The Basics of a Business Continuity Plan

Any organization is at risk for the following:

  • Natural disasters (floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, fire)
  • Environmental disasters (like chemical spills)
  • Accidents
  • Sabotage
  • Losing key personnel
  • Cyber attacks and hacker activity
  • Theft
  • IT system crashes
  • Power and energy disruptions

Sadly, many small business owners never take the time to develop a plan to address disaster striking.  It is only once they have experienced first-hand the devastating consequences that they wish that they had implemented a plan in advance. This is a great pity, because a Business Continuity Plan is the least expensive insurance for a small business.  In fact, it gives your organization a competitive edge.  Perhaps it may not seem so now, but when the time comes, it will be worth its weight in gold. A business continuity plan that works means that your company will survive a disaster and can continue its operations no matter what the circumstances.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A Business Continuity Plan is simply a proactive documented planning process that insures that critical services or products are delivered during a disruption. It stipulates how employees will communicate, where they will go, and how they will keep on doing their jobs in case of a disaster. It is important to identify the core operational systems and work processes so that the services and products can be delivered to your customers, no matter what happens.

What is included in a Business Continuity Plan?

Every business is different, and you will have to analyze what the bare minimum is for your business to survive.  A few ideas of what to include are listed below:

  • Who your key personnel and backups are
  • External contacts
  • Critical equipment (eg. PC’s)
  • Critical documents (everything you would need to start your business again)
  • Responsibility list of who does what and how they should do it if disaster strikes

Who needs it?

Every organization and business should have a Business Continuity Plan.  It is especially important for small businesses as they are far more vulnerable to external circumstances.

Why do they need it?

  • It ensures that a business has the resources and information needed to deal with disasters.
  • It safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, its reputation and its value-creating activities.
  • It gives an organization the opportunity to identify the potential impacts of disasters that threaten it, and to develop a framework and system of responding to the disaster in a timely and appropriate manner.
  • It is becoming more and more common that potential customers want to see that there is a Business Continuity Plan in place to protect their interests in the company.
  • It safeguards your company’s reputation.

Conclusion

It is essential that once a Business Continuity Plan is in place, that all staff should be trained as to what their role is in case of disaster. To further streamline the implementation of the Business Continuity Plan, you should test it from time to time, making the necessary adjustments where hiccups are experienced. Most importantly, the Business Continuity Plan must be updated regularly as the business changes.  It is not a document to be compiled and then forgotten about. A Business Continuity Plan is not just there to cover high profile disasters.  It is about being ready for any incident that may cause disruption to your business.  Rather be prepared than sorry.

Ensure excellent customer relations through thorough record-keeping

The other day, I visited the doctor for a routine check-up.  On arrival, I was informed that my file had been lost, and I therefore had to fill in all the information again.  Not only that, but the receptionist had the attitude that it was my fault the file was misplaced!  All the information regarding previous visits was lost, and it took quite a while to sort out my medical history with my physician before the actual examination could begin.  I was not impressed.

The next day, I had a query with my internet service provider.  When I phoned and gave my name, the receptionist immediately had access to my file, and could respond quickly and appropriately to the query.  The problem was sorted out professionally, increasing the company’s credibility in my sight, and I thus feel free to recommend them to others.

This got me thinking about how important good record-keeping is for a small business.  Beside the legal obligations regarding documentation, your satisfied customers are one of your most crucial assets, as you cannot run your business without them.  One way in which to ensure the most positive relationship with each customer is through taking extra care with good record-keeping and archiving.

As a small business owner, it is easy to overlook the value attached to good record-keeping.  This job is often given to the lowest paid employee.  It is far easier to shove documents into a file than to pay someone to index and sort them.  In fact, most businesses do not know they don’t have their important documents until they need them!

This is a potentially dangerous situation, and could cost the company at best an inconvenient amount of lost revenue.  For instance, if you have a proof of delivery document to the value of $500 and you lost it, technically the client does not have to pay.

Good record-keeping is not a stand-alone function but rather a support function to other aspects of running a business.  Beside the legal requirements, good record-keeping is also good for PR.  Customers are always impressed if you can draw a file easily or deal with any issues that require documentation to clear up.

Clients want to know that they are regarded as important by a company.  They are far more likely to go back to a business that attended to their query or problem quickly and professionally.

These days, it is so easy for customers to complain about poor service via the internet.  Good record-keeping can assist in keeping the bad word-of-mouth rumour mill at bay and even in gaining a few good references.

If you want to enhance customer satisfaction through correct documentation procedures, contact Virtual Productivity Solutions to help you develop an easy-to-use documentation system for your small business.