Create your business continuity plan (with free template)

A business continuity plan could be your saving grace in the event of an emergency, so isn't it time you created one? Here's how you do it.

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As a small business owner you may have been alarmed by the events and uncertainty of the past few years. Since COVID first hit, a barrage of tough trading conditions has seen countless businesses forced into administration or even company liquidation.

With a background of Brexit, pandemics, lockdowns, the Great Resignation, an in-and-out-and-in-again recession, and other current stressors – you will need a clear plan in place to keep operations running smoothly in these uncertain times – one that focuses on the continuity, survival and durability of your small business. That’s where a Business Continuity Plan can be essential.

You may have heard about Business Continuity Plans (BCPs), but don’t know exactly what they are or how to go about creating one. Whilst many small businesses have insurances in place, far less know they need a BCP or some kind of framework to deal with unexpected or unpredictable events.

We’ll guide you through the process here, explaining the key considerations and elements. By the end of this article you’ll know how to write a thorough and workable BCP, using the free template provided to get started.

Get started with Clickup's free business continuity plan template today

Our below guide will give you detailed advice on how to write a quality BCP.

But first, you need to know what to include – and that’s where a high quality template can help.

We recommend using the free BCP template to ensure nothing gets missed. Every step involved in the business continuity plan – coordinating your emergency response, forming your strategy to get back up and running and communicating with your customers – is already mapped out for you, ready to be filled in with your details.

We recommend creating an account with Clickup to use this free template – doing so means you may be able to keep your business protected financially and otherwise in the event of an emergency. You can see the template below, or click to try it for yourself by signing up to Clickup.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

Business continuity is the ability of an organisation to continue production and delivery to an acceptable standard following a disruptive incident. A Business Continuity Plan details the steps and strategies to how you intend to do that.

Your Business Continuity Plan can take many different forms – a paper document that you could store away in a filing cabinet, or a digital document that you store on your computer (or multiple if you want to be really safe).

Ultimately it is the emergency strategy you use if you want to get your business on track in terms of regaining customers (and to avoid losing them to competitors) from supply chain issues, for example, to fixing physical damage to products or property, recovering from any losses of particularly significant people, and keeping the business from fully having to close down due to significant negative events.

You would normally use it as soon as you possibly can after said negative events to mitigate as much damage (whether physical or representational) as you can. This would also inspire confidence about you to your team and show the leadership needed to deal with stressful situations when it’s most needed.

Why is a Business Continuity Plan Important?

The state of the world leaves much to be desired right now. We are seeing such unprecedented upheavals in almost every sector of everyday life – from the cost of living, to post-pandemic effects, to rising electricity prices and other forms of inflation – that Collins Dictionary chose “Permacrisis” as their 2022 word of the year.

“Permacrisis” perfectly encapsulates the ‘survival mode’ most small business owners are in right now. But having a Business Continuity Plan ensures that your company and its assets are protected and are able to function quickly in the event of a disaster – so that the business survives with as little damage as possible (financial or otherwise).

Your business continuity plan should detail such important aspects such as:

  • Coordinating an emergency response
  • Dealing with damaged infrastructure
  • Timescales for getting systems back up and running
  • Strategies for reassuring customers

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan

We know you already have a lot on your plate right now, and creating a new plan may seem like a lot of work with multiple considerations and factors – but not to worry. A solid plan is worth it, as it can be an essential asset for years to come, and we’re here to walk you through making one.

(We’re also assuming you already have your business plan in place, but if not, we also have a guide that will give you detailed advice on how to write a quality business plan here.)

Step 1: What are your potential risks and impact?

  • Consider all the potential risks to your company. There are external risks (for example power cuts, natural disasters, cyber attacks and other things that are out of your control for the most part), and internal risks (for example sudden cash-flow issues, tough sales months or losing key staff).
  • What parts of the business could they affect? The issues could affect anything from your premises, people, stock and equipment, operations and processes, to technology.
  • What could the impact be? You could for example experience a loss of sales and income, increased expenses, decreased customer satisfaction and loyalty, delayed service delivery, poor product quality, or regulatory fines.

Let’s put it together: If you owned a hair salon and a competitor opened up next door .(potential risk), it would affect the volume of potential customers (part of business affected) and there may be a loss of sales (business impact).

Step 2: What are your critical business functions?

  • A critical business function is a process that must be restored in the event of a disruption to protect the business and keep meeting expectations (up to the standards of shareholders, for example). A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system would help with this process, and you can find some of the best CRM for small businesses here.
  • A few different business functions that exist are paperwork, employees, and production for example.
  • Using paperwork that was at risk of a fire as an example, a way to mitigate this potential risk would be to have multiple backups, in different locations and the responsibility of different people in the business.

Step 3: Who holds the key roles and responsibilities?

It’s important to consider the key roles and responsibilities in your business because that way, the right information can get to the right people in a streamlined way and issues can be resolved by the right people quickly.

These may include:

  • Internal staff (sales leaders, accountants, client managers etc)
  • External key players (contractors and service providers, suppliers and distributors, IT consultants, utility companies etc)
  • It’s important to have a list of key people (with their documented roles), and other important contacts, as well as clear instructions that clarify their responsibilities in an emergency situation.

Let’s put it together: If there was a security breach in a tech company, the customer service department (internal staff) would need to be alerted who could send out a reassuring email to customers. Next, a call would need to be made to an IT consultant to fix the issue (external key players). At the same time, a senior manager for example (key people) could also send out a message to shareholders to clear up and clarify any incorrect information showing on systems.

Step 4: What is your communication plan?

  • Who needs to be contacted: in the event of a disruption or emergency? Some examples may include employees, customers, clients, or suppliers.
  • How will you communicate with them: Depending on the severity of the situation and also taking into consideration the tone of your company brand and the mediums your customer base use most, you could use social media, press releases, or an email newsletter for example.
  • What will the tone be? The tone can be serious, reassuring, optimistic or anything else you feel most accurately serves the situation, and that would be on brand for your company.

Next Steps: Testing and Reviewing Your Plan

  • Test your plan. It is extremely important to make sure your plan works BEFORE it’s put into action. There would be nothing worse than to feel you have a good plan but when something serious actually happens, it all falls apart because it wasn’t properly tested or viable in actual practice.
  • The various components of testing may involve training staff, practice drills where you can receive feedback on areas of improvement, and allowing yourself time to make adjustments where necessary. Project management software would be useful in organising all of this with the many different people involved – we have an article on some of the best free project management software here.

When Should You Review Your Plan?

A Business Continuity Plan should be a living, breathing entity just as your company is. As life’s natural changes occur, and shifts in your business infrastructure inevitably occur over different periods of time, you will need to ensure that your plan is regularly updated so it’s the best it can be.

Key factors that should trigger a review include:

  • Changes to staff: New staff will need to be informed about the practices of your plans, and sometimes the plan may need to be adjusted to accommodate new staff, if they have specific needs for example.
  • Changes to premises: Your plan should include emergency procedures for every physical premise you have, so if there is a change there make sure your plan reflects that to ensure it’s as optimal as possible.
  • Changes to processes: If there are changes to your processes, your plan should reflect these changes so that everyone can stay updated and there is as little confusion as possible in the event of anything unexpected.

How Often Should You Review Your Plan?

  • Timeframe: An annual review is good practice to review and update your business continuity plan, because usually in that amount of time a business, the environment of the business and the world would have naturally changed and evolved to some extent.
  • Who to update: You should inform anyone within your company that the changes will affect, such as staff and employees, who will need to know in order to adjust their behaviours and processes and move forward safely. (You can use your list of key people for this).
  • How / where to store your BCP: As mentioned above in the ‘critical business section’, it’s important that your BCP is stored in a few different locations, and accessible to the people who may need it.

Your business continuity plan should not just be something you create then never intend to action. You never know when an emergency event will come into play that could potentially break your business in some way or another, and you can use the free template provided by Clickup to rectify that.

Hopefully you’ll never need to use your plan, but in the worst case scenario, you can rest assured that you have yourself and your business covered.

Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.

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