Unforeseen crises affect businesses big and small, so it pays to be prepared. A contingency plan can help you safeguard your assets, premises and personnel, and get things moving again when normality is restored.
Implementing an effective contingency plan is a must in these challenging times, but understanding what’s required can be tricky. To help, we’ve put together this practical guide on how to create an emergency contingency plan for your business.
- First Steps to Contingency Planning
- Things to Include in a Contingency Plan
- Tips on Implementing Your Plan During Challenging Times
Having a contingency plan in place offers a wealth of benefits for your business in a time of crisis, not to mention the peace of mind that your assets and operation are safeguarded. However, knowing where to start with contingency planning can be tricky, with lots of things to consider in the early stages.
Below, we offer a few essential tips to help you get the ball rolling with a contingency plan.
Think About the Main Risks to Your Business
Lots of things can affect your business, no matter its size. The first step to any contingency plan is identifying what the main risks to your operation are; here are a list of examples:
- Natural disasters which damage your property or interrupt operations
- Unforeseen pandemics or outbreaks which affect your operation and supply chain
- Data theft and cybersecurity breaches
- Personal issues, like the death of a family member
- Legal issues
- Technical issues
These are just a few examples of the potential risks your business could face. By listing threats to your operation, you’ll be well placed to draw up a contingency plan which puts measures in place to deal with each risk.
Consider the Stages and Structure of Your Contingency Plan
Good contingency plans set out a measured response to business continuity, often in three distinct stages:
- Immediate – things to do right away, including calling suppliers and customers, evacuating the premises, and making sure that IT are alerted.
- Interim – covers the steps needed to keep the business going in the wake of an incident, from liaising with finance personnel to coordinating with suppliers and staff.
- Recovery – the steps required to begin the rebuild and relaunch the business, be it restarting marketing channels, investing in security or hiring specialists.
While the contents of your contingency plan will differ depending on the sector you operate in, it’s important to be as comprehensive as you can – even if some points might seem irrelevant. Below, we list some of the essentials to cover in a contingency:
- Evacuation plan – if you operate on a commercial or private premises, an evacuation plan is a must. Make sure it’s well publicised so that all members of staff are aware of the procedure.
- Communication plan – make sure that lines of communication between key stakeholders and suppliers are kept open in the event of a crisis. List the names and contact information for partners, suppliers and key staff, and also include phone numbers for essential services personnel.
- Data protection process – data is an invaluable asset for any business, and should be adequately protected in the event of a crisis. Work with IT personnel to develop a robust protection plan which safeguards your data in an emergency.
- Security – list the security provision which should be in place to safeguard your operation in a crisis. Mitigating the risk of theft and loss of assets is crucial if your business is to recover in the wake of an emergency.
- Mismanagement processes – one of the most difficult risks to plan for, mismanagement can have a detrimental impact on your business and be difficult to recover from. Assess your current processes and draw up a checklist as part of an action plan to avoid mismanagement and aid recovery in the event of.
Drawing up a contingency plan is all well and good, but in a crisis, procedures can be difficult to follow, and key steps can be easy to overlook. To give you the best possible chance of implementing contingency measures effectively, here are a couple of practical steps to consider:
- Set out a contingency timeline which lists what tasks and measures need implementing and when. This will make it easier to manage the process, and less likely that key steps will be overlooked.
- Know exactly what your key assets are, so that nothing gets overlooked as part of the plan. Company assets can include stock, data, personnel and your premises.
- Recognise that your business is in survival mode, with every ounce of effort and funding required to keep it afloat. Even small changes and measures can make a difference in how well your business is able to overcome a crisis.
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