3 steps to ensure business continuity in a crisis

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According to PwC’s Global Crisis Survey 2019, 69% of leaders have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the last 5 years — with the average number being 3. Some companies emerge from a crisis unscathed – in some cases performing more strongly after the crisis than prior to it – and this blog post is designed to identify the best practices for SMEs.

The overwhelming difference between successful and unsuccessful crisis management is planning, with 54% of prepared organisations coming out on top, compared to 30% of unprepared organisations. Moreover, plans that were tested and refined led to these companies being 4 times more likely to weather the storm.

However, you can’t plan for every eventuality, so the best place to start is by considering what’s most likely to happen to your business.

1. Assess risks as they apply to *your* business – there is no ‘one size fits all’ plan

Are your premises at risk of flooding? What would happen if your software infrastructure failed? What would happen if your business hit a difficult trading period and couldn’t pay its debts?

At the time of writing, the most likely crisis to hit many UK businesses is the threat of COVID-19, an infectious disease; but again, this will affect companies very differently. A software company can ask all of its staff to work from home and probably see no difference in productivity, whereas a high street store or logistics company has a much more complex challenge on its hands.

2. Prepare a business continuity plan (BCP) – even if you’re an SME

Every size of business, from sole traders to multinational corporations, should have a BCP. This is an assessment of the most likely crises to impact your business, and what you would do to mitigate them.

Search engines are your friend here; it’s likely that you’ll be able to find example plans for your industry and size that you can use to help consider risk mitigation. 

All BCP plans should include:

  • A named crisis coordinator and their contact details – anyone can report a crisis but this individual (or team) will enact the plan. If you have multiple locations, you’ll need a coordinator at each branch;
  • An internal and external communications plan – how are you going to tell your team, and how are you going to inform customers and suppliers, of the situation;
  • Example messages – SMS, email and social media templates that you can use to communicate quickly, clearly and confidently. Remaining calm is key, and this is something that you can prepare ahead of time so you can devote your energy to more complex situations when they arise (NB: if you need any support with adding message templates to your Esendex business SMS services, just get in touch; our team will be very happy to help);
  • A list of any systems that could be affected, and details of backup options. This will also help you to identify things you can do ahead of any crisis to limit its impact. With specific reference to coronavirus, Gartner has provided 10 key questions you should consider which will help you develop this list.

3. Test your plan

You won’t know what you’ve missed or what needs fine-tuning without testing your plan. Choose a day and enact your plan to the letter – with the exception of actually sending any external comms.

You might find that emails aren’t picked up by commuting team members, so they don’t pick up messages about office closures; perhaps your list of staff mobile numbers is incomplete or out of date, so you can’t reliably reach everyone.

You may find that some of your systems are inaccessible from home IP addresses and you need IT support to ensure connectivity from all locations. You can’t anticipate everything and that’s why tests are essential.

Update your plan with the findings from your test. This isn’t just best practice; you may find some of your customers prefer to, or indeed insist on working only with suppliers who have a regularly tested BCP plan. In its way, it’s a competitive advantage.

Finally, make sure everyone in your business has access to, and understands your BCP plan. If you have a learning management system, it’s worth adding this as a course to ensure that there’s widespread engagement.

Above all, remember that it is not a matter of if, but when – and be prepared.

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Amy Robinson

Hi, I’m Amy, Senior Brand Development Manager at Esendex, with a background in digital and international marketing. I love everything to do with digital technology and improving communication between brands and their customers. I also take great pride in combining digital optimisation with user experience.