If there’s one thing we’ve learned from coronavirus, it’s that you never know what could happen.
The speed at which coronavirus upended life in the United States was honestly astounding. One day, we were all going about our lives normally, and then the next, professional sports leagues were canceled, classes were canceled, concerts and music festivals were canceled, and we were all told to work from home, if possible, and stay there as much as possible.
If your business wasn’t prepared, you’re not alone. This caught all of us off-guard, and as it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen or experienced before, many of us have been caught flat-footed and unsure of what to do next. And, if there’s one thing that you can take away from this experience, it should be the need for developing a business continuity plan.
A business continuity plan is essentially a roadmap that a business follows in the event of an emergency. By thinking through potential emergencies and outcomes ahead of time, businesses prepare themselves by determining protocols and developing a list of actions they can take to mitigate risk.
Many small businesses across the country are currently in the process of developing their business continuity plans on the fly to cope with the current crisis. Here’s a quick guide to help you develop a business continuity plan and help you get through this crisis, as well as any crisis that might come up in the future.
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Developing a Business Continuity Plan
Step #1. Do a SWOT analysis.
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and a SWOT analysis involves organizing each of these categories into organized lists. Here’s a basic overview of what should be included in each category:
- Strengths – Your strengths are the things that your organization does well and that separate you from your competition. They also consist of your organization’s assets, like proprietary technology and intellectual property, as well as your internal assets, like staff that’s skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable.
- Weakness – Your weaknesses are the things that your organization lacks and that your competitors are doing better. They also include any resources limitations you may have, as well as an unclear selling proposition.
- Opportunities – Your opportunities include the underserved markets you could be serving, an emerging need for your product or service, any press about your organization, and a lack of competitors in your market or geographic area.
- Threats – Your threats may be newly emerging competitors, regulation changes that affect your industry, any negative press coverage of your organization, and a change in consumer attitudes about your organization.
Step #2. Rank your potential risks and create a plan for each one.
There are so many different kinds of risks your business could face, and each one will have very different impacts on your business and will also need to be handled differently. A big part of developing an effective business continuity plan includes taking a close look at any potential risk you may face and determining what you’ll do to overcome it.
Some of the risks may be internal, such as morale problems, a high turnover rate, or software that’s outdated or inefficient. And other risks will be external, which might include natural disasters, economic recessions, or, yes, global pandemics.
Taking some time to think through each potential risk for your business now will help to prevent you from scrambling to do so in the midst of a crisis. It will help you feel more in control and give you a toolkit for getting through the worst of it.
Step #3. Identify your key players.
A business is not only made up of the products or services it offers, or the technology it utilizes, or its physical location; a business is made up of the people who go in and get the job done every day. That means that people should absolutely be a part of your business continuity plan, including who is in charge of what and what responsibilities each person has in getting your business back online.
Identify the people within your organization who will be the key players in getting your business back online and on track. It’s also important to ensure that they have a clear understanding of what their role is in facing the various risks your organization may encounter. When people understand their place and what’s expected of them, it allows them to proceed with more confidence and a clearer head, even in times of crisis.
Step #4. Prepare your technology.
Many of the risks that your business may face could have a direct impact on whether or not you can conduct business from your typical location. These include fires, plumbing emergencies, and gas leaks, as well as natural disasters, like floods or blizzards.
If you can’t get into the office for whatever reason, it’s important to have alternative options available. Having an effective alternative plan in place includes ensuring that you have the technology that you need to continue functioning.
Step #5. Test your plan.
The only way to know 100 percent whether or not your business continuity plan is adequate or not in various situations is to actually go through a crisis that puts your business at risk. However, you can get a much better idea of what to expect if you test it out beforehand. A great way to do this is by running mock exercises. That episode of The Office where Dwight fakes a fire comes to mind.
If you’re a small business owner looking for assistance in creating a continuity plan and learning how to position yourself for success when the coronavirus crisis has ended, turn to Marketing 360® today. We’re your go-to digital marketing partners, and we’re dedicated to helping small businesses, like yours, not only survive but thrive.