A business continuity plan is a document that covers all the potential disasters that could happen to your business. Delia Gill explains how to produce one for your business.
Like all business owners, as the end of the year rolls around I breathe a sigh of relief that Christmas is coming and I might get some time off. I also start looking towards the new year. There is always lots of planning to do for the start of the new year – so you can come back fresh and full of beans, ready to get stuck in and achieve your goals!
Well-prepared business owners do the obvious things like marketing plans, budgets (yuck), staffing requirements and business strategy. But few of us look at our business continuity plans – worse even… very few of us even HAVE a business continuity plan. Don't stop reading! I know I have just hit on a sore spot but I promise it will be worth it to carry on.
A business continuity plan (BCP), for those of you not familiar with the term, is a document that covers all the potential disasters that could happen to your business. It contains the plans in place to deal with each of those disasters. Yes, sometimes there are risks or events that you might not be able to mitigate, but acknowledging them is a step in the right direction.
We know we should have a BCP and it’s always on the "to do" list but in most cases it does not make it off that list. Even if you’ve been lucky enough to not be affected by the recent earthquakes in Kaikoura and Wellington, you should take the time to create a plan.
Business continuity planning is not hard, but we can get overwhelmed by the process if we don’t know exactly where to start.
So how do you achieve what could be the most important bit of planning you will ever do?
- Write the outline in bullet points – you can flesh it out with more detail later
- Start with "our business has a fire – what do we do?” This is a good one to start with as according to statistics it is the one of the most likely to happen. As an example, the BCP would outline the following steps for dealing with a fire in your business:
- Clear the building
- Call 111
- Check staff
- Go to your pre-arranged meeting point
- Contact families
- Contact clients (put your PR plan in place)
- Start the recovery of your IT
- Write the plan like you are talking to someone who has just walked into the business.
- Write it as a step by step process, remembering that you could be in a situation where there is a bit of a panic and simple instructions are easy to follow.
- Write it like you don't have a computer because you might not have access to a one, or the internet, in an emergency. So more information is better than less (contact details for your insurance agent for example).
Once you have written one scenario, it is easy to adjust it for the others like floods or an earthquake.
BCPs are living documents and they need to be changed as the business changes. Once you start writing you will be amazed at how much is in your head, and what things you might need to think about.
Need some help? Get a copy of our FREE business continuity plan here. Our template can be adapted to fit most small to medium-sized businesses. Hopefully it will help allow you to start the new year cool, calm and collected!
Delia Gill is managing director of IT Engine.