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How to create a business continuity plan

What needs to go in to make sure you’re covered for all eventualities?

It’s all very well having a business continuity plan somewhere on file, but if you haven’t got the right areas covered in it, it’ll be about as much use in a crisis as a chocolate teapot. The following list covers the bare minimum of what you’ll need to include in your own plan. Of course, depending on the nature and intricacies of your business they’ll be areas to expand on, but this should offer you a solid starting point.

Insurance

First and foremost you should be adequately insured for all likely business disruptions. Your policy should include cover for material damage, such as a fire, flood or burglary. You should also seriously consider getting business disruption cover too. A bad fire could mean several weeks or even months when you’re unable to trade as normal. If you’re properly insured you could be entitled to claim back any loss of earnings as a result of the initial problem.

Staff

On a more basic level, your business continuity plan should have details of how, or if, staff can carry on with work if they don’t have access to the office or premises. Obviously this is tricky in industries such as retail where their physical presence is the very nature of the job. However, making sure they can access emails and important documents remotely should allow staff to get on with the work relatively unaffected in the event of travel disruptions or an office closure.

Your business continuity plan should also detail who is in charge of what in the event of an emergency. If there’s a severe fire or flood, who’s in charge of recovering data, reordering essential stock or making sure your biggest clients are being kept in the loop? This should all be laid out in the plan to ensure as smooth a recovery as possible in the days and weeks after the initial disaster.

And of course then there’s the issue of staff illness. Recent global health scares including SARS, and more recently, Swine Flu have given us all food for thought on about the possibility of a pandemic. In a small business, even one or two absences could equate to over 50% of the workforce off sick.

Could your business run on a skeletal workforce if illness strikes your company? Mass staff absence will undoubtedly affect your resources, but if you’ve already planned what operations could continue with 50% or even just 10-20% of the workforce present, you can make the best use of the staff that are at work. If you’re running a business that simply can’t cope if more than one or two staff are off sick then you need to check the small print of any business disruption cover you’ve taken out and make sure it covers you for such eventualities.

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