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Is your garden looking lovely? It’s not quite the random question it might seem to be where business continuity planning is concerned. 
When everything is running smoothly in your business, it’s tempting to sit back and enjoy it as if you were on the patio in your garden on a sunny afternoon. 
However, weather, weeds, pests and diseases can all spoil your garden retreat and there are all sorts of things that can affect your business too. 
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst 
In a nutshell, this is what business continuity planning is all about. 
For the most part, I’m very determined and always think positively, but like everyone else my garden will become overgrown if I don’t look after it. Regular maintenance will keep it looking lovely. However, if I let things get out of control making it into a natural haven will take a lot of planning and hard work. 
Owning a business can be the same. We start out with an idyllic view of becoming a business owner, but things can easily become unmanageable. In many cases, we don’t know what the challenges can be until a fire, flood, burglary or IT failure brings things to a standstill. 
Obviously, focussing on day-to-day operations is important but an unforeseen event could not only affect you and your employees, but also your customers and, ultimately, your business reputation. 
Things to consider for business continuity 
We have all seen what a pandemic means for businesses, but even a severe outbreak of winter flu could mean key members of your team are unavailable for two or three weeks. Do you have a fall-back plan? 
Your employees might not be able to come to work due to adverse weather or a major accident on a motorway that brings traffic to a standstill. Do you have a plan for remote working or details of where your employees live and who might be able to get to work in these situations? 
If you are a manufacturer and essential equipment fails do you have service contracts and arrangements with other businesses to help you get back in action quickly? 
If your IT systems fail, due to a cybercrime attack or power surge, for example, do you have data backed up at another site, alternative IT equipment and internet access? 
It will be at times like these that your business continuity plan will be invaluable to help your business adapt quickly and continue to function. While the terms 'disaster recovery' and 'business continuity' are sometimes used interchangeably they aren’t the same thing. 
How your business continuity plan works 
When something happens that affects your usual operations, everyone should know what your plan says and what they should do. A disaster might involve a fire or explosion, but it could be as simple as a power cut. 
This is where your planning and forethought will pay off. You might have looked at the worst things that could happen internally or worked with a consultant who specialises in business continuity planning. The important thing is to have a plan and to review it regularly. 
If you need to turn to your business continuity plan it will often mean a lot of things must happen at the same time Your employees will need to respond quickly, and customers will need to be notified and reassured. 
Who are your leaders? 
With so many things happening, you won’t be able to do everything yourself. You will need to rely on several people to take leadership roles. Make sure they know what they will be expected to do, and the limits of their responsibilities too. 
Evaluate your company's systems and processes so that you can prioritise your actions to minimise disruption. This will include accessing your IT backup systems and storage so that you can continue to operate, even if it’s from a different location. To support any insurance claim, make sure you keep good records of what you do and when. 
While the theory is fine, you will need to test your plan whilst everything is running smoothly to make sure it works as you expect. Testing once won’t be enough because employees and circumstances change. Plan to test at least once a year and try to imagine different things that might challenge you to make sure your plan includes resilience. 
Make sure you include a wide range of employees, not just your managers, so that everyone knows what to expect. 
If you don’t have a business continuity plan and would like some advice about creating one, please get in touch
Until next time... 
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