Business Continuity Management 101 for Small Business Owners

No business is too small to consider the risks and challenges that come with disasters or other disruptions. Anything from bad weather to cyberattacks to political unrest can create  circumstances that disrupt daily operations and put  the future of your business is at stake.

Such circumstances may seem impossible to plan for, but once emergency events take place, it’s too late to start strategizing. Creating a business continuity management plan provides your business with a valuable resource that can guide you through unprecedented challenges and mitigate potential fallout from the disruption.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a basic overview of what the business continuity management process looks like:

1. Brainstorm Possible Emergencies Your Business Might Face

If you’re sitting down to discuss business continuity needs for the first time, it’s helpful for everyone involved in this process to connect your planning needs to real-world scenarios your business might face.

For virtually every business, a cybersecurity breach is an obvious disaster scenario. Your business must accept the fact that it could fall victim to a cyberattack of some form, Whether through phishing scams, malware, or network breaches,  cybersecurity attacks should be accounted for when considering potential disruptions to business operations.

Other disaster scenarios should be discussed and used to evaluate business continuity needs. What if a fire or severe storm destroys your office building? What if a global pandemic forces you to take  your business operations fully remote overnight? (Sound familiar?)

2. Identify Your Most Critical Business Functions

When it comes to business continuity management, your focus should always be  preserving business operations to the greatest extent possible. To do this, you first need to figure out which functions of your business are most crucial to your operations.

Can most of your staff work remotely? Do you have backup servers in place to maintain online business operations in the event of a cyberattack? By establishing these priorities, you lay the groundwork for a rapid response and ensure the necessary resources are in place to maintain or restore critical functions as quickly as possible.

3. Create Your Plan

You know the challenges your business may face in a disaster scenario, as well as the top priorities for keeping your business up and running. Now it’s time to draft a plan that outlines clear procedures to guide your company’s response.

As you develop this plan, you will also need to identify specific roles that personnel can play to oversee a coordinated, by-the-book business continuity response. Involve stakeholders from different departments within your company, including marketing, IT, sales, and other core services—a variety of perspectives  will be integral to building a plan that is comprehensive and achievable.

Your plan should outline thorough directions for each  task required to maintain operations. This should include information on how to locate and activate data backups for your company, how to coordinate your business operations with local emergency response units, and other steps essential to mitigating risk as much as possible.

4. Test and Update Your Plan as Needed

A business continuity plan is only as good as its performance in a live setting. Drafting a thorough plan is an important first step, but its effectiveness can only be measured once you put it to the test.

Testing can be executed in several ways:

  • Review of your plan: At the very least, a business continuity management plan should be thoroughly reviewed by all department leaders to identify any oversights or challenges not addressed in the plan. This review can also ensure that appropriate roles are assigned to the various tasks included in your plan.
  • Tabletop test: This is a role-playing exercise that walks through your continuity plan without actually disrupting any of your current operations. All employees can participate in this test and offer feedback at its conclusion.
  • Live simulation: In this scenario, your business actually simulates a business disruption and full implementation of each task included in your business continuity plan. You can conduct this plan using a backup server to ensure customers are not impacted by the drill. .

After testing is complete, hold a discussion with key stakeholders involved in the plan’s development, as well as the personnel that participated in the live test. Solicit feedback and recommendations, and evaluate the test’s performance to identify strategic improvements, such as shifting around priorities or adjusting roles and responsibilities to improve the speed and efficiency of your response.

It’s Never Too Early to Start Thinking Ahead

Small business leaders are often overwhelmed with work demands—even when business is operating normally.. Given those challenges, the addition of a business continuity plan can sometimes feel overwhelming and easy to shrug off.

By kicking the can down the road, though, your business will likely be ill-equipped to handle a disaster scenario. No one can foresee disaster, but you can avoid jeopardizing business operations with a comprehensive recovery plan. Start business continuity discussions now and invest in a plan that will pay off should disaster strike. 

Discover more tips and insights in our guide, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: A Roadmap for Small Businesses.


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