Creating a business contingency plan owes to preparing and equipping yourself for any unexpected, “what if” situation that may occur in future and may cause disruption in your business. In the times of disaster, the disaster could be a natural one like floods, tornadoes, fire or the one like a hard drive failure, a server crash and a data theft, a well-designed contingency would mean the difference between survival and the end of your business. That’s exactly why contingency plan is sometimes referred to as continuity plan; it helps make sure that when things go wrong, your business is able to recover from it and continue its operations without wasting too much time.
Now that you are well aware of how important it is to create a plan B for your business, you would like to have a one-spot solution that not only just guides you through the process of designing a plan of your own but also covers all aspects of it while doing so. Here are the few tips that may help you create a contingency plan of your own, written and presented in a way that not much of an effort would be required to accomplish the job once you have gone through them.
Risk analysis and management
The first and foremost step to take is to make the analysis of different kinds of disasters and risks that are expected to cause any kind of disruption in your business.
- Identify the potential risks and threats that your business may face and prepare yourself a list of them.
- Do not over plan, over preparation will only make the matters worse; you would end up wasting money preparing yourself for something that’s very unlikely to happen.
- While it’s very important that you should be well aware of each and every potential risk your company may face, it’s not possible to come up with the plan B for every one of them. A good manager practice would be to prioritize risks so that most of the time and effort is spent on the most important risks.
Online tools like Mindtools’s (http://www.mindtools.com/) “Risk/Probability Charts” would prove to be of great help to you in prioritizing the risks your company is facing and creating a balance between over preparation and under preparation in the times of crisis. At mindtools’s website, “Risk/Probability Charts” could be found under the category of “Project Management” and the sub-category of “Project Management Framework”.
Developing the plan
These are the few things that are worth considering while you are on your way to developing an effective business contingency plan. Specifics may vary from one type of business to another that’s why the points presented here are general and are applicable to any type of business, small or big.
- Imagine the scenario: a disaster hits your work place, blocking all the exit routes of the building. All the staff members find themselves locked up waiting hopelessly for the help. The disaster’s getting worse and with every passing second, the situation seems to be getting out of control.
It would never have got that far had there been an evacuation plan in action and a proper communication channel in place to notify your personnel of evacuation.
Create an effective evacuation plan and let all the members of your staff know how it’s to be executed in the case of emergency? What exit routes are there and which one of them should be used by them when they are notified of evacuation?
- Assign some people the duty of notifying each and every one of staff members in the event of disaster. Their other responsibilities would be to make sure that the phone and e-mail contact lists of the staff members are up-to-date and are being kept in both soft and hard form.
- Make sure that your first aid kits are up-to-date and are being kept at easily accessible places on-site. Make sure that you go through the “Emergency First Aid Kit Checklist for Businesses” available at: http://sbinfocanada.about.com/ and meet the requirements set by them.
- You cannot afford losing your business data. Some of the ways to make sure that it’s protected are given below; make sure that you go through them and put them into action as soon as it’s possible.
- Keep your business data at a not-accessible-to-everyone place on-site.
- Create a hierarchy for access control so that the sensitive data is accessible only by the very few, trusted personnel. Sensitive documents in hard form can be locked in lockers accessible by only very few most trusted staff members.
- Create back-ups of your business data regularly and keep these back-ups off-site.
- Choose a proper type of insurance, one that’s adequate for the type of the business you have, so that in the event that a disaster occurs, no time’s wasted in lawsuits and stuff and the continuation of the business does not get disturbed.
- Make a list of items, equipment and materials that you would be requiring to keep your business up and running in the event of disaster. For instance, an IT solution providing company would be requiring few computers, a high speed internet connection, their business data and they would be set to continue work. You may be requiring more sophisticated equipment; make sure that the materials and equipment you would be requiring to keep your business running could be made available in no time.
- Having good ties with other business owners in the area would help you a lot in developing an effective contingency plan. Get them involved and make some kind of tit-for-tat agreement with them: “If your business gets affected by disaster, I would be glad to help and if my business gets affected, you should be glad to help”, something like that.
- While you are developing your business contingency plan, make research on the internet for different training workshops and seminars related to the topic, being organized in your area. Make research for the resources like books, video lectures or podcasts that could really help make the job easier for you.
- Keep the plan you have developed so far in both soft and printed form. The printed form should be placed at an easily accessible place; you can’t risk losing it if the circumstances force you to leave the premises of your workplace. In your plan, you may create a section for evacuation plan, a section for how everybody at the workplace would be informed of the disaster, a section for first aid kits, a section for data protection and so on.