Is your company ready for a disaster?
Do you have a business continuity plan in place?
If that question makes you ask, “what’s that?” or “what kind of disaster?” chances are the answer is no. If you haven’t taken steps to prepare your business to survive a disaster, now is the best time to learn about how your company would continue to run, or revive itself, if the unthinkable happened.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan is a strategy that ensures you can still serve customers, keep your doors open, or reopen quickly after any kind of disaster. This might include a natural disaster, economic crash, or a bout with bad publicity that chases clients away.
In short, what’s your plan for getting back to business? A business continuity plan will answer that question and make all the difference between success and failure when disaster strikes.
Why is a Business Continuity Plan Important?
Ask any business owner affected by the 2008 housing crisis or any brick and mortar shop in places like New Orleans or Houston who have been knocked out of business by natural disasters.
Crises come in all varieties, and the best way to stay open or make your comeback is to plan for it—before it happens.
Just like you keep a 72-hour kit, flashlights, jumper cables, and other items in your house or car “just in case,” a business continuity plan means you’re prepared for the worst.
Without a preexisting business continuity plan, 1 in 4 businesses that close down due to disaster does not reopen. But with planning, you’ll have actionable steps and resources ready to guide you back into business as soon as possible. A business continuity plan can help your business survive in the following ways:
- Minimize lost market share & revenue: Customers remain confident and you can still be as competitive as possible. If you can keep serving clients, chances are they’ll stay loyal.
- Keep your brand intact: Extended closure will likely cause a loss in brand equity as customers begin to forget you. A business continuity plan can not only help you stay in business and reopen quicker; it can also help your employees better represent your brand through the crisis.
- Reassure stakeholders: Your business continuity plan will establish methods of communicating with customers, vendors, shareholders, and more under a disastrous situation. That communication will be key to letting all stakeholders know you’re not going anywhere.
Developing Your Plan
Writing a business continuity plan might seem like a big hassle, but there are really only a few steps to creating one. Here are 5 steps you’ll need to take.
1. Identify the Risks
Your risks will depend on what kind of business you’re in and where:
- Are you at risk for natural disasters?
- Is there a possibility for a security breach, equipment failure, service interruptions, etc?
- Would a crash or sudden change in market circumstances affect you?
2. Conduct Impact Analysis
You might need help developing a questionnaire or conducting a workshop for the people who run your business’s different processes:
- How would the processes under their care be affected by different types of disasters?
- What functions would be at risk?
- How would not keeping up with these functions affect your market share?
3. Develop Recovery Strategies
Identify your business’s most critical processes or functions:
- What resources are needed to support them?
- Are there gaps between what you’ll need and what you’re currently capable of?
- Explore recovery strategies with your entire team to make sure you aren’t missing anything.
4. Develop Your Plan
To develop your business continuity plan, you’ll need to:
- Assemble specific recovery teams
- Plan for relocation if necessary
- Write procedures for IT and other functions
- Document possible workarounds
- Put it all in a framework your staff can work with under the pressure of a disaster
How will you know your plan works if you don’t test it? Make testing a regular part of training, and be sure to maintain the elements of your plan so they’re ready to be put into action without notice. This is how you’ll ensure operations stay as seamless as possible, reassuring all stakeholders in an emergency.
Why is a business continuity plan important? Because it means survival. But remember, a business continuity plan can only help if you put it in place before the disaster. It may be unpleasant to think about now but could make all the difference when it really counts.