A big part of planning for small business success is a business continuity plan. This is the fallback position your business has when a natural disaster, power outage, or any one of a number of mishaps threatens your company’s ability to function.
Part of the initial planning for one of these important documents starts with understanding how vulnerable your small business might be if an emergency happened.
How to Get Started with a Business Continuity Plan
One of the first things that you will need to do is understand the natural disasters like floods and wildfires that can happen in your area. This is a good starting point so that you can tailor make a business continuity plan that reacts to any potential issues of this kind. Here’s a good starting point to better understand some of the risks.
Take Proactive Measure
Having one of these plans in place is a proactive measure. It is also motivational even if the disaster doesn’t strike because it shows your customers and shareholders as well as your employees that you are prepared.
Here’s some of the steps that you should work through with your small business to come up with a plan that will put everyone at ease.
Put an Emergency Team Together
Being ready for an emergency that can otherwise disrupt your business means having an emergency preparedness team in place. These are people that will be the foundation for how your business reacts and how operations will be able to continue.
Having this team in place means selecting some individuals or maybe a few managers who will be up to the task. They should have a thorough understanding of how your business works and these individuals all need to be reliable when it comes to decision-making.
If the whole idea was the brainchild of a committee in the first place, it’s a good idea to let them take charge although one person should lead the entire planning process.
Look at the Risks
Finding out where your company is vulnerable by looking at the risks and doing an assessment is the next step. One of the ways to approach this type of assessment is to take proactive steps for each disaster possibility.
In other words, it’s a good idea to be able to see any potential disruptions before they happen. There’s a National Weather Service that you can monitor and local services too. If you’re in a location where potential IT outages are an issue, assigning someone to monitor your network is a good idea.
If your business is near a body of water, making some flood preparations is a positive step.
Determine Essential Services
You’ll also need to be able to determine the essential services for your small business. Some of the things that your company does might need to satisfy regulatory requirements so they should be top priority. You might be in a business that makes goods or services that can impact the health and safety of your customers.
Your business may experience a disruption because of interruptions in power lines or communication. These are considered essential services because you need to keep them running so you will need to consider alternate sources like generators.
Indentify Major Customers
Even if your products and services don’t fit in those other categories, you’ll want to be able to earmark major customers that keep you afloat financially. Ticking off check marks next to your major clients so they are in the essential services category is a good idea.
Prepare an Action Plan
This is one of the foundations of your entire business continuity plan. It should start by describing the essential parts of your business that you identified in the previous step. The individuals that have been put in charge should be mentioned clearly here.
It’s a good idea to have backups as well. This is the meat and potatoes of all planning that you’ve done. Everything needs to be covered here. This includes how you’re going to reallocate staff to keep things moving and what plans you have for using other sectors to keep the essential parts of your business up and running.
Any changes that you need to make with delivery models and business reporting needs to be detailed here. An important part of any action plan lists contact information should you need to contract services including staffing and equipment.
Keep in mind you have a variety of software solutions that can help you by providing access to the cloud for disaster recovery.
Test and Train
Once you have a plan in place, you will need to test it and train the continuity team. By running through a few mock exercises, you will be able to see where the plan needs to be tweaked. It’s a good idea that you continue to test even when you get the plan to where you think it needs to be. Reviewing your plan quarterly is a good idea to stay on top of any changes that need to be implemented.
Find a Business Continuity Plan Template
Putting together a business continuity plan is easy if you can find a template and just fill in the blank spaces to tailor make it to suit your business. There are a series of excellent resources to help you with a small business plan including The National Fire Protection Association’s Standard on Continuity, Emergency and Crisis Management. Here’s another version you can download and customize for your small business.