A well-run business starts with a solid business plan. Whether you are the owner of a flower shop or the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation, you always need to think about what you would do if a disruptive event threatened the continuation of your business. What would you do if a fire burned down your building and production was brought to a halt? If a storm knocks-out your electricity for two days, would you lose access to all of your computers?
In order to weather any storm and lessen the impact it might have on your daily operations, it is almost mandatory that you create an effective business continuity plan (BCP). A business continuity plan is an orderly response that will help keep your business up-and-running when an event threatens to disrupt or shut-down normal operations. Executives, and others who may be tasked with creating such a plan, must first look at all potential risks that might affect daily operations. Once those risks have been determined, a detailed plan must be created to mitigate any damage caused by the disruptive event and restore operations as quickly as possible.
In any crisis situation, knowing the right way to react and respond, can prevent any elevation in the severity of the crisis. In business, every day that you are forced to stay closed, or not operate at full capacity, can have a negative impact on profits.
Any major disruption to your business can have a far-reaching impact. Your employees will worry if they will still have a job and a paycheck. You may have to stop ordering supplies from vendors. You may not be able to fulfill customer orders. While some customers and clients may exercise some patience and give you some extra time to get back to normal operations, others may not be as generous. If you are unable to serve your customers in a timely manner, eventually, they will find another company that can meet their needs. If that happens, you may never get those customers back.
A business continuity plan usually consists of five distinct sections. Together, each part of the plan contributes to the overall effectiveness of the plan should it need to be implemented.
Developing, modifying, and overseeing a BCP is a complicated task that requires some formal type of governance. In a large corporation, you may have a committee of senior management take on such responsibilities. In smaller organizations, it may be adequate to assign one or two trusted individuals to see that the right business continuity plan is in place.
Different disruptive events may call for different responses. A good BCP should address such issues as natural disasters, accidents, equipment failure, cyber attacks, loss of power or water supply, and a breakdown in communication and transportation networks.
Everyone who may participate in a plan should be thoroughly familiar with the steps that need to be taken in an emergency situation. The plan should be clearly written and a copy of the BCP should be given to all of those people who may be called upon to put the plan into action.
To avoid chaos and deploy a BCP without delay, each person should know in advance what his or her responsibilities are in the event of a disruption in operations. A manager may be charged with evacuating his or her employees to a safe place. The person in charge of the physical plant may contact the electric company and the safety officer might call the fire department.
Every plan needs to be regularly tested to make sure that it will perform as intended when a real emergency occurs. Drills, training sessions, classroom instruction and audits can all be helpful.
A good business continuity plan can help prevent a major disruption in your business's daily operations from becoming a disaster and threatening the very existence of the company. While a BCP does not guarantee that you will not suffer some financial loss or economic impact should a disaster occur, it can make it easier to recover and get back to normal operations.