No one ever wants to dwell on the possibility of disaster. But when it comes to your business, having a plan in place for what to do when your operations are threatened will ensure that your company doesn’t suffer massive losses in the event that disaster does strike.
Though some companies are in the position to outsource this type of planning, as a small business it’s likely that you and your team will be handling all the phone calls, emails and recovery processes yourselves – which makes having a business continuity plan even more important. Don’t feel you must create the plan on your own, though. Involve your team members to get another view of what’s most valuable and effective in a crisis.
Not sure where to start with the planning? Read on.
Identify possible threats to your business
Be it by a supply-chain interruption, a cyberattack or a natural disaster, brainstorm every type of threat that could interfere with your company’s daily operations. From there, work to identify what the best possible solution to circumvent or overcome the problem, and how to reach that solution as quickly and effectively as possible.
Make a plan of action
Once you have pinpointed all of the different ways things could go wrong and what the solutions may be, put together a timeline. Make a list of the key actions that need to be taken within the first 24 to 48 hours, consider which business functions and roles it impacts, and assign specific tasks to your team members so that there’s no confusion regarding who needs to do what.
Create a two-pronged crisis communications plan
If the problem is not going to be solved quickly or needs to be disclosed to your audience or customers, you’ll need to inform them in a calm, reassuring manner, alerting them to the issue and letting them know that your business is working on a fix.
If the issue is going to impact your customers – for instance, interruptions with fulfilling orders or personal data loss – act swiftly, and be open and honest. If you can, it’s always a good idea to have someone available to either live chat or quickly respond to worried customers via email and social media. If there’s a barrage of emails or messages coming your way and you’re struggling to keep up, then consider templated responses to keep customers updated.
But it isn’t just your customers you have to address – you’ll also need to inform your stakeholders, business partners, suppliers and vendors about what’s happening and the steps being taken for a speedy resolution that gets the business running again.
You and your team should take the time to think through what the messaging should be for these different groups before a major issue arises so that you aren’t trying to craft measured statements while you’re panicking and needing to focus on solutions.
Test your strategy
No, we don’t mean literally. But setting up a meeting where you introduce a hypothetical disaster scenario and have your team walk through all the steps that will need to be taken is a great way to prepare teams for any untoward situation. It also a great way to identify if there are gaps in the strategy — or if there are steps that should be added or removed.
Once your business continuity plan is in place, make sure that it’s written down, accessible to all team members, and saved in both in hard and soft copy in multiple locations. Though you’ll hopefully never need to use it, having a well thought-out, tested business continuity plan in place will provide you and your team peace of mind and the ability to rest easy.