Small business owners are just as vulnerable to disaster but it’s easy to ignore or push to one side and deal with it when it happens. But should something serious happen, what would you do? Having a small business continuity plan to limit the impact on your business is worth thinking about sooner rather than later. My business and my husbands business survived the pandemic, but another challenge has presented itself, creating a need to prepare for that challenge as best as possible now.
What is business continuity planning?
Business continuity planning is having a back up plan for your business should something go wrong. It outlines procedures and instructions on what needs to be done and by whom in the event of something serious happening in your business.
Aside from a pandemic there could be other scenarios that affect YOUR business. What if your premises are flooded or caught in a fire? What if your equipment or tools of the trade get stolen? What if you experience a long term illness? How would your business function without equipment or you?
Start by thinking about the what ifs that could affect YOUR businesses:
- Has your paperwork, files or client data been destroyed in a flood or fire? What is your contingency
- Is your paperwork just stored on a computer? What if the computer is destroyed by flood or fire? Or subject to cyber-crime. How do you get this information back? How can it be better stored?
- What if your internet/telephone service is not available for a long period? What is your contingency
- What happens if your tools/equipment get stolen? What is your contingency
- What happens if you are not able to work due to accident or illness? What is your contingency
- Who do you need to contact immediately? How do you get hold of them? Do you have key contacts such as suppliers, staff?
Preparing your document of action
Once you have identified the what ifs that affect your business, think about how you will manage those what ifs. What action will need to be taken? How will you get access to information? Where can it be stored? Who are key people that you need to contact? Where can this key information be accessed in an emergency? How would you get hold of tools/equipment? Who can help you should you be out of action for some time? Get as much detail documented as possible. When you have the final document with clear instructions of what needs to happen don’t just store it away in a file or computer. In the event of something serious happening this document needs to spring into action and be accessible as quickly as possible. How and/or where can it be stored for easy access? As well as you, who else should receive this document?
Ideally a business continuity plan should be tested, ie rehearse an identified scenario and act out the procedure and instructions and modify where something does not work. A full on test may not be feasible or relevant for small business owners, but regularly walking through different aspects of your plan keeps the plan sharp. For example if you are a freelancer working at home from a computer and your hard drive fails – and assuming that you have backed up – how quickly can you get a new hard drive, restore back up and get working again? If you are a tradesman and your tools have been stolen. How quickly can you get new tools? What suppliers can deliver in good time? Who is able to help at a moments notice to extend use of equipment until yours is replaced?
There are plenty of templates that you can use [accessible online] when creating a business continuity plan. It needn’t be demanding or time consuming. But it will need to be reviewed regularly to reflect any changes. Creating a small business continuity plan allows you to react, communicate and continue as best as possible when things go wrong.