Australia is bracing for probable Covid-19 outbreaks which can heavily impact businesses if workers or their families become sick or if schools send children home for any length of time. Events will get cancelled and people will stop going out.

At this point, you want to be proudly dusting off your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and thinking it’s worth its weight in gold. But what if you haven’t got a BCP, do you really need one? In short – yes you do – even if you’re just a start-up, and this is why…. 

Why start-up companies and growing businesses care about a BCP. Right Now!

When you start up a business your attention is completely on developing your product and bringing in customers and funding. The last thing you’re probably thinking about is putting a Business Continuity Plan in place and how Covid-19 may affect your business.

When I started my business, I had no idea what one was or why I should care about it, we just wanted to make sure we had enough business.

Continuous reinvestment in your business is crucial

After we survived the rollercoaster of the first year, we invested time and money into the sustainability of our business each year to put processes, systems and knowledge sharing into place so that the business could survive if key staff left.

When we applied for the Telstra Business Awards, we went through a very rigorous process which then forced us to look even deeper at our business and put together a Business Continuity Plan which we can pick up and use in cases of emergency.

Importance of a BCP – Not just another document

Luckily, I have an awesome ops manager who, while working for an American investment bank during 9/11 saw first-hand how important a solid business continuity plan was. When their World Trade Centre building was destroyed, they enacted plans which allowed them to convert hotel rooms into the trading floor, allowing them to be operational by the time the stock exchange reopened and meant they didn’t miss a day of trade.

Having had a medical issue last year and then fires which came within 10kms of my home a few years ago, I’m now even more attuned to the reality of ‘Stuff’ happens and it’s not necessarily predictable. But as I’m responsible for our business viability and for my staff’s financial livelihood I take Business Continuity Planning very seriously.

Covid-19 will affect all businesses – how depends on you

Fast forward to 2020 and we have had unprecedented bushfires, hail, floods and now the Covid-19 outbreak in China which is well on its way around the world. Many organisations and businesses in Australia have been affected as their main export base for goods or the majority of their manufacturing is done in China.

What are the essentials of a BCP?

  1. Your people – Make sure the knowledge does not just rely on one person. Cross-train your staff and have processes, procedures, knowledge and contacts documented. In our case for some web work that we do we have videos showing step-by-step what to do.
  2. Your IT systems – Make sure you have back-ups, daily, monthly, quarterly, and store offsite. In case of fire, flood, burglary, cyber-attack.
  3. Your supply chain – Start by conducting an analysis of your supply chain to understand who your suppliers are, and what the impact on your business would be if they failed to supply (break this down into time measures i.e. what would be the impact if they didn’t supply for greater than 48 hours, 1 week, 1 month etc). Then you need to think about how you might mitigate that risk; do you source back-up suppliers on different continents ready to go if issues arise?
  4. Your contacts – Make sure you have the contact details of customers, suppliers and other key service providers in one centrally located database which is accessible to multiple members (ideally on enterprise-wide software that is backed up and accessible off-site).
  5. Your premises – What happens if your site is uninhabitable due to power failure, flood, storm damage, accident? Are your people empowered to work from home? Do they have equipment to work from home and access to relevant systems to allow this?

A solid BCP will help provide a long-term healthy and sustainable business despite the curve balls that nature and external parties throw at you. You aren’t acting in a vacuum.

And whilst Business Continuity planning should be led by senior management, your whole team needs to be involved in the process. It doesn’t need to be an onerous exercise, but rather a team discussion for ideas, scenarios and solutions which can be documented and put into play if needed.

In this rapidly evolving Covid-19 scenario, reviewing and updating your BCP frequently (like weekly at the moment) makes good business sense.