Business continuity, business resilience, emergency planning, agility and flexibly along with business survival have been words banded around a lot recently.
However, what does it mean for a typical SME to have a business continuity or business emergency plan in place?
In simple terms, it’s about having a number of tested and trusted scenario plans, either typed up or in an online folder that you can go to immediately and implement. These would be used should there be a dramatic change to your business circumstances, the ability to operate or an event which drastically changes the trading environment.
Change is the only constant
As we have seen during the last few months, a global pandemic has not just caused a lot of suffering, illness and deaths across the world. The resulting changes in consumers behaviours, restrictions in movement and the series of lockdowns has drastically changed the environment and had a huge impact on businesses both large and all.
"By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin."
So, how would you adapt your businesses effectively and continue to trade should one of the following events happen?.
- Your premises have to close due to a flood; major power cut or landslide and you can’t access the site or office?
- What if the majority of your staff become ill and unable to work?
- What if your suppliers go out of business or decide they can get a better offer supplying your competitors on a solo supply basis?
- What if your IT systems were hacked and all your data was either stolen or you’re held to ransom to obtain the information or system functionality back?
- Or your main funder, shareholder, business partner wants to pull out of the business and extract their investment within a short time frame?
- What if your main customer went to the wall and it becomes apparent that any debt recovery plans would prove to be fruitless?
- Or what if you became seriously ill or had an accident yourself, which prevented you from running or being involved in the business
Risk assessment planning process
Whether you’re a sole trade, partnership, traditional family business or well-established SME, going through the process of carrying out risk assessments is crucial. You need to determine what’s best from an emergency recovery planning perspective. Then you need to evaluate how robust your management systems are against different scenarios that this can all be visualised and documented. This is a valuable exercise to carry out at any stage of the business cycle.
However, I know as a business owner, you’re always busy and you have lots of demands on you. Often the furthest thing from your mind is spending time to work “ON” the business and particularly developing business continuity programmes, on something that may just never happen.
But being proactive rather than reactive may just save your business from failure one day!
The benefits in being prepared
As we have all learned through 2020, those that do spend time planning and have effective response and business recovery plans in place do have a strong advantage. This is due to their agility and flexibility to introduce change in a rapidly changing business environment.
If business continuity management and crisis management are an area whereby your business is weak and you have no real plans in place, it is well worth investing and engaging with a Business Continuity & Emergency Planning Consultant.
Obtaining help from a business continuity and recovery consultant
The following business continuity consulting process is a consultative method that I’ve used with a number of my clients.
- The first phase would be to carry out an audit on what business risk procedures, recovery policies and crisis management plans you may already have in place.
- Then, by creating a checklist and carrying out gap analysis and playing “so what”, a business continuity strategy roadmap would be created. This is commonly known as a Business Impact Analysis (BIA).
- Then it would be a matter of working with the business owner and senior management team on each different scenario.
- This leads to creating robust, step by step plans to ensure you minimise any risks to your business should there be a major incident, drastic chain of events or disruption to normal trading.
The outcomes of these processes often cover areas to follow through on and help build related action plans.
These may include;
- Training plans,
- Securing controls,
- Protocols and procedures
- and creating risks management policies.
With the prevalence of cyber-attacks, ensuring there are back up plans for IT and management systems should they fail are crucial aspects of business continuity planning.
Financial facilities may also be a key considerations should the predicted effect to the business be for a prolonged period.
Next step: Take action
So, don’t hesitate, or put this valuable continuity and emergency planning process off. Having a plan may just save your business one day. It will certainly assist in mitigating any serious damage should one of the above event likely happen.
Contact Peter Fleming at Peter Fleming Business Consultancy, and please note our first consultation is always free.