When it comes to ensuring a long life for your business, some owners focus exclusively on the day-to-day: getting customers in the door, delivering top-level service and fostering repeat business. While those processes are the lifeblood of any successful company, it’s also important to look ahead to the future—and plan for the unexpected.
That’s where a business continuity plan comes in. What happens to your business in the case of a fire, flood, power interruption—or some other unexpected event that interrupts your business’s operations? How will you serve your customers? How will you keep revenue coming in the door? How will you continue to pay your employees?
Your business continuity plan will answer all these questions—and more. Let’s dive into the 9 fast facts you need to know about business continuity plans. These tidbits will help you protect your business and ensure its future, even in the face of unpredictable interruptions.
Fact #1: A Business Continuity Plan Can Be Created in Four Simple Steps
Your business continuity plan lays out a system that allows your business to both prevent and recover from threats to your operations. The plan outlines key strategies for getting you back up and running as quickly as possible while protecting your personnel and your assets.
Although every company will do their planning differently, Ready.gov suggests that creating your business continuity plan can be as easy as four simple steps:
- Conduct a business impact analysis to identify time-sensitive or critical business functions.
- Create recovery strategies for critical business functions.
- Create a plan to manage a business disruption.
- Conduct tests and exercises to evaluate your plan.
Fact #2: Business Continuity Plans Are Different from Disaster Recovery Strategies
You may have heard about disaster recovery planning, and your business might even have a plan in place. However, there’s a key difference between disaster recovery and business continuity:
- Disaster recovery is focused on restoring vital systems, such as IT systems, records management, communication systems and more.
- Business continuity is focused on getting your entire business back up to full functionality.
You might think of disaster recovery as part of your business continuity plan. There will certainly be an overlap between the two. However, your disaster recovery plan often doesn’t take the full picture of your business into account. That’s why you also need a business continuity plan to give your organization an extra level of protection.
Fact #3: Unexpected Disasters Can Easily Sink a Business
Consider these three statistics:
- 1. 75% of small businesses do NOT have a disaster plan in place, but 52% say it would take at least three months to recover from a disaster.
- 2. 90% of smaller companies fail within a year unless they can resume operations within 5 days after a disaster.
- 3. 40-60% of small businesses never re-open their doors following a disaster.
Ultimately, the question isn’t whether you can afford to create a business continuity plan. It’s whether you can afford not to.
Fact #4: Threats Can Come from Anywhere
When they think of interruptions to business, many business owners automatically think of natural disasters like typhoons and resulting floods.
However, threats can come from many sources, including:
- Power failures – What if the power line that services your business gets severely damaged, and the Guam Power Authority needs several days to repair it?
- Human error – What if an employee at a neighboring business accidentally starts a fire that causes an evacuation and makes your location uninhabitable?
- Cybersecurity risks – What if someone gets unauthorized access to your systems and wreaks havoc? Even small businesses are being targeted by malware attacks, phishing schemes and more.
Unexpected risks are, by their definition, unexpected. However, when you go through a risk evaluation while preparing your business continuity plan, you’ll be able to anticipate many potential scenarios. And by creating plans to mitigate these risks, you’ll be better prepared for any unexpected interruptions to your business operations.
Fact #5: Business Continuity Planning Isn’t Just About Revenue
One of the major goals of a business continuity plan is to resume operations as quickly as possible. This allows your business to continue serving customers and bring in the revenue it needs to pay its expenses.
But that’s just the start. Business continuity plans will also help you with things you might not immediately think about in a disaster, such as payroll. If you don’t have a way to access your payroll systems in the case of a disaster, how are you going to pay your employees?
Sure, you could pull out some cash from your operating account, but how will you know who gets paid what, what taxes should be taken out, etc.? Even if you’re able to keep your employees afloat with a little cash, you’ll be making a mess for accounting to clean up later. You’ll also need to keep HR afloat to be able to deal with insurance benefits, employment issues while the business is resuming operations, etc.
However, if you can’t access any of your employees or human resources records, this could create serious problems, which leads us to our next fast fact.
Fact #6: Remote Data and Records Storage Can Be a Lifesaver
Imagine if all of your business records were destroyed in a flood—all of your customer data, all of your employee files, everything. You’d have to rebuild your business from the ground up, all while trying to get your operations back up and running.
However, if you store your records at a secure, off-site location, you’ll increase the likelihood of accessing those records quickly—and getting your business up and running faster. This is especially true if your off-site location is built to withstand potential natural disasters, offering all of your important business data an extra level of protection it wouldn’t get at your office.
As you evaluate your exposure to potential risks, consider making remote records storage a part of your company’s regular operations. In addition to helping you recover from a disaster, off-site storage can also help you prevent certain risks in the first place, such as security breaches.
Fact #7: You Have to Test Your Plan to Make Sure It Works
Theory is one thing. Practice is another. Additionally, during a threat, tensions and emotions will be high. You want your employees to be a well-oiled machine that’s executing a plan that’s already been rehearsed, not a nervous one experimenting with theoretical ideas in a high-stakes environment.
After you put together your plan, make sure you run your team through a test to uncover any weaknesses. Use your test to improve your plan—and build your team’s confidence that you’re ready to face any unexpected challenges.
Fact #8: You Can’t Just Set It and Forget It
Business is always changing. How many new procedures and systems have you implemented in the last year? As your operations change, your business continuity plan needs to evolve to account for those alterations. Make sure you evaluate your plan at least once a year to make sure it keeps pace with the way you do business.
After all, an outdated plan won’t help you cover all the bases you need to get back up and running ASAP.
Fact #9: There Are Plenty of Resources to Get You Started
If you’re convinced that it’s time to adopt a business continuity plan—or update the one you already have—there are plenty of additional resources you can turn to.
We suggest you start at Ready.gov, with particular emphasis on their business continuity planning resources.
If you’d like professional help putting your plan together, talk to your legal counsel or your insurance agent. Either one should be able to refer you to a professional resource to get you the assistance you need.
Additionally, if you’d like to talk to someone about off-site records storage, DeWitt Records Management would be happy to help. We offer a wide variety of services, including records storage, delivery and retrieval; indexing; certified destruction; recycling and more. Just reach out to us for a complimentary consultation. We’ll walk you through how our records management programs can help your business recover from a disaster—and prevent common security breaches in the workplace.