Opinion: Expect the unexpected

  • 31 Mar 2020

By Martin McTague, FSB Chairman, Policy and Advocacy

Business continuity planning matters. Nothing has really thrown this more into
stark relief than the coronavirus outbreak that has swept the globe and caused untold damage.

No one could have predicted the outbreak or how hard it would hit, but we rarely get any forewarning that a disaster is about to hit. Not only this, every incident is unique and brings with it the unexpected.

Enter your business continuity plan (BCP) – an essential tool for any business to make sure it can continue running when it is faced with major disruption. Although a BCP can never guarantee the safety of your business fully, what it can do is give you the best shot of weathering a crisis, be it a flood, fire, cyber-attack or a global pandemic. Any of our
businesses can face an unexpected, significant event and a plan will help ensure that, should the worst happen, you know exactly who is responsible for what and there is no panic as to how you will cope.

 

Despite the clear necessity of a BCP, our research shows that just one in three small businesses have one. This is surprising because, as business owners, we have to be aware of, and plan for, potential and new risks, whatever they may be. It doesn’t end with just putting a plan in place; it is vital that you update it as the risks to your business, your industry and the environment that you operate in change. We only have to try and comprehend the last few months to recognise how risks can evolve and impact our
businesses.

Small firms are always recognised as being nimble and quick to adapt – we need to show this same verve when it comes to planning ahead.

So, what makes an effective BCP? What it should do is provide a step-by-step process of what you need to do to keep your business operating successfully when you are faced with major disruption like coronavirus.

It needs to consider all the areas of your business such as processes – do you produce something? Sell something? Offer services? Think about resources such as your staff, equipment and data, the threats to your business, and then the impact of those threats.

Testing, testing, testing! No, I’m not checking the sound on a microphone; I’m saying that putting a BCP in place is just half the story – you need to make sure that it actually works. This is critical, particularly when you consider new risks that you may not have thought of when you initially put the BCP in place. This will help you mitigate and respond to new threats such as the coronavirus outbreak as best you can.

 

You may feel daunted or overwhelmed when you start thinking about all these different
aspects of your business and the risks to it, but it really is something that you have to get right, and to get it right takes time. In the long run, your business and your staff will benefit.

The simple reality is that the longer your operations are down, the greater the cost to your business.

Running a small business is so rewarding but is also equally risky, with many of us often living on the edge. Whatever steps we can take to take us further away from that edge can only be a good thing. Good planning just makes good business sense.

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