The one thing we’ve all learned recently is that however devastating something has the potential to be, a little forward planning can really help to lessen the effects. 

Whether that’s flinging a packet of flour and some yeast into a shopping basket on the day before lockdown or giving thought to alternative ways of doing business before we have a crisis on our hands, a little forethought can go a long way to ensuring access to our daily bread.

Why we’re all practising business continuity

‘Business continuity’ may not be a phrase that’s often on the lips of SME management teams, but business continuity planning is something that every organisation in the UK has been catapulted into doing during these last few weeks. From food wholesalers quickly setting up home delivery services to martial arts academies offering online sessions, SMEs across the UK have embraced technology and leapt into the unknown in a valiant effort to survive and thrive.

Here, we share our 5Ps of business continuity. It’s a simple and straightforward way to evaluate the risks that face your business so you can strengthen your response.

People

As part of your business continuity planning, you should look at who’s essential in your business. Those who have been through the furloughing process will already have a handle on who their key people are, and some have no doubt been surprised at their findings. Figureheads have a high intrinsic value when it’s business as normal, but it’s all too easy to overlook the ‘key cogs’ who can keep operations ticking over and ensure customers come back for more, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

Questions to ask yourself:

‘How would we manage without each critical person’s expertise for two weeks? Four weeks? Three months? How could we cover their absence? Who could step into their shoes? What training would they need?’

Processes

Streamlined and documented processes make your business more efficient day-to-day, but will yours only work if the inputs remain the same? Step back from your processes and consider how much you take for granted and what you would do in the event of disruption.

You may like to ask yourself:

‘What would happen if there were no new leads going into our CRM system? How would we generate revenue? How could we adapt our products/services to attract a new audience? How could we change our marketing?’

Key products

The problem with cash cow products or services is that they can stop giving you milk at any time. If you’ve relied on steady income from one or two key products/services, you’re not as resilient as you could be. Now’s a great time to consider diversifying or cross-selling.

Questions to ask yourself:

‘What would happen if we couldn’t produce our most popular item due to a supplier failure? Where could we source materials from? What would the cost and quality implications be?’

‘What would we do if we couldn’t ship our best-selling product?’

‘What would happen if we couldn’t market a service as effectively or if the cost of marketing suddenly increased?’

Partners

No business operates in a vacuum, so you have to keep a watchful eye on your key clients and suppliers. By understanding what’s going on in their world, you can protect your own business and even spot new opportunities.  

Challenge your team:

 ‘Do we have too many eggs in one basket? Would losing our biggest client put us at immense risk?’

‘Do our key suppliers make business continuity plans of their own? What would happen if a key supplier went into administration? Do we understand how our suppliers can make us vulnerable?’

‘What would we do if our tech provider couldn’t fix our issues for two weeks? When would we move to another supplier? Who would we use? Would it cost more?’

Property

There are two types of property that can put your business at risk: IP and physical property. Ensure that you think about both to make sure that your business is fully protected.

Questions to ask yourself:

‘What would happen if our patent comes to an end or a competitor blew our USP out of the water?’

‘What would happen if we couldn’t access our office premises or if the road to our warehouse was closed?’

‘What would happen if our property was stolen or damaged en route to a client?

The gold standard of business continuity planning

It’s fair to say that any business that survives this year will have passed a business continuity practical examination like no other. However, it’s worth thinking ahead now to what your clients will be looking for in the future – will they be looking for concrete proof that your operations are as close to bulletproof as it’s possible to get? If so, certification to ISO22301, the Business Continuity Management Standard, will signal that you have made every effort to anticipate and plan a workaround for the unexpected. It’s hard to ask for more!

Can we help?

If you’re interested in strengthening your business, please contact us on 01926 800710 or email us at info@riskevolves.com to arrange a free 15-minute phone consultation.  

This blog is the first in our ‘survive and thrive’ series which will help you be more competitive, responsive and ready to do even better business. Please join our mailing list to be notified of future blogs and to receive our new guide to business continuity, due to be published in May. You can register in the footer of our website or fill in our ‘contact us’ form.