Creating a business continuity plan

You cannot avoid business interruptions, but you can make sure you are prepared for every eventuality.

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You cannot avoid business interruptions, but you can make sure you are prepared for every eventuality. 

 

A business continuity plan is a set of strategies to help you power through a disruption. Disruptions can include the loss of a customer or supplier, a fire, a flood, a global pandemic like COVID-19, or an economic recession.

 

We offer tips for entrepreneurs to create a business continuity plan. 

 

Risk assessment 

 

It is easier to compile a business continuity plan if you have a crisis in mind. Consider what could go wrong within your business (such as losing a big client or a key staff member, fire, or equipment failure) and in the world outside your business (such as supply chain issues, natural disasters, or a global pandemic). 

 

Make sure you spend the most time on the most likely scenarios. 

 

Come up with a customised business continuity plan

 

A business continuity plan will guide your business in the case of a crisis. 

 

This plan outlines procedures and instructions a business must follow and covers business processes, assets, human resources, business partners and more.

 

Sections of the plan should include:

 

  • Emergency response
  • Getting back to business
  • Financial survival
  • Trading and communicating 
  • Recovery

 

Emergency response

 

Many crises can pose a physical threat to your employees and customers. Make sure you have a process in place to manage such risks. Compile a list of the possible hazards. 

 

Consider an evacuation plan and emergency assembly points, identify health and safety officers and include their contact details in the plan. 

 

During a crisis, clear communication is key. Come up with a communication plan to alert employees, customers and suppliers in the event of a crisis. See the communication section below.

 

It is advisable to assign employees for each function to make sure the crisis is handled quickly and effectively. Make sure your employees know who is in charge during a crisis and provide the details of external security companies to contact, where necessary.

 

It is also important to make sure you have medical information as well as next-of-kin details for each employee, in case something happens to them.

 

Getting back to business

 

In the event of a crisis, you need a plan to get back to business as quickly as possible. 

 

Think of alternative places to work from in the event that you are not able to access your offices. Make sure you clearly communicate the temporary address to your employees, suppliers and customers. If your phone lines or email have been affected, clearly communicate an alternative contact number or means to reach your business. 

 

Should you and your team work remotely or in separate spaces, schedule regular catch-up sessions to make sure everyone is on the same page. Crises can cause employees mental and emotional distress so put measures in place to make sure they are coping. 

 

Make a list of employees who serve a critical role. Identify employees who can fill in if a critical employee is unable to work. Make sure each employee is aware of his/her role during the crisis and in the process of getting back to business.

 

In addition, make a list of supplies and equipment you need to operate in the interim. Make sure you know how to source alternatives if you cannot use your own supplies and equipment.

 

Finally, make sure you can access your systems and records. Critical information, such as customer, employee, supplier and financial records can be backed up to the cloud and accessed online, from anywhere.

 

Financial survival 

 

It is likely that your income will be affected during a crisis and chances are you will have some additional expenses.

 

It is advisable that you have a good idea of your current cash flow, as well as projections for the future. List your income and expenses. Flag new or increased/decreased expenses as a result of the crisis. Make sure you re-forecast and adjust your finances regularly. Consider coming up with a 30-day, 60-day and 90-day forecast. 

 

Also consider how you will continue generating an income - through sales and debt collection - and controlling and limiting spending. Explore possible payment plans with your creditors, vendors, lenders and landlords, for the next 30, 60 or 90 days. 

 

It is critical to involve your accountant in this section of the plan.

 

Trading and communicating 

 

As mentioned earlier, clear communication is critical in times of instability and uncertainty. 

 

You will need open channels of communication with your suppliers, customers, employees and shareholders to make sure everyone knows the way forward. Remember, you have commitments towards each of these stakeholders, so make sure you honour your contracts and obligations or renegotiate them and come up with new agreements.  

 

Important information to communicate:

 

  • Changes to business location and trading hours
  • Web address and online presence (if you have an online shop)
  • Changes to the availability of products and services
  • Expected delays (supplies, delivery)
  • Alternative payment methods 

 

Furthermore, you will need to talk to investors and shareholders about how the crisis is affecting your income and expenses, how long these effects are expected to last, cash flow issues and new finance requirements. 

 

Recovery 

 

It is important to make decisions about returning to normal, or finding a new normal, after a crisis. Consider the various options you have:

 

  • Downsizing: getting back to business in a smaller, sustainable manner
  • Resuming: getting back to the way things were before the crisis
  • Pivoting: returning to business in a different form
  • Exiting: selling the business and moving on to something else

 

Look at sales, revenue and profit before making your final decision. It is advisable to consult with an accountant before deciding which strategy to pursue. Also involve your partners, business advisors and mentors in the decision. 

 

Once you’ve decided on the way forward, come up with a new business plan. The new plan should include detailed financials, market research, marketing plans, and key milestones and deadlines. 

 

Other important measures for business resilience

 

In addition to compiling a business continuity plan, there are other important measures that can make your business stronger and more resilient. 

 

Consider taking out insurance, find out if your business structure gives you adequate legal and financial protection and hire an accountant to help you set up a rainy day fund

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