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 happens.
Here’s an insight from Mike Clayton, discussing the essentials of a Business Continuity Plan:
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.
Small Business Deals
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. Clearly mention the individuals in charge 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 are 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 see where the plan needs tweaking. 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.
Table: Key Steps in Developing a Business Continuity Plan
This comparison table summarizes the key steps involved in developing a BCP from the previous list. It serves as a concise and informative reference for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The snapshot provides a quick overview, allowing small business owners to understand and compare different aspects of the planning process. It ensures you cover all essential areas to enhance your business’s resilience:
|Understanding Natural Disasters
|Assess local risks like floods, wildfires.
|Tailors the BCP to potential local emergencies.
|Implementing the BCP as a preventive strategy.
|Prepares the business and reassures stakeholders.
|Emergency Team Formation
|Select individuals/managers for the preparedness team.
|Creates a dedicated team for emergency response.
|Identify vulnerabilities and potential disruptions.
|Anticipates and prepares for various disaster scenarios.
|Determining Essential Services
|Identify crucial services for business operation.
|Ensures continuity of critical functions.
|Identifying Major Customers
|Earmark key clients for prioritized service.
|Maintains financial stability and customer relations.
|Action Plan Development
|Detail strategies for maintaining essential operations.
|Outlines steps for business functioning during crises.
|Testing and Training
|Conduct mock drills and team training.
|Evaluates and improves the BCP's effectiveness.
Reviewing and understanding each of these steps is essential for creating a robust and effective business continuity plan, capable of safeguarding your business against a range of potential disruptions.
Incorporating Technology and Digital Strategies into Your Business Continuity Plan
In today’s digital age, integrating technology and digital tools into your business continuity plan is a necessity. Why? For starters, this integration is paramount to enhancing resilience and operational continuity. These strategies not only ensure business stability during disruptions but also provide a competitive edge in rapidly changing scenarios.
Here are key aspects to consider:
- Leveraging Cloud Computing: Utilize cloud services to ensure data safety and accessibility. This approach enables remote work capabilities and maintains customer services during disasters.
- Utilizing Communication Tools: Implement digital communication tools to keep teams connected and operations running smoothly, especially in cases where physical office access is restricted.
- Implementing Cybersecurity Measures: Develop robust cybersecurity strategies to protect your business from increased risks during emergencies, such as phishing attacks or data breaches.
- Digital Training and Simulation: Use virtual training programs to prepare your team for various emergency scenarios, offering flexibility and ensuring everyone understands their role in the continuity plan.
- Automating Critical Processes: Automate essential operations to maintain continuity with minimal human intervention. This is particularly crucial for processes that are critical to business functioning.
- Data Analytics for Risk Assessment: Employ data analytics to predict potential threats and prepare accordingly. This proactive approach helps in refining the business continuity plan, making it more effective over time.
By incorporating these technological and digital strategies, your business continuity plan becomes more dynamic, adaptable, and equipped to handle the challenges of the modern business environment.
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.