on very little sleep

Awards Presented to 2015 Winners of
40 Under 40 Leadership Awards
In closing, let me reiterate my extreme appreciation for everyone who supports and helps me each and every day. There is no way I could achieve nearly what I do daily without those around me. Many people refer to "it takes a village" as a cliche; however, for me, it is 100% the truth and how I live my life. Whether in sports, running a business or keeping a household on track, having a team to surround you and lift you up better guarantees success.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Prepare Your Business For Data Issues

Companies and individuals are more dependent on technology than ever before, and that dependence grows daily. As such, computer viruses, data leaks, system hacks and other technology-related issues can pose real emergencies. While the thought of something bad happening is difficult to consider, it is vital to take steps to protect yourself, your team, your clients and your overall business.

Here are a few items to consider now to support your preparedness when any potential data issues arise:

1. Make sure your business uses a hosted exchange server. Moving your exchange server offsite ensures your company email, calendar sharing and contacts directory will work, even when your physical office space is unavailable. Plus, moving it offsite removes the cost and complexity of managing the hardware yourself.

2. Utilize hosted VoIP for your business' telephone needs. Moving the brains of your phone system to an offsite solution ensures you can still send and receive calls amidst whatever disaster impacts your area, even when your physical office space is unavailable; plus, this ensures you can transfer calls to anywhere at any time, and each team member will receive voice mail messages as emails to whichever email address he or she prefers.

3. Download apps from the web. Applications installed to your computer by a CD or by the manufacturer of your laptop / desktop require manually upgrading to the latest version. Alternatively, using cloud-based software applications will ensure all team members are always working on the latest software from anywhere on any technological device. Plus, this option provides tools that are more reliable and more easily accessible, enabling your business to function from nearly anywhere.

4. Save important information to a cloud storage solution. Both paper and electronic documents can be damaged by natural disasters when saved locally. An onsite server is subject to local emergencies, especially fire and flood. Having vital data saved in one place leaves you susceptible to viruses and "disappearing" content. However, when you choose a cloud storage solution, such as Backblaze, Carbonite, Crash Plan or Mozy, your information is encrypted and saved in several places, making it much safer and more secure. Convert paper documents to an electronic format and, then, store them remotely, making all your information easily accessible AND safe from harm. Here are some items to include:
- insurance policies and contact phone numbers
- business licenses, permits, articles of organization and EIN
- bank account numbers and representatives' contact information
- deeds to properties
- service contracts for all your products / tools and the contact numbers for those overseeing their maintenance
- inventories, both of items in office space as well as items to sell

5. Create and implement a cybersecurity strategy. For my clients, I recommend a consultation with Bianca Montes Jones of justotech; however, no matter with whom you consult, it's important to make sure your company has appropriate virus protection, is not susceptible to hacks and maintains appropriate restrictions for team members' use of the Internet.

A little bit of risk management up front can lead to saving a good deal of money, headaches and heartache over time. Click here for a video overview of steps you can take to prepare your business for potential data issues, and please share successes in the comments.

What steps will you take now to boost your preparedness?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Prepare Your Business For Potential Fires

An emergency is a sudden and urgent state of need for help or relief that's created by some unexpected event. Regardless of your location and the risks uniquely associated with that specific place, we are all in danger of emergency resulting from fire. Plus, it is important to note that the hazard of fire is not limited to your home; your business is equally at risk of burning down. Are you prepared for such an emergency?

Fire can create disaster for your business at any moment, but it doesn't have to slow your business down. Take the following steps now to boost your preparedness for whenever fire might possibly strike. You'll appreciate being prepared when your business and personal safety are faced with a fire disaster.

- Make certain you have proper insurance. Inadequate insurance coverage can lead to major financial consequences if your business is damaged or operations are interrupted for a measurable amount of time. Ask your insurance agent, broker or underwriter if you are adequately covered for potential property damage as well as what business interruptions you could possibly face. Check out for a form that can be helpful in evaluating your insurance coverage.

- Back-up all important programs and data to an offsite location. While many rely on online file repositories, like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, Spider Oak and Sugar Sync, please keep in mind that these are not back-up solutions, serving instead to make your selected files available across your many devices and to make those files easier to share with others. Alternatively, I highly encourage you to consider "set it and forget it" solutions, like Backblaze, Carbonite, Crash Plan and Mozy.

