small business contingency planning

A Guide to Small Business Contingency Planning

By Lloyd Blaketon-Wells

Suffering any sort of disaster that stops the normal function of the business can be a huge problem for a company. But this is compounded for small businesses that may be working on exceptionally tight budgets and schedules. If your team only comprises a few people, it’s likely that your day-to-day work is absolutely vital to the success of the company. If you are stopped from doing this work for any reason it can be truly catastrophic. So here’s how to plan and execute a contingency plan for a small business.

Establish the Risks and Prioritize Them

The risk for every small business is different – and the kinds of risks can be enormously varied to the point that a single contingency plan isn’t enough to cover them. Are you at risk of flooding? Data theft from cyber-attacks? Losing internet services? Losing a key supplier? Losing a key employee? Any and all of these things can be catastrophic for a business, and only you will know which risks are most likely to happen to you.

So create a list of the potential risks that you face and order them in the likelihood of it happening and the amount of damage that it could potentially do to your business if it was not contained.

Delegate Responsibility

Different people will need to be responsible for different areas of the contingency plan. For example, in the event of a physical disaster like a fire, someone needs to be responsible for ensuring everyone has been evacuated. But it may be the case that someone else needs to be responsible in dealing with the aftermath of a cyber-attack. Make sure that everyone understands their own responsibilities and what is expected of them in the event of a disaster.

Protect Your Data

One thing that almost every business cannot do without is their business data. Think for a minute about what would happen if your business data was either lost or stolen. Would you still be able to operate if you didn’t have your data? And how much of an issue would it cause for you if you lost sensitive data relating to your clients and customers? For most companies, this would be truly disastrous. So, firstly ensure that your data is backed up, and secondly that it is encrypted and as difficult as possible to access.

Insure Your Business

Insurance is one of the best ways to mitigate the largest disasters that can happen to your business. It’s obvious that you would need insurance to protect you from physical problems like fires and flooding, but there are plenty of other forms of insurance that it could be worth taking out, depending on how your business operates. For example, many companies have now taken out policies to insure them against the damage that could occur from data breaches. Talk to a business insurance professional and they will be able to offer you advice and guidance on the kinds of insurance that would be most suited to you.

Plan for Continuing Operations

Take any of your disaster scenarios and ask yourself how you be able to operate. If your internet connection is lost by some catastrophic failure beyond your control, can your staff still get their work done? Is there a facility available so that they could potentially go home and use their own internet connection to get on with the job? Equally, consider issues like how many days can you afford to go without operating normally and making money? Some businesses revolve around one or two individuals – if one of them becomes seriously ill, how will you operate? Ask yourself these questions and come up with a solution that allows you to continue as best you can.

Prepare Your Staff

Another key issue with contingency plans is that your employees need to know exactly what they are going to need to do to ensure these plans work. If there is a possibility that staff will need to work from home for a couple of days, it’s up to you to ensure that they understand how they are going to do this and what is expected of them. It’s spending a few hours going over some of the worst case scenarios and letting everyone know what they can do to make things easier.

Update the Process Every Year

Small businesses often see a lot of change through the course of a year, so it is essential that you should update your contingency plan on a regular basis – at least once annually. With new people arriving and former employees leaving, it can be the case the plans get out of date very quickly.

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Lloyd Blaketon-Wells
Lloyd is a small business consultant and experienced freelance writer representing Tonbridge-based call-handling-specialists, Ansacom.

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