For many business owners, the Coronavirus pandemic came on fast and hard. Most business owners weren't prepared for the directives that followed once COVID-19 took hold—mandatory storefront closures, consumer lockdowns - quick operational shifts were needed to accommodate social distancing and contactless transactions.
Not all business owners, however, were impacted equally. Firms that had a business continuity plan in place were better able to survive the adverse effects of COVID-19. Those that took steps to implement a crisis management plan not only better adapted to the global crisis but have also found themselves more resilient as they forge on in an uncertain economy.
Learning how to create a crisis management plan for business continuity can help safeguard your business in a future disaster or other formidable challenges.
Importance of Being Prepared
There are many different types of emergencies that can impact business continuity — and many of them aren't on the scale of a pandemic. Along with global health events, crises such as natural disasters, theft, cyber-attacks and fire can all disrupt the normal operations of small businesses without any warning.
The results of these emergencies can be catastrophic for unprepared business owners without a crisis management procedure: employees may not be able to come to work, customers may not be able to patronize businesses, you may not be able to sell certain products, supply chains may be disrupted and the health and safety of all stakeholders may be at risk.
For some businesses, business continuity planning can be the difference between surviving a major event and having to close your doors. A strong plan can help you minimize downtime, keep employees safe, preserve your reputation and, generally, help with your recovery.
Steps to Create a Business Continuity Plan
Recognizing the importance of a crisis management action plan is the first step in helping your business to be as prepared as possible for unforeseen events. The next is learning how to create a crisis management plan. It's worth putting in the work to do so: the business continuity management plan that you draw up will be your blueprint to get through the toughest times.
1. Assess Potential Risks
A large part of disaster management is understanding where your business is vulnerable in times of crisis. The first step in your business continuity plan should be identifying how your business would be interrupted in several different crisis scenarios, and which specific functions, processes or operations would experience a disruption in these cases.
Here, it's important to leverage the knowledge of all the leaders on your team; having a 360-degree view of your operations is the only way to know that you're creating a comprehensive plan that addresses all scenarios. They may also have a sense of what kind of disasters you may not be able to identify yourself and help you draw up crisis management procedures for them.
2. Go Through Each Scenario to Determine Impact
You'll be planning for many different types of crises with a business continuity plan. For instance, you may want to plan for having to close all your physical stores to foot traffic while also planning for a recall of one of your products. Both these situations would have a major impact on your business, but the impact wouldn't be the same in both cases.
As such, it's important to understand the effects of each crisis on a scenario-by-scenario basis. By analyzing each potential disaster on its own, you'll be able to uncover how your business may be impacted in different ways, which will enable you to better prepare to manage the situation.
3. Identify a Contingency Scenario
Once you've gone through all the areas of risk exposure for your business and understood which are likelier and which are more serious than others, it's time to put contingency plans in place. For example, if workers can't come into work, you'll need to know the alternative you'll enact and the procedure for it. Or, say you are the victim of a cyber-attack — you'll need to have a procedure for who is going to help you, how and when.
Although it's not possible to think of every scenario and have a contingency plan for every variation, the more groundwork you can lay in advance, the more likely your business continuity plan can be helpful and effective across myriad situations.
4. Appoint a Crisis Management Team
Many companies that successfully navigate disaster scenarios put in place a group to spring into action in times of crisis. Each member of the team could oversee a different part of your action plan and be responsible for communicating procedures and directions to the rest of the workforce.
The way you'll want to form your crisis management team, and whom you'd like to be on it, will be unique to your business. Designing it specifically with your operations in mind will help make your disaster management planning more effective.
5. Notify Stakeholders
Once you have plans in place, it's important that you let everyone across your organization know that you have a business continuity plan in place. It may not be necessary to go through every plan with every team member, but relevant stakeholders should have a sense of this plan and know where to find instructions should the plan ever need to be implemented.
6. Keep Updating
There's one final piece of business continuity planning that's as important as developing the crisis management procedure and putting it in place. It's constantly revisiting your business continuity plan and crisis management preparation to ensure that it's up to date, and that it considers any major changes in the way you do business.
Here, communication is very important. Part of your business continuity plan will be letting your stakeholders know the procedures you have in place for crisis management. However, you'll also need to consider how you'll keep stakeholders abreast of developments amid an emergency during which you'll be implementing your plan.
Although it's impossible to foresee every type of crisis and know when they might affect you, advance preparation is key to securing the future of your business. The importance of a business continuity plan can't be overstated: understanding how your business will react in a crisis can better position you to get through challenging times — and even come out the other side stronger.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.