- Make an evacuation plan. The ability to evacuate your team members, customers and visitors quickly can save lives. Ensure there is a warning systems (like smoke detectors) throughout your facility that everyone can hear, and schedule maintenance of those systems, particularly marking your calendar to replace batteries and test the devices regularly. Determine at least two ways for each team member to get out of every part of each building, including ladders to come out windows of upper stories, and educate your team as to how they can use that evacuation plan. Tell everyone to crawl on the floor because smoke rises and to check doors for heat before leaving any room. Identify a location away from your facility for everyone to gather outside their building, helping you determine whoever might be missing, and share this information every year with your team, educating new hires upon their arrival. Remind everyone that, once you've left the building, everyone is to stay out and do not re-enter for any reason. Plus, don't forget to call 911 from your safe location.

- Do what you can to limit damage before being struck by fire. When possible, prepare and maintain adequate firebreaks and green spaces around your property. Consider installing fire glass in windows and doors. Locate your sprinkler shut off valves so first responders can easily access them and prevent residual flooding; on a related note, routinely test your sprinkler systems to keep them in good working order. Likewise, know the location of major HVAC, piping, gas and water lines to aid in the domino effect of damage being done to your facility. Keep emergency exits clear and marked with plenty of signage to direct anyone in that area.

Risk management is a way of thinking that permeates your entire organization, from the most senior manager to the newest edition to your workforce, and seeks to preserve your company's ability to continue in the face of whatever might arise. Being prepared for emergencies and natural disasters should be no exception. Click here for my video of tips and visit the Ready Business website, launched by The Department of Homeland Security and The Federal Emergency Management Agency back in 2004 to make sure businesses are prepared in the event of an emergency.

Is your business prepared for a fire? What steps will you take to increase your preparedness?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Prepare Your Business For When Natural Disasters Strike

As the Atlantic hurricane season is June 1st through November 30th, I find this an excellent time to revisit preparedness for your business, your home and you personally. There are many issues for which you need to be prepared, and hurricanes are just one of the options listed. According to the Insurance Service Office, the top causes of insured disaster-related losses from 1993 to 2012 are as follows:
1. Hurricanes / Tropical Storms - $158 billion in claims
2. Tornadoes - $141 billion in claims
3. Winter Storms - $28 billion in claims
4. Terrorism - $25 billion in claims
5. Geological Events - $18 billion in claims

When you take into account all possible natural disasters, each of us is in danger of something, no matter in which part of the world you live, work and play. Whether you face hurricanes, tornadoes, snow blizzards or thunderstorms with lightening, are you, your business and your loved ones prepared? Per, only 57% of people report they have readiness items set aside for use in disasters; likewise, just 34% of people have readiness supplies in their automobiles, and less than half of households have an Emergency Plan created.

In this first post of my preparedness series, let’s talk about the steps you can take now to be ready:
- Determine what types of disasters are possibilities for your area.
- Decide where you will go and who you will contact for check-in should you have to evacuate.
- Make a list of what essential equipment must be taken from the premises as evacuating.
- Learn and practice how to turn off water, gas and electricity at the main switches or valves.
- Locate your fire extinguisher and learn how to operate it.
- Find out where your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are located; mark on your calendar regularly replacing their batteries and learn which sounds indicate what.
- Establish from here employees can obtain important updates during an emergency situation, especially when and where to return to work if there is a satellite or back-up location.
- Decide how you will facilitate payroll in a disaster scenario.
- Keep your business’ policies and procedures in writing to be accessed from anywhere at any time.

If it is unsafe to go out, you might be stuck at work or your home; therefore, make sure you have the necessary supplies. Visit for what should be included in a disaster supplies kit and, then, start accumulating it all, storing them somewhere easily accessible yet secure. For more about what you need, click here for a video description, and take actions to get ready now.

As different natural disasters impact different areas of the globe in different ways, take time to peruse the details at, paying close attention to what you need in the various scenarios that potentially impact your area. With each, though, power outages are regularly a by-product of natural disasters; therefore, prepare for potential power outages with these steps:
- Fill up your gas tank. Without power, the pumps don’t work.
- Visit your bank's ATM for cash. Credit and debit cards won’t work during a power outage.
- Charge your mobile devices and try steps from to conserve battery consumption.
- Keep on hand extra batteries for your flashlights so you are always ready to see in the dark.

Another excellent resource is at, from which you can obtain checklists for recovery overview, critical business functions to consider, assessing your risks, creating your emergency communications plan, phone recovery, your disaster recovery kit, winter weather preparedness, earthquake preparedness, tornado preparedness, wildfire preparedness, flood preparedness, hurricane preparedness, crisis communications to consider and much more.

Above all, though, make a plan, prepare for possible communication gaps, have the supplies you need on hand, keep what you’ll need remotely stored in the cloud and update everything regularly.

What natural disasters are issues where you reside? How have you prepared for those potential issues? What steps can you take now to be fully prepared?