Are you ready with your business continuity plan?

Are you ready with your business continuity plan?

On the 16th September 2007, dozens of people started to queue outside of Northern Rock branches situated in high streets right across the UK. It was the start of what is now known as the credit crunch. It was a painful and deepening shock to the global financial system which spread fear and concern for business owners right across the world. Some might say that the unprecedented period still demonstrates reminiscent scars today. It was the start of the phenomena that created the most prolonged period of ‘business uncertainty’ in modern history, and it changed the way many of us run our businesses today.

You could argue, those of us who were in business at the time are far more diligent and considered in our decisions because of that event. Those that have launched their first business since may not have picked up on the fact they are benefiting from specific regulatory reforms introduced to protect commercial enterprises in the present, and the future.

In recent weeks, we have watched from afar as the events in China and the rest of the world unfold. We have seen stock markets breaking new records for share values falling. Governments have announced they are putting contingency plans in place to cater for the worst, but hoping for the best (as we all are), and we all try to contain the impact of an unprecedented pandemic. Like any substantial change to the dynamics of an economic outlook, there will be beneficiaries as well as losers, or indeed, in just a few months, we will be talking about something entirely different. I am sure we can all agree it is the protection of human life that matters, and all of us will be praying for the best possible outcome where that is concerned.

Creating certainty where there is uncertainty

My expertise and experience cannot provide the answers to the uncertainty of this nature. Indeed, I suspect I am not alone in thinking this. However, I can advise business owners on how to be as confident and focused as they possibly can be.

We all need to understand that market forces have always been out of our control, and economic disruptions are a certainty we will all face if we stay in business long enough. We deal with changing market conditions continually, so it's nothing new. What I can advise is that battening down the hatches, and ignoring the situation, isn't the answer, or indeed any period of uncertainty I have ever encountered. So what is the solution?

Business continuity. We need to consider lessening the blow or counteract the impact on our businesses to benefit from our activities and plan for the longer-term.

It almost seems obscene to mention that some will benefit from these circumstances. The reality is, some do, and they will be planning on how to benefit from it now. This article isn't about those kinds of advantages that we might see as somewhat obscene. Ironically, on the day of writing this article, the brand owners of Corona Beer announced that US sales were up by 5%. I doubt the increase is down to any form of planning, just a somewhat ironic oddity of modern mentality.

What I want to focus on is the timing and need to reevaluate, plan, protect and thrive in the future. The aspect of contingency planning and crisis management should be a serious consideration for all business leaders.

One of the unique aspects of this particular influence on market forces could be the lack of mobility. Because of this, specific market sectors will be more susceptible than others where people need to travel to spend or make things to keep the business moving. However, each business leader needs to spend some time looking at their own 'Business Continuity Plan', and if you don't have one, what an excellent opportunity to focus the mind and create one.

What to consider in your plan

New digital analytics are now demonstrating search results relating to questions like 'how to create a business continuity plan'. So, I thought I would be proactive and outline some ideas, detailing some of the critical areas a business needs to focus upon:

  • Look at core services, and what is required to maintain your supply chain
  • Look at staff arrangements; communications and cross-skilling
  • Identify your position relating to the health of your staff. Ultimately, you will need to protect their wellbeing and the businesses productivity
  • Development and inform employees, customers and suppliers of your communications strategy
  • Consider financial implications, such as cash flow, cost increases and insurances
  • Align your plans with the official contingency plans. Particularly important with the current situation
  • Look at testing the project, so you are confident and ready to implement if required

For every organisation, large or small, a business continuity plan is about limiting risks as much as possible. Building a robust programme, you can execute if need be. It's not something that should be an afterthought.

I would advise that every business considers this now, not just because we have a situation that is creating a degree of uncertainty. It is because it is an essential part of running a stable business, and importantly protecting that business for all concerned.

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