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A Grown-Up Guide to… Business continuity

What is it?

In short, it’s keeping your business running so it’s not affected by disruptions.  Spending a bit of time planning for those ‘hit-by-a-bus’ moments will pay back when things you never expect to happen actually do happen.

 

Who does it affect?

Whether you are a sole trader, an SME or a multi-national, you have clients to service, commitments to honour and you need to keep the money coming in.

No one wants to hear excuses about being ill or not having an internet connection

Your customers expect you to deliver what you promised, when you promised, for the price you promised.

Your staff probably need leadership, they definitely need to be paid, and they won’t like uncertainty.

Your suppliers need to be managed so they know what you need from them, and their invoices will need paying.  It’s not just trade suppliers either – what services do you use?  Do you have a mortgage or rent?  What about your phone bill, or utilities like electric and water bills?  Don’t forget the VAT and tax people as well – they definitely don’t like being kept waiting.

Finally there’s you.  As a business owner or director, someone who relies on the business to pay your own salary, how will you get paid if you can’t work or if the business can’t operate?

What you should do…

Make a list of all the things that are vital to you running your business, think about how they could go wrong, and plan what you would do in each scenario.  These are some of the questions you should be asking:

Staff

  • What happens if a key member of the team is off sick long term, or hands in their resignation?
  • Can you maintain the relationships they have with clients and suppliers?
  • What are the costs? Sick pay, temporary cover, recruitment costs?
  • Can you absorb the workload? Who can take over their projects?
  • If you hire a replacement, do you have an accurate job description to recruit against? What on-the-job training will the replacement need when they start?

Supply chain

  • What would happen if your usual supplier couldn’t deliver for you? Do you have a backup option, and is it going to be more expensive?
  • Do you have any business-critical suppliers? Do you use any specialist software, do you sub contract key services, is there a supplier that you rely on for all your projects?

Equipment

  • Start with the basics – your computers, printers, photocopiers. Do you have spare capacity, do you have service contracts in place, how quickly could you replace something and what would it cost?
  • What do you use within your business? Caterers have kitchens, rental companies have stock, anyone with a warehouse has a pallet truck or forklift.  Is everything maintained and in good condition, and what would you do if something stopped working?
  • Are your vehicles maintained? Do you have systems in place to make sure they are serviced, taxed and MOT’d?  Do you have breakdown cover?  If a vehicle was unavailable for a time, how would you replace it?
  • There are also knock-on effects of equipment failure. If a van breaks down on the way to a client you’ve still got to deliver the job, as well as recover and repair the vehicle and get the driver home.

Clients

  • How diverse is your client base? How would your business be affected if your largest client stopped using you?
  • If you have regular, seasonal work, is it contracted, and if it is, does that actually protect you?
  • If you provide your clients with a line of credit, do the credit limits and payment terms protect your cashflow? How would you be affected if clients were late with payments?

IT & communications

  • Basics again – do you have a data backup? Have you actually tested it to make sure you can access it when you need it, and that it actually has all the data you need?
  • How do you access phones and the internet? If you lose connectivity, how do you communicate with people?
  • How secure are your computers against hackers, malware and viruses?
  • How secure are your social media accounts?
  • Do you have an accessible contact list for your staff, customers, bank and insurance company in case you need it in an emergency?

 

Need more information?

There are various templates online that you can use as a basis for a continuity plan, a quick Google search for ‘business continuity template’ comes up with several options.  Every business is different though, using a template is fine but use it to fit your business, not as a box-ticking exercise.

If you’d like any support from us, please contact us and we’ll help you plan for the unexpected.

 

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