Jo Eccles, Business adviser, Forum of Private Business.
Last week’s spring-like weather may have seen us all ditching our winter woollies, but the impact of the recent floods is still being felt by small firms across the country.
One in five companies suffers a major disruption every five years and 92% of those affected by fires or flooding never recover.
Trusting to luck simply isn’t an option. If there’s one thing we can learn from recent events it’s that following certain key steps and planning for a crisis could be the difference between make-or-break should the worst happen.
An assessment is the starting point and you should begin by assessing the likelihood of particular crises occurring to your business, their possible frequency and the probability of each occurring.
Don’t forget also to think about how your customers would be affected by a crisis. Would they be likely to look for alternative suppliers? If you have service level agreements, would you be able to keep to them? What would happen if you couldn’t?
Your plans should set out how you will respond and be easy to follow. The key areas to include are the people involved in tackling the crisis and their roles; lines of communication; the process for decision-making; equipment, facilities and occupation of a crisis management centre; levels of control and authority and business continuity planning.
Your plan should also set out how you are going to recover as well as how you will minimise disruption to your business, suppliers and customers, and you should test the plans to ensure you cover any potential risks.
Once you’ve identified the key risks your business faces, you also need to take steps to protect your business against them and prevent them from happening in the first place - everything from ensuring you install alarm equipment to protect your premises in the event of fire or theft to protecting your IT systems against viruses.
Contingency planning may be the last thing on your mind as a busy business owner but, as recent events proved, it is something you will be glad you did.
You can find further advice on this and other small business issues at www.fpb.org