In business, as in life, it’s only a matter of when – not if – disaster strikes. Every organization is at risk for some type of emergency, whether it be big or small. This includes natural disasters, such as hurricanes and fires, cyberattacks, theft, and more. And when it comes to recovering from a disaster, the stakes are high. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25 percent of businesses don’t reopen after a major disaster.
A business continuity plan (BCP) is key to preparing your business and ensuring you’ll be there to continue to meet the needs of your customers. A BCP is a defined and documented strategy designed to help business owners and their employees prepare for any event that may disrupt business operations. The time following a crisis can be overwhelming and starting from scratch to determine a course of action puts businesses at a disadvantage, when it is critical to get back up and running.
Key steps in developing a comprehensive BCP include:
- Develop a thorough checklist that includes things like important contact lists for employees, clients/customers, vendors, insurance holders, utility providers, etc. In addition to being available electronically, these lists should also be printed and easily accessible.
- Take photos of anything and everything at your business and save them offsite in a digital format. This proof of inventory and/or workplace condition could prove very helpful when dealing with insurance claims and the like.
- Make preserving confidential business data and/or recovery of that data in the aftermath a top priority. Consider a secure cloud-based solution for effective storage, protection, and recovery solutions for data.
- Prepare your place of business like you would prepare your home. Make sure fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are working, batteries are stocked, a first-aid kit exists, and clearly communicate emergency plans to your staff.
- Think in terms of short- and long-term recovery goals. You will not bounce-back overnight and, in many cases, it may be many months. It’s important to meet and recognize short-term goals along the way, staying positive and maintaining morale.
- Update and test your BCP annually. Revise your BCP to include what you learned after each test so that it’s never more than a year old. Remember, the more you test, the more confident you’ll be in the plan and executing it.
- Review your insurance policies and confirm that your property, business liability, and worker’s comp insurance policies are aligned with your current business needs. As you do so, consider the benefits of adding a commercial umbrella policy that can cover you for losses above and beyond your existing insurance.
When creating a BCP, another factor that should not be overlooked is access to services to help drive the most critical processes during a catastrophe. For example, when disaster strikes, it’s more important than ever that employees continue to be paid. Partnering with a major, national HR technology provider can help ensure pay is not interrupted while other business operations are in flux. Some providers even offer cashflow protections to cover payroll expenses while business owners focus on getting back up and running.
Don’t be afraid to ask any of your business partners if they have a BCP and how/if they would be able to serve you during a disaster. Partners that leverage advanced technology and geographic diversity are less likely to leave you in a lurch in how your business is served during a BCP situation. This goes for your cloud provider, HR and payroll partner, CPA, bank, product manufacturer, wholesaler, you name it.
No business is immune from the threat of unexpected disaster. However, if you are confident that you and your employees have done all you can to plan and prepare for any type of emergency, and you have reputable solutions providers on your side, you can rest easier knowing that your business can weather the impact of a major storm or incident.
Mick Whittemore, Paychex VP of IT Enterprise Operations
Mick Whittemore joined Paychex in March 2016 as the vice president of information technology enterprise operations. Mick came to Paychex from serving as the chief technology officer for GE Power & Water with more than 18 years of leadership experience with the company.
Mick is an accomplished information technology leader whose extensive experience spans all aspects of IT, including data center, network, enterprise cloud, shared Web/business platforms, solution architecture, database management, and ERP technology. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree, with a concentration in information systems, from Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY.