But something like a lockdown due to the spike of coronavirus cases doesn’t have to mean a total shut down for your business. With the right analytics at your fingertips and a solid strategy in place, you can maintain business operations and continue to serve or sell to your customers. Things may look a bit different, but you can enjoy business continuity.
The key to this is to plan for as many eventualities as possible and prepare to pivot or transform your business to meet changing demands. You need to have solid strategies that cover some worst-case scenarios. This way, you can execute your plan quickly when things change, and keep on operating with minimal upheaval. By doing this, you’ll most likely save your business and retain your employees.
An important factor to remember with your business continuity planning is that disasters come in all shapes and forms. Power outages, natural disasters like fires or earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and the big one at the moment—outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Right now, it’s essential to have a plan to keep working amidst the constant changes caused by the pandemic. However, it’s also good to consider other possibilities while you’re in the planning process.
1. Identify Core Operating Areas
The first step is to work out exactly what parts of your business are essential for operating. Do you work on a particular software system that all your employees need access to? Are you in retail and therefore need to keep people on the ground selling your products? Do you manufacture products and need to keep machines running at all times?
Once you have the answer to this, you can plan how you will keep these elements running even if you have to close your physical offices or stores. The less time between closing premises and getting people working again, the less downtime you’ll have where you aren’t making money.
2. Note The Biggest Risk Areas
Risk management is a major part of drawing up a business continuity plan. Currently, the biggest risks are exposure to COVID-19 and the spreading of the virus.
To keep your business operating, you need to consider how big a risk you, your employees, and your clients are in, as well as how to best mitigate that risk. You need to consider your business as the target of legal action if you put people at risk, or fines for not adhering to lockdown and social distancing regulations.
3. Make Staffing Arrangements
If you run the type of business that can work remotely, you need to have procedures in place to get employees set up and working from home. You need to consider their technological needs—computers, internet connection, secure access to your network or cloud storage, software, or any other tools they need to work efficiently.
If your business is in the manufacturing, warehousing, or retail sectors and requires your staff to be on the premises, then you need to know what changes you’ll make to keep everyone safe.
Measures include safety screens between stations, proper PPE for employees, easy access to sanitisers, and track and trace procedures for outsiders who visit the premises.
4. Develop A Communications Strategy
The quickest way to avoid panic in a crisis is to ensure that you have clear and concise communication between all parties. This means that your staff members need to know what is happening at all times. You should also have a line of communication open with customers and suppliers to ensure they know what changes are happening in your business.
Set up a method of communication that you know you can use in times where quick changes are necessary to keep the wheels of your business turning. This can be a text message system or email—whichever mode you know will reach everyone in time and they won’t miss.
Cash flow can suffer quickly in times of crisis. People are uncertain, the economy takes a hit, and sales can drop even if you can keep operating properly thanks to your continuity plan. It’s essential to keep a close eye on your cash flow, as it’s an integral part of keeping your business afloat.
It’s important to watch your expenses too because prices can start to increase in times of crisis. Stock, parts, and other business-related items may be harder to get a hold of due to the constraints caused by what’s happening in the world. Plus, other businesses may struggle with their cash flow and inflate their prices.
6. Have A Clear Incident Response Plan?
Once you’ve analyzed the risk factors and your essential areas for operations, it’s important to draw up a plan for how you will respond before, during, and after the crisis. Trusted management should know how to access the plan, too. The responsibility must not fall on a single person to issue instructions.
In your plan, including how you will change your work environment to keep employees and customers safe. You can include what changes you may need to make to your network setup, or even at what point you will consider a loan to make it through lean times.
If you’re debating the need for additional funds, a business loan calculator can help you ascertain what your total borrowing costs will be, your monthly repayments, and the interest you’ll owe. This gives you a clear picture of your financial situation and what to plan for.
7. Test Your Strategies
Finally, you need to ensure your strategies will work in the real world. There’s no point in creating a bullet list that makes it seem like your business will keep running smoothly, yet in reality, you end up stumbling because something doesn’t go according to how you imagined it would.
Take the time to assess all available data and weigh up various strategies versus how they’d play out. This way, you’ll have a better chance of determining whether your plan is feasible and realistic. It’s important to test your strategies regularly too, as things change in your business and the world around you.
While there’s no magic solution to surviving the pandemic, and even though every business feels the effects differently, a continuity plan puts you on the right path. By drawing up a plan with these tips in mind, you give your venture the best possible chance of seeing it through to the other side.
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This article is written by Kristie Wright.
Kristie Wright is an experienced freelance writer who covers topics on logistics, finance, and management, mostly catering to small businesses and sole proprietors. When she’s not typing away at her keyboard, Kristie enjoys roasting her own coffee and is an avid tabletop gamer.