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Protecting your business from the unexpected

Have you ever thought about how your business would fare if disaster struck? What would happen if you had to unexpectedly take time off, if a major supplier stopped trading, or you were hit by a power failure?

If you haven’t thought about business continuity before now then you should. If your family rely on the income from your business, then giving serious thought to how you can continue when something unexpected happens will save you from serious implications further down the line.

The trouble with unexpected problems is that they can’t be predicted, but you can certainly plan a little with regard to more obvious problems. These plans can then help you for less obvious situations, and improve your business resiliency.

Possible problem areas which can interrupt business continuity are:

  • Key suppliers ceasing trading
  • Debtors going bust
  • Key staff being ill or having to leave suddenly
  • Power or IT failure
  • Natural disasters, such as floods, fire, or extreme weather
  • Equipment and machinery failure
  • Industrial action

The idea of the practice of business continuity is to:

  1. Provide resilience – where the business is set up in such a way that disruption has minimal impact
  2. Create recovery plans – where plans are in place to restore key business functions as soon as possible
  3. Create contingency options – where the business has a ‘Plan B’ which key staff are aware of

First of all you need to carry out an assessment exercise on all areas of your business. You need to look at who are the people responsible for each process, and what they need to do their job. From this, you will see which areas are the most critical to your daily business activities, and who are your key staff. Ask your staff for input on what they need to work and what they would do if something went wrong.

Then imagine possible scenarios and how you would overcome unexpected events; create solid plans with your staff, document them, and make sure your staff are aware of them. It’s no good having plans in place to cover your unexpected absence if staff don’t know about them.

By working backwards and looking at what your contingency (Plan B) would be for all of your key business functions, you can then create a recovery plan, and start to build resilience in to your systems. For example, if a key supplier went bust, your plan B would be look for a new supplier as soon as possible. So your recovery plan should be to get a new supplier up and running with you quickly. You could start looking for a new supplier now and start a relationship with them just in case. Resilience means having more than one supplier to choose from on a daily basis so that one supplier disappearing has minimal effect on your continuity. Having a business relationship with more than one supplier for each of your components can be systematically instituted in your business so that dealing with more than one supplier on a daily basis is second nature to you and your staff.

In the case of your own unexpected absence, your Plan B would be to hand over all of your daily tasks to a member or multiple members of your team, so why not start creating that team now and give them the skills they need to be able to do key parts of your job effectively? Staff training means that your business is resilient to losing key members of staff, and also creates loyalty which means you’re less likely to lose them in the first place.

Business continuity is a worthwhile exercise which will build resilience and helps you identify vulnerable areas of your business. Don’t wait until something disastrous happens before you give thought as to how you can carry on trading.