A basic definition of business continuity that can be found on the Wikipedia entry on the subject calls “the capability of an organization to continue the delivery of products or services at pre-defined acceptable levels following a disruptive incident,” and business continuity planning as “the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company.” To simplify it even further, business continuity planning means making a plan to deal with a major change or disruption, whether it comes from external forces such as a recession or internal change such as the departure of the company’s leader. In this article, we’ll break down the basics of what you should be considering when you start drafting your company’s business continuity plan.
1. What Change or Disruption Are You Planning For?:
When you first sit down to start drafting your plan, you’ll want to make a list of potential threats, changes, or disruptions your business could face. This list will guide you in key decisions such as who needs to be involved, what aspects of the business could be affected, and whether or not you may need multiple plans to prepare for different scenarios. For example, a plan to deal with an unexpected departure of a company leader could differ greatly from your plan to deal with physical damage or long-term closure of your storefront due to a weather emergency.
2. Chain of Command:
One of the most critical factors in helping your employees and customers feel safe and reassured during a period of change or disruption is to let them know who is in charge. A major focus of your continuity plan should be identifying areas of responsibility that need to be covered, creating a chain of command to make sure they’re covered, and empowering your employees to get the job done.
3. Back It Up, and Back It Up Again:
A good business continuity plan is layered. It tells you, “Take Action A in case of Scenario 1 or take Action B if Action A doesn’t work”. You can’t fail if your backup plan has a backup plan. Speaking of backup plans, your plan should also include all the details on where you store backups of important files and company information in case anyone needs to access it in an emergency.
4. Decide Who Needs a Copy:
A plan is only as good as how it’s communicated to the people who need to know about it. When drafting a plan, make sure to share it with the people who’d be responsible for implementing it in your absence. This may include top employees, family members, or potential successors. You may even want to invite them in on the planning process if you feel their input could be valuable. As soon as the plan is finalized, share it with everyone involved, answer any questions they may have. Make sure they have a copy if and when they need to use it.
5. The Plan Forward:
Now that you’ve covered the initial or emergency disruption, you can look to the future. Show your employees and customers that your business is not only going to survive this transition, you’re going to thrive. This is where the “continuity” part of your plan comes into play. Make sure your plan includes the steps you need to take to not only get through the disruption you’re facing, but also covers the post-recovery phase where you start growing again.
6. Monitor and Review:
Getting an iron-clad continuity plan in place takes a lot of work and thought. You will have peace of mind knowing that it has been completed and communicated. Things in life and in business are constantly changing. Much like your personal financial plan and your business plan; your continuity plan must be reviewed on an annual basis to account for changes that have taken place. Business lines may have been added or dropped. Key employees may have been added or lost. You, as the owner, may have life events that change the course of the business. Prudent planning accounts for these adjustments, especially in the continuity plan.