Businesses around the world are in the process of finding a new normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that want to get through any type of disaster—from a pandemic to a hurricane—need to have a clear understanding of how to develop a small business continuity plan.
Planning for the worst can go a long way in keeping your business up and running when it matters most. By following some best practices, your small business can create a small business continuity plan (BCP) that’s comprehensive and effective for COVID-19 and beyond.
What is Small Business Continuity Planning?
Small business continuity is the process of either maintaining critical business functions or quickly resuming them when a major disruption occurs, such as a natural disaster, fire, flood, cyber attack, or pandemic.
A small business continuity plan covers the procedures and instructions a business must follow in the case of a disaster, including those for processes, assets, and business partners. A large portion of the plan prioritizes IT infrastructure and maintaining Internet connectivity during and after a disaster.
Every business will have its own unique approach to small business continuity planning, but in general, it is defined by three primary strategies:
- Prevention: Prevention includes any actions a business must take to prevent disruptions when an unexpected disaster occurs. For example, a company might invest in backup sources of electricity in the event of a power outage.
- Response: Response includes the actions that must occur in response to an emergency or disruption. This may include evacuation and emergency communication protocols.
- Recovery: Recovery includes any policies that will help guide a business back to normal operations. This may include contingency plans for both short- and long-term recovery.
Crafting Your Own Small Business Continuity Plan
As mentioned, every business will have slightly different continuity plans. However, you can start with the following basic steps and customize the plan to your specific needs.
1. Identify the Scope, Objective, and Goals of the Plan
You should begin the small business continuity planning process by identifying the needs and goals you would like to meet. To do this, ask yourself:
- How detailed should the plan be?
- What parts of the business should the plan cover?
- What milestones will be tracked to monitor the success of the plan?
- How much time should I set aside to develop the plan?
- What research will be required for the plan?
- What additional resources will I need to implement the plan?
2. Perform a Business Impact Analysis
A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) involves identifying and evaluating how different events could affect your business. A BIA should list your critical operations and outline the staff and resources needed to maintain these operations during a disruption. Make sure to include multiple scenarios within this analysis, from minor disruptions to serious disasters. This variety will make your business continuity plan flexible and useful in all kinds of unexpected events.
3. Document Critical Business Functions and Their Aspects
When outlining your business’s critical functions, rank them from low to high according to their importance to your business’s survival. As you go through this exercise, consider the following questions:
- What different business objectives are dependent on this function?
- Which parts of my business are impacted by this function?
- What specific resources are connected to this function?
- If this function was disrupted, how much damage would there be?
- Can this function be virtualized or moved offsite?
4. Design and Implement Testing, Training, and Revision Procedures
Once you’ve completed your plan, it’s critical to document testing and training procedures. Testing helps you see if your plan will hold up in real-life scenarios, and training will ensure all of your employees are familiar with the plan and their responsibilities. The most effective testing and training exercises are clear, easy to understand, and give participants an opportunity to provide feedback.
Plan Ahead to Guard Against Business Disruptions
In this new normal, the process of doing business can be uncertain and unnerving. Business continuity planning may not be able to remove this uncertainty, but it does give you a set of powerful tools to prevent disruption from becoming destruction.