Things don’t always go according to plan and there are some things you just can’t control. But you can control how you’ll react when things go off course. 

For small business owners, that’s where business continuity planning comes in. While it’s no fun to plan for the worst, it could save you a lot of stress and money further down the line. 

To help you prepare for business interruptions, this guide will cover the essentials of business continuity planning, including:

  • What is a business continuity plan?
  • When would you need a business continuity plan?
  • What should a business continuity plan include?

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is essentially a backup plan. It outlines exactly what you should do if an unexpected event disrupts normal business operations

It’s similar to a disaster recovery plan, but it accounts for a lot more risks. A good business continuity plan should have a plan for every conceivable scenario, so there’s no situation where you and your business are left helpless.

The main goal of a business continuity plan is to safeguard the essential parts of your business, such as assets, processes, employees, and processes, so that you can get things up and running again as quickly as possible. 

Properly safeguarding your business means you can recover faster after a disruption, meaning there’s less revenue lost overall. 

Because major disruptions can have such a huge effect, continuity planning is essential for all businesses. Insurance can help recoup some of your financial losses in the event of a disaster, but it can’t bring back the customers who might have moved to a competitor while you weren’t operational, so your top priority should be to resume regular service as quickly as possible. 

When would you need a business continuity plan?

The first major part of a business continuity plan recognises potential risks and evaluating the damage they could cause. After you’ve done that, you can start planning what to do in each scenario.

Though it may be slightly different for each business, some of the most common things that can cause business disruptions are:

  • Fires and floods – Fire and water damage to your office and equipment could prevent trading altogether.
  • Theft and vandalism – Unfortunately, there will always be people out there willing to steal or damage essential equipment.
  • Human error – People aren’t perfect. It’s far too easy to delete an important file, delete an important file, or accidentally break a piece of equipment.  
  • Malfunctions – Sometimes, things just break all on their own. If your business relies heavily on certain pieces of hardware or software, you need a backup plan in case they stop working. 
  • Data breaches – As a business, your customers’ data needs to be safe and secure, so you need to have a backup plan in case their data is stolen or lost. 
  • Power outages – Whether it’s caused by natural disasters, or a malfunction in the grid, power cuts are a very real threat that could grind your business operations to a halt. 
  • Connection issues – Even when the power is fine, you could lose all connection to the internet due to network or hardware issues. 

What should a business continuity plan include?

Once you’ve listed the potential threats to business continuity, you can start to plan for each scenario with your plan. Each plan should include several different parts that are outlined below.

Business Impact Analysis

Look through every potential disruption and identify how they might impact your business in various ways:

  • How will the disruption affect the service you can provide?
  • How will it affect your ability to produce revenue, long and short term?
  • How will it affect your employees and customers?
  • How will it affect your brand?

Recovery plan

After recognising the potential risks and the impact they might have on your business, the recovery plan outlines what you can do to recover critical business operations as quickly as possible. 

Have a detailed plan for every worst-case scenario. The plan should have a step-by-step guide in order of importance. 

  1. Start with damage control – what can you do to limit the damage caused by the disruption?
  2. Next, move onto recovery – what can you do to restore normal business functions as quickly as possible. 
  3. Assess the damage – once things are back on track, find out the true impact the disruption has had on your business. 
  4. Finally, recoup your losses – what can you do to get back to where you were before the disruption?

Organisation 

When you have a recovery plan in place, you need to assign a team dedicated to taking charge of the plan. It’s their responsibility to know the plan, inside and out, and coordinate the action when a disruption occurs. 

Training 

The team you’ve chosen needs to be trained and tested regularly to ensure the procedures are always fresh in their minds. They need to know exactly what to do in every scenario. 

As well as the actual team, every other team member should also be aware of the continuity plans, where to find them, and their roles. 

Testing 

Along with testing the continuity team, the company should also test the BCP itself. Test it regularly to ensure it works in every different scenario. This will help identify any weaknesses in the plan, which can then be identified and corrected.

Review

The business continuity plan needs to be regularly reviewed to make sure it provides the best solution. 

For things like fire and flood safety, procedures are not likely to change very often. But new advancements in technology could frequently change your approach to cyber security. 

Checklists

To make the whole business continuity plan go smoothly, create a checklist detailing relevant information, contacts, and locations. It should include the following things:

  • Emergency contact information. 
  • A list of any resources you’ll need and where to access them. 
  • Key locations, like meeting points in the event of a fire. 

Plan for the future with accounting software

If your business operations are disrupted for any reason, it can significantly impact your overall revenue stream. While a good business continuity plan can help reduce the negative effects, you need to prepare for the financial consequences.  

With the Countingup business current account, you’ll have access to accounting software that can show you accurate information about your business finances. You’ll be able to see exactly how healthy your business finances are after any disruption, what it means for your future profit and loss projections, and how quickly you’re able to recover.

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Start your three-month free trial today. 

Find out more here.

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