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Top tips on how to create a Business Continuity plan from the Federation of Small Businesses

Top tips on how to create a Business Continuity plan from the Federation of Small Businesses

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A Business Continuity plan is there to be put into action following a major disruption or disaster. At a time when there will be a lot to deal with and a lot of stress, the plan is there is fall back on and to guide you through the crisis. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) explains how SMEs can take steps to create their own Business Continuity plan.

All SMEs need a Business Continuity plan (BCP). This plan helps your company survive and to continue running after, or during, a major disruption or disaster, like a fire, flood, cyberattack or pandemic. It highlights the step-by-step process of what should be done to prevent risks that can lead to your business having to close under various scenarios and aims to protect critical business functions so you can continue operating and implement a recovery strategy. The effects of a disruption are unique to every business. With Disaster Recovery planning, there is no standard response and so your BCP will be unique.

Who should be involved in creating your Business Continuity plan?

As the owner or managing director of your business, it’s your responsibility to create a continuity plan for your company. If you have set up a company with a partner, you should work together to create the plan and make crucial business decisions but do harness the knowledge and experience of people who are fundamental to the operation of your business.

What to include in a Business Continuity plan

Begin with an assessment of the key functions and processes of your business, the potential threats and risks and the impact these could have on your company. For example, your production services if you manufacture products, your IT infrastructure if you’re a website designer or your stock if you’re a retailer. Other processes could include accounting, human resources, marketing and sales.

Understanding the threats

Consider ranking threats in order of highest to lowest risk of disrupting your business. Threats could include biological hazard; epidemic or pandemic illness; natural disasters; fires; floods; gas leaks; power cuts and cyberattacks. Also consider threats to your supply chains.

Determining the impact

A Business Impact Analysis predicts the potential consequences of your business processes being disrupted. The amount of time for recovery before your business will suffer consequences is known as a Recovery Time Objective. It also determines your potential business loss from these processes being down for a day, a week, a month or longer. Impacts could include loss of sales and income; increased expenses; decreased customer satisfaction and loyalty; delayed service delivery and poor product quality or regulatory fines.

Determining your key resources

Next, list the essential resources your company relies on, including key staff, external contacts, equipment and documents. Consider ranking the resources in order of importance to your business and how long your company can survive without that resource in place.

External contacts include the key external people and companies outside your business which are crucial to its operation – contractors; suppliers and distributors; banks; accountants, legal advisors; electricians or engineers; utility companies and insurers.

Make sure you have a list of contact information for your key staff and external contacts.

Make copies of crucial documents and store them off-site. List any on-going payment dates, such as for business loans or your email services.

Contingency planning and business recovery

Once you’ve listed your key resources, it’s important to determine your contingency plan to help your business continue running and recover in the event of a disaster. This should include identifying contingency equipment and services you could use if your current company equipment was destroyed. Identify a contingency location where the business could operate from in the event of the usual premises being inaccessible. Add in the costings of implementing the contingency plan.

Finalising your BCP

With all the information across your key functions, resources and contingencies, you should be able to create step-by-step instructions on how to execute your Business Continuity plan. Include the people that are responsible for implementing each aspect of the plan.

Reviewing your Business Continuity plan

Review your plan regularly to make sure it’s up-to-date and fit for purpose. As we’ve seen with the spread of COVID-19, risks to your business can develop and change rapidly. Aim to review your BCP at least once a year. Any changes to your business’s operations or key people will call for the plan to be reviewed and updated.

FSB members have access to a wide range of vital business services, including advice, financial expertise and support, and offers a powerful voice in government. Its aim is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions.

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