Why every small business needs a continuity plan

Business continuity plans can help you prepare your business for any number of disruptive events, from bushfires to cyberattacks or simply a power outage caused by a car accident in the street.

According to business experts, around 70 to 80 per cent of businesses without a business continuity plan fail within 18 months of a disaster. The harsh but simple fact is that there are a hundred and one things that can disrupt a business. A well-thought-out, practical plan can mean the difference between coping with a disaster and going bust.

A business continuity plan will help your business continue operating, ensuring you’re still receiving income when disaster strikes.

Develop a plan by:

• Making triplicates: keep up-to-date triplicate records of both electronic and written records. In some jurisdictions, if your company fails to maintain and safeguard accurate business records, you may still be held liable.

• Knowing what you must do to stay in business: identify your critical business activities and the resources needed to support them in order to maintain customer service while your business is closed for repairs.

• Planning for the worst possible scenario: do research before a disaster strikes by finding alternative facilities, equipment and supplies, and locating qualified contractors to repair your facility.

• Devising a plan: set up an emergency response plan and train employees how to execute it.

• Getting your emergency business supplies together: consider the additional resources you may need to activate during an emergency, such as back-up sources of power and communications systems. Also, where possible, stockpile supplies you may need like first-aid kits or torches.

• Listing key numbers and addresses: compile a list of important phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses, including local and state emergency management agencies, major clients, contractors, suppliers, real estate agents, financial institutions, insurance brokers/advisers and loss management experts. This list should also include employees and company officials. Remember to keep copies off the premises, like at home or in the cloud, in case the disaster is widespread.

• Creating a communications strategy: this will prevent damage to your reputation and loss of your customers. Clients must know how to contact your company at its new location. Utilise as many channels as possible to let your customers know what is happening, from calling them on the phone, emailing them, updating your company’s social media channels or posting notices outside the original premises. The more people who get your message, the less damage you’ll sustain.

• Evaluating your plan regularly: remember to review and test your plan on a regular basis and communicate changes to key employees so they know what to do in the event of a disaster.

There are also added benefits of a business continuity plan. Think of it this way: a business that has the ability to cope with whatever is thrown at it is a much more valuable and reliable investment than others. Ensure this is factored in when asking your bank manager for a loan, when selling some equity or dealing with the new owner when you have decided to sell up and relax.

Edward Vukovic, content expert, Know Risk Network

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