No-one likes to think about the worse that can happen but business continuity planning is an important part of any business planning process. Creating a plan of action will allow you to respond quickly to an emergency situation with the minimum amount of disruption to your business.
Whether your business is hit by a natural disaster, an employee dispute or a utility disruption; the way you deal with these situations will not only affect your bottom line but your relationships with both your clients and your employees.
6 Steps to Creating a Business Continuity Plan
1. Identify your Risks
Assess all of the risks which could affect your business. From potential environmental impacts, natural disasters and severe weather, to loss of services and facilities, to potential issues with staff including disputes, illness or shortages.
Walk around your business, speak to employees, speak to suppliers and ensure that you have identified all potential problem areas.
2. Identify the Impacts
Classify the essential services and functions of your business and list them in order of importance. What goods or services must be delivered first? Are there any legal requirements on providing these goods or services?
Assess the needs of your business to provide the essential services identified. These can include employee availability, computer applications, transportation, equipment and service providers such as utilities and financial institutions.
Identify your potential areas of revenue loss. If your business is unable to perform its services or provide its products how much revenue will you lose and for what length of time. If clients cannot use your services, how will you prevent them from using a competitor or attract them back from a competitor.
Know your insurance options. Since few businesses can afford to pay the full cost of recovery, it is important to know what threats your insurance covers.
3. Develop your Strategy
Identify proactive measure you can take to avoid a disaster or reduce its impact on your business. If your business uses hazardous materials, identify the possible accidents or issues, and train staff on how to avoid them or what to do if it happens. If you are in a flood prone region, ensure that you do not keep electronic equipment or important documents in lower flood risk areas of your premises and ensure that information is backed up regularly.
Ask yourself: what can I do to prevent this disaster from occurring? How can I reduce the frequency of this disaster? And, what solutions can I implement should it happen?
4. Know Who you Need to Contact
Communication is key in times of disaster. Whether communicating with staff, suppliers or clients; the way you respond to a situation will impact their reaction.
Make sure clients understand what your plans are to resume your service and the timeframes they should expect. When signing contract with a new client, let them know your recovery plan. This will not only demonstrate forward planning but will mean that you will not have a stressed client if a disaster should occur.
Ensure that your employees are clear about the procedures for your business and communicate these with their families. If there is one central person who will communicate information to the rest of the employees, make sure everyone knows who this is. If there is a plan to relocate services to another location in times of emergency, ensure everyone knows where this is.
Have a list of suppliers that you will need to contact in case of emergency. Your gas supplier should there be a leaking pipe, your product suppliers should your building become unusable etc.
5. Identify your Major Tasks
Knowing how to respond to emergency situation is crucial; but do you know who is responsible for what and what their priorities are?
Define the major tasks, specific to your organisation. You have already identified the potential risks to your business but what steps would you need to take to recover or minimize the damage? Tasks can include calling your insurance agent, informing your stakeholders, finding new premises, hiring contractors to fix any damage etc.
Once you have identified these tasks, assign them to your employees and make sure they are aware of their role.
6. Continually Review your Plan
Your plan should be a living document which constantly changes according to the needs of your business. Is the employee responsible for communications leaving your business? Have you changed suppliers since you first drafted the plan? Have you developed new services which need to be assessed for risk and included in the recovery plan?
Try and apply your plan to specific disasters or scenarios. If the disaster were to happen, what would you actually do? Are the plans expectations and assumptions correct? If not amend and redistribute.
Useful Resources for Disaster Planning
- BC Ministry of Health: 10 Steps Organizations Can Take for Pandemic Flu Preparedness
- Public Safety Canada: A Guide to Business Continuity Planning
- Canadian Federation of Independent Business: Basic Emergency Management Guidelines
- Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness: Small Business Preparedness