Make sure you have a plan to keep your business running when unexpected events occur.
Currently, we are in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, and there is much talk about how all sorts of businesses are going to be handling this crisis. This post is taken from our Facebook Live video on March 10, 2020, and will focus on small business continuity planning. You can see the video at the end of this post.
What is business continuity planning?
Planning for business continuity means creating systems and processes to prevent and recover from unexpected events. These plans protect your people and assets during and after unexpected events. There are really two main types of plans.
- Business Continuity Plan: this plan is put into place to keep your business operations running as close to normal as possible, either on-site or remotely.
- Disaster Relief Plan: this is a plan for restoring and getting back up to normal after a disaster.
Why do we need business continuity plans?
As small business owners, we want to make sure that our businesses are resilient, for the benefit of your clients, your employees, your local economy, and you personally. This means that your business has the ability to adapt to disruptions and maintain continuous service. It helps ensure that your clients, staff and assets are protected.
What types of things should a small business plan for?
- Illness and death: if you own a small business and become ill, there needs to be a clear plan for who is going to keep that business running. Likewise, if you die, who will continue to take care of your clients, or finish up with them? Who will take ownership of the business and have the power to continue with it or to sell it? Do you have partners? These issues should be considered and addressed in your operating agreement.
- Divorce: It’s possible that your small business could be considered part of your property, and as such, ownership rights, property, or equity could be claimed by your spouse in the case of a divorce, ownership rights or property or equity. If you have partners, their ex-spouses could come in with rights as well. These are all situations that need to be considered.
- Natural disaster: In the case of a flood, fire, or pandemic like we are in currently, there should be a plan for working remotely. How can you continue to serve your clients? How will you protect your office and assets?
What should you consider when you are making your business continuity plan?
Every small business owner wears a lot of hats. Here’s a quick list of areas that you should think about when planning:
- Communication: Let vendors, customers, and third parties know what is happening and how they can get in touch.
- Products: Know how you will continue to provide products to customers.
- Priorities: Some processes will take precedence, some things absolutely have to keep going. Some are less important and could go on hold during a crisis.
- Restoration: How much time will it take to restore after the event is over..
- Illness policies: Care for your employees if they or their children are ill. Make it clear that you don’t want people to come to work sick because they think you expect it. Make it possible, if you can, for your employees to work remotely when their kids are sick.
- Technology: What you need to carry on business and temporary solutions that can fill in, even if it’s not your normal. Your current process could flex to include things like cloud storage and remote logins.
- People: Which people have to come in and which don’t, and considerations for where and how to relocating or remote working.
- Processes: Know which tools you depend on and what your employees need to continue to work. Be sure to ask your employees and listen to their input.
Once you’ve made a plan, test it and document it. In a time of crisis, it’s too much to expect yourself or your employees to just remember. Put your plan into your operating agreement if possible, or simply get it down in another document that’s accessible to your company.
A plan is always best in advance, but even thinking about things now proactively is better than just reacting out of fear. We are always here to help if you need it!