Risks and disasters face all businesses no matter how large or small they are. The most significant corporations are prepared for these types of risks with plans in place to ensure their personnel and assets are protected, however, many small businesses lack any plan in place should the unexpected happen.
Businesses create a business continuity plan (BCP) by identifying the potential risks they could face along with the damages these risks could cause if they were to do nothing. By creating a BCP, small businesses can mitigate these risks and can operate with peace of mind knowing that if disaster strikes, their business won’t be completely lost and they will have a backup plan to get their operations back up and running sooner rather than later.
What Risks Are BCPs Avoiding?
While specific risks will be different for each business, there are many common risks that BCPs intend to avoid, mitigate, or minimize at the very least. Some common dangers that companies plan for include:
- Natural disasters like flooding, earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, etc.
- Infrastructure failures that can affect phone lines, internet connectivity, road access.
- Terrorist attacks resulting in a national emergency
- Work stoppages, illness or other staff disruptions that can significantly hurt smaller businesses.
- Data corruption and cybersecurity breaches putting business and customer data at stake.
- Breaks in the supply chain that can affect orders and inventory
- Theft and property damage
Strategizing and developing a BCP is not only a good business practice, but it may be a requirement for your company by your insurance providers or federal and local regulations. By having a BCP, you can also help minimize downtime if even a small problem arises that would otherwise force you to shut down for the day.
With a well-formulated BCP, your employees will also be better prepared in the case of an emergency, and they will have a much more thorough understanding of your business’s operations, and they will be able to add new contingency points to your plan during their day-to-day work.
BCP Strategy for Small Businesses
Large corporations have the resources to dedicate entire teams to their BCP strategy, but as a small business owner, you’ll most likely have to play a key role in your BCP strategy because you know your business best. Strategizing doesn’t need to take long, but you need to ensure that you are crossing all of your T’s and dotting your I’s to create a BCP that effectively mitigates all potential risks. Here is how you get started:
The first stage is to identify and assess the risks that could potentially impact your business. In addition to the typical risks most companies face, what geographic or industry-specific risks could your business face? Is your industry especially prone to worker strikes? What about supply chain issues? Each business will have its own set of individualized risks so do a thorough audit of the problems you’ve experienced in the past and create a list.
Business Impact Assessment
How would these risks affect your business? Could a specific risk be a minor snag in operations or would your business’ survival be on the line? Each risk will have a different impact, so think them through realistically so you can create practical contingency plans.
Assess Your Current Preparedness
You probably already have some plans in place to avoid disasters such as an IT outage. You want to have plans to cover every worst-case scenario possible even if some seem far-fetched. It’s better to have a plan in place for a disaster that has a small chance of occurring than to be caught without one on the small chance it does happen.
Leverage Online Tools
It might seem daunting to create a BCP, but luckily there are hundreds of templates available online to make the process easier. Since many small businesses face the same risks, you can simply fill in the blanks for most of the risks, and then customize the plan to work for your company.
Maintaining Your Plan
While your BCP can stay the same relatively over the years, you will need to make adjustments over time as your business expands, you hire more employees, or your processes change. Your small business BCP doesn't need to be reviewed in its entirety in one session, and you can update and review portions of it throughout the year. We recommend that you create a review schedule so the process isn’t as daunting, with the emphasis starting on sections that might change in the next year.
Things to pay special attention to would include your emergency teams and contact details for employees to ensure that they are up to date. You should also make sure you have lists for critical equipment, vendors, and suppliers with correct contact information so you aren’t searching for phone numbers when problems arise.
The BCP is a living document, and by consistently reviewing it and updating it, you can rest assured knowing that should a disaster or major problem affects your business, you will be prepared.