There’s probably not a business day goes by where you don’t plan. Plan for growth, plan for customer satisfaction, even plan for the longer term plans. But do any of your future tactics include a strategy for if or when something goes wrong?
It’s not the gloomy stance that most business owners or directors would want to take, but it’s a vital one nonetheless. A Business Continuity Plan can help pull your business back from the brink of potential ruin following any major setbacks, or even work towards preventing them in the first place.
Disaster in numbers
A recent survey from the Chartered Management Institute found that:
- 36% of organisations name extreme weather disruption in their Business Continuity Plan
- Yet 58% of organisations were disrupted by extreme weather in the previous year
Disasters can and do happen, as evident from these figures, taking out perfectly healthy businesses in their wake.
In the short term, major incidents can lead to lost business, but what of the knock-on effect that brings with it the longer term problems? Bad publicity, loss of client confidence, and competitors moving in on your lost ground are all factors that will make for a very long road to recovery.
It may seem like an extra burden now, but planning for this can make all the difference in the future. Decisions made under pressure, in any area of life, often make for less than perfect choices. By considering a potential crisis objectively before it has the chance to unfold, you’ll be much better placed to make any monumental decisions around your business.
Plan for possibilities, however bleak they may be
By taking the following steps, you can be on your way to a simple Business Continuity Plan, so you’re better prepared for the worst case scenarios, and better equipped to deal with the less serious incidents
Create your team – Two people for a small business will be enough, and should ideally come from a specialist department area such as IT or finance.
Analyse threats – Make a note of your business activities, then list any threats that could affect them. How likely is it that you’ll be affected by a flood or computer virus? And how much will it cost in time and money to rectify such a problem?
Look into prevention measures – Once you know the threat, you know how to protect against it.
Plan for calm in the face of an incident – Decide which team members are responsible for which areas, such as security, damage assessment and salvage, communication to those outside the business and emergency arrangements for things like IT recovery
Create a go-to list – Put together a list of essential contacts, that includes details of staff, material suppliers, bank and insurance contacts, utility suppliers, and anyone else deemed essential, according to your plan.
Foresee recovery – Consider the alternatives that will allow you to continue trading after an upheaval. These can include a short lease on temporary premises, different suppliers, or hired in machinery. Each alternative needs to fit the specific problem.
Pay special attention to computers – Most businesses are now heavily reliant on IT and even a minor knock to the system can become a major interruption if you’re unprepared. Keep an up-to-date copy of your data offsite to protect against physical and digital threats, and even consider how you would operate temporarily with manual systems
Try the plan out and keep it up to date – Your plan won’t be much use when needed if it’s been on a shelf gathering dust. Practice the plan so that everyone knows their duties and update it from what you learn from the drills. Every time the business undergoes a change, such as an organisational structure, make sure the plan is still a good fit.