Why Business Continuity Planning Is Essential For Medium and Small Businesses

A flu epidemic has broken out in your town or city. Its symptoms are debilitating and, if left untreated, can actually result in death. What precautions can you take, and how will you maintain operations if the epidemic causes mass absenteeism?

Your company’s network goes down for nearly a day. You can’t service your customers, who start calling your competitors. What do you do?

Days of heavy rain and severe flooding wash out roads and block access to your facility. Employees can’t come to work. How will you keep your business running?

These are but a few real-life examples of emergency and everyday risks that impact business function. It’s why as an owner-operator of a small to medium business (SME), you need a plan so you know what to do to keep the lights on and be able to make robust decisions, even in the midst of chaos.

Known as Business Continuity Planning (BCP), it is a fundamental need for a business of any size, in today’s world. It is essential for successful emergency response, disaster recovery and survival of unplanned outages and cyber crime. But unlike risk management, which seeks to identify and accept or mitigate risks, BCP assumes that these events will occur.

It then provides your business with the certainty of an operating plan for survival and how to move forward in the hours, days, weeks and possibly months it may take to become Business as Usual (BAU).

There are a few vital things a business needs to do to survive and rebuild from an event, or operate effectively during an event. This requires forward planning, an understanding of your company’s key requirements around staffing and the client, social and economic impacts of the disruption.

Generally SMEs don’t have dedicated resources for planning and testing plans. Even those who might utilise any number of consultants in the market today, cannot be totally sure of where they might sit in a consultant’s client order, should an event take place.

The key areas where BCP can assist small businesses are:

  1. Protecting your physical presence – Think about the offices, warehouses, or other locations where your business operates on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. What would you do and how would you operate if you lost a key site due to fire, storm, electrical outages or cyber/IT issues?
  2. Protecting your employees – What happens if there is a pandemic, actual or scare, and your employees cannot come to an office environment, or must take time off work to look after sick relatives? What are the impacts if employees cannot get to a key site? How long can they operate remotely? Who are the key personnel in your organisation and why? How are you going to mitigate their sudden loss to the organisation, whether that is due to death, retirement, moving to a new company etc?
    Eg: An Auckland SME recently found that the death of their key manager left the company in such a state that within three months of his death they were out of business.
  3. Protecting your systems – Think about your systems. How do you operate and how is your important information stored and how will it be accessed when an event strikes? Several people in the organisation need to be able to access information and understand the key contacts (external of the business) who will need to be engaged early to ensure continuity of the business.

All of these reasons are why business continuity planning is essential for SMEs In a nutshell, BCP enables any business of any size to review their functions and processes and ask the important question “What if….”

A realistic review of this nature will not only provide your company with a greater understanding of its risks and pain points, but it will also enable them to collate all the information that they would need, should that perceived risk/event take place.

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