When a disaster happens, there’s little time for you to react to minimize or control the damage that is caused to your business. The COVID-19 pandemic brought this home to businesses across Canada. While nobody can predict what will happen in the future, you can be prepared by having a business continuity plan.
A business continuity plan (BCP) helps you identify business risks and either prevent them or recover from them more quickly.
The goal of a business continuity plan is to resume business operations as quickly as possible after or during a major disruption such as a fire, flood, cyberattack or pandemic.
A complete business continuity plan will outline the policies, procedures, and instructions for you and your staff to follow while in the middle of a disaster or disruption. By putting this plan in writing, it will be much easier to respond with a cool head when it matters most.
Prep your business for any crisis in 4 steps
No one thinks clearly when the building’s on fire (actually or figuratively). That’s why you should spend some time now planning for the next crisis. Here are the steps:
- Choose a business continuity team.
- Identify the risks and effects.
- Set your business priorities.
- Review, test and revise.
Let’s look at each of these steps in turn.
How to create a business continuity plan
If you’re trying to create a business continuity plan so that you can get your business through the effects of COVID-19, then you’ll need to tailor it to the effects caused by a pandemic.
This could include:
- Financial losses
- Staff layoffs
- Breaks in your supply chain
You can find a list of federal and provincial aid programs to help businesses dig themselves out of the pandemic fallout.
In addition to helping you get your business back on its feet now, a continuity plan will prepare you for future disasters.
You might want to use a free template to help guide you through the process. You can find business continuity plan templates here or simply search “business continuity plan template” for more options.
1. Choose a business continuity team
To make a plan for how your business will function throughout a crisis, you’ll first want to establish a trusted team. It’s best to select people who are well-organized, thorough and detail-oriented.
- The team leader will be in charge of heading up the planning team, and ensuring that all managers and executive staff are in the loop with how any crisis is being handled.
- Your planning coordinator is responsible for making sure that all the plans and activities are coordinated between the various departments in your business.
- The information officer will be in charge of accessing and sharing information that pertains to the crisis with employees, customers, suppliers and the public.
Every crisis is different, so your team might need to modify your BCP to suit the current situation.
If you’re running a small business, then you may not have a lot of staff or resources to head up a large continuity team. In that case, you can still create a basic business continuity plan that you can follow in the event your products or services are disrupted — whether for personal or other reasons.
2. Identify the risks and effects
Once your continuity team has been named, you’ll want to start identifying the effects and risks that different types of disasters could have on your business.
One of the ways that you can complete this step is by making a business impact analysis (BIA) report to predict how each could affect your business.
A business impact analysis determines which functions are critical and which are not for your business to keep running during a crisis.
The BIA is a key part of your business continuity plan and will help you weigh the relative value of different functions, prioritizing the most vital in order to continue operations.
If you’re a smaller business, you may not need to create a BIA report. However, you’ll want to brainstorm and think through various scenarios so that you can identify ways to reduce risks associated with various disruptions.
3. Set your business priorities
After you or your planning team have analyzed the effects and risks of different types of disasters, it’s time to set a step-by-step strategy in place for each.
In the case of large-scale disasters like COVID-19, the business disruption can be profound. You will need to be prepared to update your policies and allocate funds so that you can protect your staff and customers while you’re trying to continue your business operations.
Here you prioritize the services, functions and customers that your business will supply.
If there are services that your business offers that aren’t essential to your customers, then you may want to suspend those services so you can focus on the most-needed services that your company provides.
You can prioritize your services by using an A, B, C system:
- A tier services are services/functions that are essential to your customers or business operations.
- B tier services are services/functions that can be temporarily suspended so that you can focus on the essential services your business provides.
- C tier services are the services/functions that can be suspended for an extended time without affecting your customers.
By prioritizing your business functions, you’ll make it easier for your business to stay open or reopen quickly during a future crisis.
4. Review, test and revise
You should put your plan to the test to ensure that your staff and customers will be safe while you start up your business.
Reviewing the final plan with everyone who will be involved in your business during the continuity period.
After you’ve briefed all your staff members on the business continuity management steps you’ve taken, then you’ll want to put your plan to the test. You can do this by having your staff conduct a mock trial to see if there are any flaws.
As with any plan, there is always room for improvement. If you find that there are flaws in your plan after some trial runs, revise your plan until you’re sure that it will work in an actual crisis.
Business continuity management begins with a plan
We hope that this article has helped you learn how you can create a business continuity plan for your own business. Regardless of where you are in the COVID-19 recovery process, you’ll find that a business continuity plan will help.
A plan will put you on a solid footing to deal with future disruptions to your business operations.
With every crisis, you’ll want to adapt your plan so that it’s crisis-specific. This will help improve your contingency planning and allow your business to respond more quickly to the next crisis.