The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has been massively destructive for many businesses across the country. In this series, we will discuss the steps you can take to prepare yourself and your workers to eventually get back to business. Part 1 will explain how business continuity plans can help you navigate these times and hopefully get you back on track sooner once the economy begins to open up.

Business continuity plans outline how you plan to keep operating in times of economic hardship. Typically, these will change a few times throughout the growth of your company, so if you know you have one, now would be the perfect time to review it and make sure it is up to date.

In a perfect world, these should be in place before disaster strikes, but better late than never. If you haven’t done these yet, take the time to put one together now. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has some really detailed information that you can reference, but here’s a condensed version of what you should know:

Establish an Emergency Preparedness team

Your Emergency Preparedness Team will be a critical part of keeping your business going during an emergency situation. They need to have the authority to make decisions quickly and effectively, and for this reason, the organization’s management team is often also the Emergency Preparedness Team. However, some companies may choose to include senior workers at the company who aren’t part of the management team, usually because of their working knowledge of the company and. However you decide to structure this team, ensure that all members:

  • Have an understanding of the organizational objectives
  • Have done solid research on the risks
  • Are able to think of creative alternatives to unique challenges
  • And have a reliable decision-making process

These individuals are going to be the backbone of your emergency plan, so whoever you choose, make sure they understand the importance of the team and that they have the best interest of the company at heart.

Get to know your numbers

This one goes without saying, but it is important enough for us to include here. You need to have a good understanding of your financial situation. This will impact the rest of your plan. Calculate and adjust your overhead costs, staffing costs, software costs, insurance and all other business expenses that could be affected by a downturn in the economy, as well as any incoming cash flow and savings that can be used as a safety net.

As you build your continuity plan, knowing your incoming and outgoing finances will play a big part in determining how long your business can survive during an emergency situation.

Identify your key services and business operations

Odds are pretty good that you are going to face some business disruptions in some way shape or form, so you may as well identify where these gaps will be early. Your business could be forced to modify, reduce, or even eliminate specific operations and services. These impacts may be felt across the organization or localized to specific business units.

A few things to take into account include:

  • High staff absenteeism
  • Unavailability of supplies and materials
  • Interruptions to services like power, transportation and communications

At this point, you’ll also want to determine your own priorities, as well as whether you are a considered an essential service. Essential services are those that continue to operate during emergency situations, such as emergency services, grocery stores and telecommunication companies. Basic criteria to help you determine if you’re business is an essential service are:

  • A service when not delivered, creates an impact on the health and safety of individuals.
  • A service that may lead to the failure of a business unit if activities are not performed in a specified time period.
  • In some organizations, services that must be performed to satisfy regulatory requirements.
  • A service where if not performed, the impact may be immediate or may occur over a certain time period.

Identify your key players

If you can afford to keep everyone on your payroll, even if you need to make some adjustments to salaries, wonderful! No one enjoys laying off their workers, especially in a situation like this. However, if you need to make some staffing changes, make sure you are keeping people that your business can’t get by without.

Chances are a few of your essential workers will have the skills or knowledge to fill a few of these new gaps, so if it makes sense for certain responsibilities to be redistributed, go for it. Just make sure to discuss your new expectations with them beforehand.

Keep in mind that it might not always be convenient to always have up to date names in your Continuity Plan, especially if you are a growing company that is still making a lot of changes to your organizational structure. In those cases, identify your key positions or departments and narrow it down as required.

Develop an action plan for your essential operations

Ok, so now you’re ready for the last step. You’ve identified your essential operations and personnel, and you know what your overall costs to run this trimmed down version of your business are. Now you need to lay out how you are going to use these resources. These are called action plans. You should have one for each of your basic functions, and each one should include:

  • A description of the service or function
  • Individuals responsible for implementing and executing the plan for each operation
  • Backup individuals if a member of the team becomes ill or cannot perform their duties
  • Any issues that may arise from the reduced business operations
  • And Include key items such as notification communication plan, staff relocation, alternate resources, suppliers, etc.
  • And Communicate your action plan, policies, and procedures.

A final piece of advice

We know this is a lot of information to take in. Luckily, there are some great resources out there to help get you started. One of our favourites is this template list from BDC. And as usual, if you have any questions or need any clarification, leave us a note in the comments. Stay safe and healthy out there!

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