According to researchers, 90% of small businesses that undergo a disaster and do not reopen within five days go out of business forever within one year. Natural disasters, health emergencies and cybersecurity threats to small businesses underline the need for continuity planning.
Business continuity plan
A business continuity plan contains procedures and instructions the business should follow in different types of disasters to keep it in operation. The top priorities are employee, client, and independent contractor safety.
It should meet small business law requirements and cover critical business functions, processes, and physical assets.
Create an emergency preparedness team that is responsible for BCP development. The team members must have the authority to implement the plan’s components.
Select employees who possess the skills needed to perform critical functions and keep them in operation. Consider whether they need a license or certification or have to meet other special requirements.
Essential services and functions
Identifying essential services and functions is important. Once these are identified, determine how long it takes for the services and function to return to operation in various situations.
Essential services and functions include:
- A service that causes an impact on health and safety if it is not delivered
- A service that can cause business unit failure
- Services that have to be undertaken to comply with regulatory requirements
- A service that will cause immediate or future business impact if it is not performed
Each essential service should have a plan that is reviewed by upper management and employees experienced with emergency training to ensure it is consistent across the business and deals with all critical issues. The plan should include:
- Service or function descriptions
- Individuals who will implement the plan
- Business impacts
- Communication plan for notifying stakeholders and for staff relocation
- Required equipment and physical assets
This plan should be tested and regularly updated. Testing helps identify problems that were overlooked during its creation. Updates deals with employee turnover and department changes.
A strong business continuity plan includes the following:
- An updated checklist including supplies, equipment, data backup locations, location and holders of the plan, responder contact information, important personnel, and providers of backup sites.
- A disaster recovery plan outlining a return to normal business operations, defining the recovery time, and containing the maximum tolerable downtime.
- Input from individuals who have experience with dealing with disasters.
- Annual testing such as tabletop exercises, structured walk through or disaster simulation testing.
- Strong management support.
Attorneys can assist businesses with identifying legal issues associated with disaster planning. They can help them prepare for issues such as contract compliance.