As business consultant I really want to point out that businesses are literally struggling for survival right now. Regardless if a business is small, medium or large, coping with reduced revenue or simply locking the door can be absolutely devastating. Business survival is difficult in the first place, just do some research on business success numbers and you will find some shocking stats. Try starting on Government of Canada and Statistics Canada websites, for my US friends out there the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Small Business Administration are great websites to start with. Continuity plans are your written procedures on how to prevent, deal with, or recover from any type of business disruption. They are your preplanning to ensure the business is always moving in the right direction regardless of the disruption. The continuity plan lays out specific actions to be taken when your business is disrupted… just like our current COVID-19 pandemic situation.
What Do I Look For?
You will need to identify disruptive situations. Conditions such as a shortage of employees, cancelled orders, supply chain issues, having to completely stop operations, or maybe supplying a surge in demand (look at all the food stores right now). In worst case scenarios there might not be phones, internet, power or water… you’ll want to incorporate those types of things into a personal and tailored plan that fits your unique business. Additionally, you will want to understand any incoming or outgoing contractual agreements that may be in place.
Don’t forget the importance of cross training. One of the mistakes that I see in a lot of continuity plans or emergency response plans is the assumption of employees or specific roles being available during the various types of disruptions. As an example: In our current pandemic, employees could be sick, looking after loved ones, isolated, or quarantined. They could be unavailable because they are fulfilling a vital community need by volunteering. Make sure you understand the importance of cross training critical roles.
Another thing you will need to do is identify what are the bare minimum critical components needed to operate your business? Focus on the straight line through your business, from partners and suppliers through to your product or service then through to your customer market. Remember that you can’t do anything without people so don’t forget about identifying key employee roles throughout the process. Write down what you identify and develop a plan to deal with those if they become threatened. Temporarily set your long-term strategies aside and concentrate on flexibility, short-term success, and recovery plan.
Make It Happen
Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself to assist in your continuity plan development. You should find that these questions will trigger more specific questions that require defined answers:
Build Your Plan
How are decisions going to be made and have I identified critical activities, operations, and roles?
Have I created a recovery plan and does that also include my financials?
Preparedness and Impacts
Have I identified human risks as well as roles and responsibilities within my business?
Did I cross-train employees in case employees are absent or roles cannot be fulfilled?
Is there an opportunity to work remotely and is the business set up for it?
If I must close, is my business in a position to wait-it-out? (this should trigger a bunch of questions)
Is it possible to relocate my business or allocate additional funding to support challenges?
If there is a sudden demand for my product or service, how will I satisfy the challenge?
Have I planned for different scenarios? (fire, pandemic, data loss, long-term power outage, etc.)
Does my plan consider the health and safety of employees or customers?
Situations can change rapidly. Did I build flexibility into my plan?
Have I tested (tabletop drill) my continuity plan to find improvement opportunities?
Share and Help Others
If I can help you or others with even a small business tip, I will feel rewarded. You can’t do everything yourself so don’t be afraid to ask questions on my Facebook, LinkedIn, or Contact Page. As a consultant, I find a great reward in transferring my knowledge and skills to help others succeed, especially during difficult times. Please "Share" this with others. Vaughn Bonsteel is a Business Consultant and Safety Consultant helping business move forward toward their goals.