ESTABLISH A SOLID BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLAN FOR YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
Small business owners know this: time is a precious resource. There are never enough hours in a day for those who use all their energy, their foresight and their diplomacy to run the machine smoothly. In short, it is difficult to find time for hypothetical reflections when you juggle with a host of very real imperatives.
Unfortunately, disasters strike without warning – and more often than we think. A sudden incident that interrupts your activities or prevents your talented employees from doing their job can have disastrous consequences, especially if you don’t know how to react to it. Data leaks, hurricanes, fires, virus outbreaks… With the right business continuity plan, your small business can overcome big obstacles.
What is business continuity, and why is it so important?
Your worst professional nightmare becomes reality: an incident suspends all activity in your business. While you are dealing with the immediate consequences of the flood, fire, pandemic or other serious event, you also have logistical challenges to overcome: trying to get employees back to work, avoiding any power cuts. material supply, maintain demand for your services, etc.
Does this scenario give you cold sweats? You are not alone. This is where the business continuity plan comes into play: it involves anticipating the financial and operational consequences of a disruption, to provide the means to ensure the quickest possible return to normal.
Business continuity planning is based on several important elements, including assessing the main risks and managing them using emergency plans, business insurance, and appropriate recovery and continuity plans. But before you get into the details, you need to know exactly where your business is – including what its flaws are.
How to develop a strategy?
To develop an appropriate continuity plan, you need to know the risks to which the business is exposed. It is impossible to foresee absolutely all the risks, but recognizing the main threats will help you speed up the recovery of your business.
Business impact analysis
Regardless of the size of your business, a business impact analysis will help you predict the effect of a major disruption on your business. The first step is to list and prioritize your services, products and activities of primary importance. You will know where to focus your attention.
The likelihood of a given type of incident also to be considered. In this regard, the field of activity and the location of your business are often determining factors (for example, a business set up along a river is particularly vulnerable to floods). There are, however, almost universal threats to small businesses in all sectors, such as pandemics and cyber risk. A modern business continuity strategy should therefore provide the best way to respond to a virus outbreak and to overcome phishing scams, malware attacks, and the countless other cyber threats that threaten connected devices.
Content of plan
There is a type of plan for each aspect of an emergency. The following three are separate, but work together to help your business recover from a crisis.
The intervention plan is executed during the crisis to manage and contain the damage from the incident, whether it is a natural disaster, a security breach or a cyber attack. The aim of such a plan is to limit the damage, but also the costs of the immediate incident – an important short-term intervention.
The disaster recovery plan comes into play after this initial reaction. It helps you put in place measures to continue to curb the damage and, like the previous plan, it must clearly define the role played by each in the resumption of activities.
When it comes to cyber risks, the disaster recovery plan focuses on data: it provides for example the restoration of the IT infrastructure (even for a very small network) and the recovery of backup copies stored outside the places. In the case of natural disasters, such as floods, uncontrolled fires, earthquakes and hurricanes, the measures to be planned are quite different: access to a generator, direct line of communication with equipment specialists and suppliers, etc. .
The business continuity plan , which is broader in scope than the disaster recovery plan, often incorporates elements from other plans. It covers the business as a whole, generally prioritizing business concerns, such as finding a safe workplace for employees and making public relations efforts to limit the damage. It also aims to ensure the uninterrupted operation of network connections, equipment and essential applications.
Call in an expert
Remember that a lot depends on your business continuity plan – including your reputation. And as news spreads quickly in this digital age, you need to react as quickly as possible to reassure your customers and partners when an incident interferes with your business. If you communicate honestly and effectively while executing your plan, you have a better chance of maintaining customer loyalty and competitive advantage.
Depending on the size and nature of your business, you could benefit from retaining the services of experts to develop good intervention, recovery and continuity plans. There are many things to consider, and as they say, “prevention is better than cure”. A risk management specialist can help you assess threats and enhance your strategy with carefully chosen monitoring and training solutions.
3 tips for developing a quality continuity plan
Whether your business is large or small, there are many things to consider. Disaster recovery and business continuity plan templates can then be useful, as they help you organize your strategy and get you thinking about things you might not have even thought of. However, any plan can and should be adapted to the reality of your business.
Here are some tips for creating a continuity plan that reflects your image.
1| Two heads are better than one
Sure, imagining every possible disaster scenario is no easy task, but by bringing your team together to discuss glaring (and less glaring) risks now, you’ll be able to respond well to a crisis later.
To get started, ask yourself questions like:
Is our building vulnerable to extreme weather events or natural disasters? If so, you could provide a remote secondary workplace to accommodate your team in the event of a forced evacuation. Also consider ways to improve your current warning or alarm systems to speed up your response.
Are our files up to date? By having a comprehensive list of important contact information, such as suppliers, service providers, emergency services and equipment specialists, on hand, you can save a great deal of time and energy when you are busy work hard to prevent further damage and loss. Conversely, an outdated contact list could slow down your recovery efforts by several hours or even days.
How do we manage our data? In the face of cybercrime advances, it is more important than ever to back up your essential files frequently to a shared or external drive. Cloud servers, for example, are a good way to recover your data quickly and securely. If you don’t have an IT department to keep your security measures up to date, don’t forget to train your employees on detecting and reducing cyber risks.
Are we a target for thieves and other criminals? If you are working with high-value materials or goods, sensitive information or anything else that makes thieves attractive, your staff should know how to react in the event of a break-in or confrontation. Also consider modernizing your surveillance systems. This list is just a starting point: a ton of other things can influence your risk. This is why it is better to bring your team together to consider them from all angles.
2| Divide and rule
Everyone must have – and know – their role in resuming activities. Emergencies are often chaotic, and without a clear division of tasks, the mess can quickly set in.
Here are some ideas to simmer:
- If you do not have a public relations team, designate a person responsible for communications in the event of a crisis (by writing a statement in advance, you will facilitate their work).
- Make sure a few employees have basic first aid training; they will be able to offer immediate assistance while waiting for help to arrive.
- Train more than one person on important tasks to prevent everything from ending due to the absence of a key employee.
- Don’t be the only person who knows where important documents are: keep a colleague secret so that he can access emergency numbers and insurance documents if you are not there.
A back-up plan will help your business continue its work through remote access to data, external arrangements and pre-written statements to explain the state of your operations. It can also be useful to group employees into sub-teams to better organize the response in the event of a crisis.
3| It is practice makes perfect
It is not enough to put the recovery plan in place: it still has to be tested and adapted regularly. Once the procedure to be followed in the event of a fire, cyber attack, theft or other disaster is clearly communicated (and recorded), it is appropriate to test it.
Simulation exercises, hypothetical scenarios and ongoing staff training can all help you to check if your plan is working well. Found a weak spot? Make it right! The most important thing about a business continuity plan is that it works for your business. It must therefore be tested and revised often. The more you test it, the more you can refine it, the more your team masters it, and the better you will be able to react in an emergency.