Small business owners are used to being on the lookout for disruptions and threats. Profit margins tend to be tight, and most owners are closely connected to their businesses. But how do you plan for those disruptions? It’s one thing to talk about being prepared, and another to actually be ready for emergencies. Here are five tips to help you create a small business continuity plan.
1. Know what you need
Identify the most critical elements of your business. What absolutely MUST continue, no matter what? If you’re a retailer, the critical element is probably your stock. If you’re a manufacturer, it’s your production line (and possibly the raw materials you need to produce goods). What does your small business offer, and what are the crucial components to keep offering it? Will you need emergency fuel services for deliveries, or basic food supplies for a catering business? These are the questions you’ll need to ask.
2. Beware of threats
What potential disruptions are out there? Global pandemic? Political unrest? Natural disasters? Rank these in the order of likelihood. If you’re a small but high-profile internet-based company, the threat of a cyber attack might be higher than the threat of a flood. But if you’re a real estate firm headquartered on a floodplain, the reverse is probably true. Consider threats and rank them accordingly.
3. Protect key assets
Key assets refer not just to financial assets, although that might be part of it. It could also refer to key staff. Let’s say you’re an accounting firm, with an office in a city known for occasional floods. Have you protected your critical documents? What about equipment – computers, laptops, company servers? Know the key assets for your small business, and have a plan to protect or if necessary repair or replace them.
4. Identify vital staff
In the example of an accounting firm, what about your actual accountants? Could they work from home in a disruption, and have they been trained on the procedures in that case? A small business, in particular, is about more than a service – it’s about the people involved in the company. Identify the critical staff in a disruption and use them to keep your small business moving forward. Along the same lines, you may need to develop your own emergency alert system – a way of keeping core staff notified in case of an emergency and keeping them in the loop on developments.
5. Look beyond your company
Lastly, don’t forget about people and resources beyond your small business. What about important community contacts, trade organizations, or local government officials? All of these groups could be crucial in helping you keep your small business moving forward, and you’ll need to include them in your continuity plan.
If all this sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. But it’s smart to be prepared; downtime can be expensive – costing even small businesses thousands of dollars per minute. And potential disruptions are never far away; thousands of small businesses get hit with online ransomware attacks every year, while natural disasters seem to increase in frequency and severity each year. How do you beat the odds as a small business owner? By planning ahead, creating a plan, and knowing how you can and will respond when it’s not just business as normal.
Leona Harrison is a freelance writer and works as a content manager for various international brands. When Leona is not researching and writing she loves nothing more than heading out into the country for some downtime.