BUSINESS CONTINUITY - SURVIVING AN EMERGENCY
Can you keep your business ticking over in the event of a catastrophe? Think “disaster-movie” proportions: cyclones, bushfires, floods, pandemic... twelve months ago those scenarios seemed remote. Depending on where you are, you may have experienced two, or three or even four of these disasters since last Christmas. Or perhaps you’ve watched reports on the news and donated what you could afford to help people whose livelihoods were taken.
Did you take some time to consider what you can do to prepare your business for a major disaster? There’s steps we can take to halt the path of a CoVID-19 pandemic, but we should also prepare our businesses for the worst. The key to success is in how well and how quickly you bounce back.
What Do You Need?
Obviously, different businesses have different requirements, so start with the basics. What are the basic elements that you need to operate your business?
💡The first thing everyone needs during a crisis is access to accurate, timely information. I recommend tuning into your local public radio station, as they are usually the official emergency broadcaster. If you’re putting together a “Go Box” with business essentials, include an old fashioned, battery operated radio, and batteries.
But preparation for business continuity should start well before any emergency arises, and be an ongoing project. It’s not “doomsday prepper” territory; it’s rolling business preparedness.
To be prepared, you need to understand in a very practical sense what your business does, and what you need to keep doing it: resources, equipment and staff.
If you weren’t able to work out of your usual premises, what would you need to get back to being productive? A call centre would need multiple desks, phone and data lines, a doctor would need a properly equipped clinic room, a restaurant would need a functioning kitchen - all on top of essential staff and basic services like phones, electricity, data and running water. In the case of a pandemic, consider working remotely if you can. If you can’t, what can you do to minimise risk for you, your staff and your customers.
At this point, you might look at your business, shrug and decide that if your business shuts down for a week, it doesn’t matter. Or maybe your business is impossible, or unsafe, or irrelevant during certain situations. Maybe you shut down during natural disasters and donate your time to help others. These are all valid decisions, and regardless of what you choose to do, you still need to communicate with your stakeholders.
The key to successful business continuity is communication. If you have a staff and clients and you need to keep trading, it’s also reassuring to have a plan written down in a drawer somewhere, complete with contact details for all of your stakeholders.
Business continuity might be pretty simple: If you’re a sole trader who works online, you need your laptop or tablet, a reliable power source, and access to the internet. The more complex the business, the harder it is to plan for an outage, but the first step for any business must be establishing contact your key stakeholders.
Last year there was a fire in a strip of shops in suburbs. One of the shops was a coffee shop that opened early in the morning. I remember staff members arriving at dawn to work the breakfast shift, only to find police, fire brigades, investigators, business owners, media and onlookers milling around in the smoky light. The owners of the coffee shop hadn’t been able to contact their staff because all their records had been in the office at the back of the shop, and had burned along with everything else. The emotional impact, the sense of chaos and a world spinning out of control was so much greater because those business owners couldn’t contact their staff.
The lesson is the same, regardless of the size or location of your business: keep a copy of everything in a remote location. If it’s on the cloud, it can be accessed anywhere.
Don’t underestimate the importance of writing down every step. When an emergency hits, you won’t be thinking straight. Rely on your plan as a checklist.
Once you’ve assessed the situation and decided what to do, you need to let stakeholders know. If you don’t have one already, make a list of your stakeholders, and remember to communicate with your suppliers - they’re stakeholders too! I recommend getting a professional to help craft your business continuity messages, as the wrong tone can be worse than no communication at all. Have a couple of templates ready to go.
The best method is always to use whatever communications channels your stakeholders are accustomed to. If you’re a shop with a lot of walk-in traffic, signs on the doors is a good start. Also think about the outgoing messages on your phones, your website homepage, and social media. If you have an email list, use it. Try to communicate early, even if it’s only to say, “I don’t know enough yet, so I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”
Remember that there will be a degree of uncertainty, even fear, in the community, so any information you pass on should come from a reputable source. Refer people to appropriate authorities if they ask questions that are outside your area of expertise. Most importantly, remember that your choices can effect your stakeholders, so allow room in your business continuity plan to make changes as the situation evolves.
(C) Sally Piracha 2020
You already know that your business needs to communicate, right? Webmites is your one-stop destination for logo and branding, website, blogging, promotions and professional communications.
Alongside her expertise in business communication and marketing, Sally has considerable experience in Organisational Change Management, process improvement, project management, workflow mapping and workshop design and facilitation.