We all like to think that our businesses have what it takes to survive. That’s a positive outlook in a competitive and sometimes hostile business environment. Yet, there is one challenge that can overwhelm and even destroy your business: an emergency, such as a natural disaster. Such disasters can include fire, wind, flood or even volcanic ash. Here’s how to develop a business continuity plan to ensure that your enterprise survives a calamity.
When a business is hit with a calamity, disruption takes place. Typically, such disruptions result in a loss of revenue and an increase in expenses, what can sink your business. Worse, if your business model is disrupted, your customers may flee to a competitor. And never return.
The Impact on Your Business
When a disruption takes place it will have an impact on your business. It is important for business owners to imagine how that disruption might affect the business. Equally, a response should be developed to negate or reduce that impact.
Here, you might develop a business impact analysis to determine how your business will function and survive an interruption. Work with your senior managers to develop questions on how to respond to each problem, including recovering lost IT services, maintaining accounts receivable, working with the insurance company and filing a disaster relief application with the government.
Strategies Toward Recovery
Your business needs to develop an emergency plan that kicks in the moment disruption occurs. Senior management must identify those resources that can be utilized, including insurance.
At the same time, the business must determine what costs will not be covered by insurance. Thus, it may be necessary to work with your accountant to ensure that a sufficient line of credit is in place to cover increased expenses.
Multiple recovery strategies should be put in place, with each one dependent on the type or level of disaster. For instance, if your building was damaged by fire, but smoke was the most significant damage, then many of your files may be recoverable. On the other hand, if fire consumed everything, then a more comprehensive response would be needed.
Your Recovery Framework
It is important for your business to have a recovery framework in place. The framework should have teams assigned to handle different tasks. Furthermore, a central point of contact must kick in.
If relocation is necessary, then a team should handle that requirement at once. The plan should outline recovery of lost or damaged data, including accounting, IT and Human Resources.
The plan should also be tested to ensure that it will work when it kicks in. You might look for independent validation from an uninvolved party to ensure that it works. Once the plan has been tested, then it must receive senior management’s approval.
Perform Test Runs
In the course of your normal business activity, it is important to test run the plan. This means carrying out exercises and evaluating same. Keep your employees informed too — they should know what to do and where to turn to in an emergency.
As your business changes, the business continuity plan should be modified. This means that if a senior manager or other point person leaves the company, then the plan must be updated to include the new personnel. That new person should be trained for his or her position and know how to carry out their functions. Make it a part of orientation exercises.
Clearly, there are many steps that should be followed to help your business recover from a disaster. We have only looked at the salient points, what we hope will encourage your business to consider calamity possibilities and how best to respond when faced with a worst case business scenario and to survive it.
See Also — Planning a Business Exit