Building a strong business continuity plan

4 minute read  

An essential aspect that often drifts below the radar when running a small business is the need for a robust business continuity plan (BCP). As a small business owner, developing a business continuity plan can be invaluable in protecting your business in the event of a disruption. A disruption can include a variety of things, from a storm knocking out your business’ power to your company vehicle being stolen.

What is business continuity?

At its core, a business continuity plan is your playbook for maintaining operations under adverse conditions. Whether it’s a natural disaster or cyber attack, an effective BCP can help you anticipate potential risks, protect your assets, and keep your business running.

Your business continuity plan should provide steps so you can continue operating, establish lines of communication, and ensure the safety of your employees and customers. It’s a living document that evolves with your business, reflecting changes in structure, regulations, and any notable lessons from past incidents.

Small business, big plan

TSI- Business Continuity-Business Impact Analysis Form

Small businesses often face unique challenges in this type of resilience planning. Limited resources and a small workforce can make the impact of disruptions more heavily felt. Therefore, careful attention to detail in constructing your business continuity plan is important.

From conducting a business impact analysis to identifying critical business functions, the steps you take to safeguard your small business could mean the difference between recovery and the possibility of irreparable damage.

What’s in a business continuity plan?

A solid business continuity plan consists of several components. Starting with your purpose and scope, a business continuity plan should clearly define the objectives and responsibilities of all departments and service lines. It’s the initial groundwork that sets the course for each subsequent step.

Your plan should also include a comprehensive risk assessment, detailing likely hazards and the safeguards in place to reduce their impact. Additionally, a thorough business impact analysis helps determine how disruption to your business may impact your operations.

Don’t forget to include key stakeholders and their contact information, resource requirements, recovery strategies for records, and management procedures. Each section of your BCP serves as a vital safeguard, ensuring your business’ core functions can remain protected.

Download our Business Impact Analysis form to get started!

Identifying Risks and Vulnerabilities

Assessing the potential risks and threats facing your business is a critical early step in business continuity. As a small business, this involves a close look at both internal and external factors that could disrupt your operations.

External threats

Consider geographical risks such as weather-related incidents or proximity to high-traffic areas. Cybersecurity threats are more pertinent than ever, with many business operations moving online. Ensure you’re aware of the latest phishing scams, data breaches, and malware that’s targeting small businesses.

Internal vulnerabilities

Employee turnover, technology breakdowns, and supply chain disturbances are just a few internal vulnerabilities to account for. Regular staff training, technological updates, and diversifying suppliers can help mitigate these areas of risk.

What are the potential problems your business might face?

Thinking about all the ways things can go wrong can be stressful, but if you sit down and explore the obvious (and less obvious) risks to your business now, you’ll be able to build a plan that responds well to a crisis.

You can begin by asking yourselves a few questions, like:

Is your building vulnerable to extreme weather or natural disaster? If so, you might consider a secondary or remote location that could host your team and operations if you’re forced to evacuate your premises. There may also be ways to improve your current warning or alarm systems to help you react quickly.

Are your records up to date? Having a complete list of important contacts like vendors, service providers, emergency personnel, and equipment specialists can save a lot of time and effort during a business disruption. In contrast, an outdated list of contacts could set back your recovery hours, or possibly days.

How do you handle your data? It’s more important than ever to frequently back up your important files on a shared drive or external drive. Cloud-based servers can help you recover digital data safely and quickly. If you don’t have an IT department to keep on top of security measures, it’s particularly important to train employees to spot and mitigate cyber risk.

Are you vulnerable to theft or other crime? If you work with expensive materials or goods, very sensitive information, or anything that would be particularly enticing to thieves, your staff will need to know what to do in case of a break-in or confrontation. This may also be the time to upgrade your surveillance efforts.

There are plenty of things that could affect your risks, which is why it’s a good idea to brainstorm the potential problems your business could face.

Prioritize key business operations

Now that you’ve identified potential risks it’s important to determine which functions are critical to maintaining business operations. These could include customer communication, data backup, and supply chain management.

Detailed planning steps

Every possible scenario cannot be predicted, but you should have a structured plan for the most likely disruptions. Be specific in outlining who does what, when, and how, including alternative work sites and technology.

Resource allocation

Your plan should specify the allocation of human, financial, and physical resources to sustain operations. This includes establishing partnerships with relevant service providers for support during a crisis.

Stakeholder communication

Clarity and speed in communication can make or break a response to a disruption. Ensure that all employees, customers, suppliers, and regulators know how to obtain information during a crisis.

Training and evaluation

Regular training sessions and drills can keep your business continuity plan fresh on everyone’s mind. This can also provide opportunities to evaluate and refine the plan based on the real-world application.

Monitoring and updating

A business continuity plan is not a one and done exercise. It’s a dynamic part of your business management. As your business grows and the environment evolves, so should your BCP.

Set a schedule for reviewing your plan, including an annual revisit of potential risks, resources, and operational changes. Look back at any incidents or near-misses that can help strengthen your plan going forward.

Stay informed

Keep a finger on the pulse of your business environment. Changes in technology, regulations, or global events may necessitate an update to your business continuity plan.

Ensure you’re protected by getting in touch with an expert

Depending on the size and nature of your business, you may want to lean on experts to help you develop an appropriate response, recovery, and continuity plan. There are many points to consider, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Get in contact with us today!

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.