A dramatic business disruption can happen at any time and come in many forms, whether the result of a natural disaster or a criminal act. And while you may have insurance to cover the physical impact of a flood or fire, what happens to your actual day-to-day business operations while you assess the damage and plan your next move? How do you ensure that the right steps are taken during a crisis to keep your business running while you work towards recovery?
Continuity through crisis
Brett Reddock is the president of Redd Knights Group Inc., an advisory firm that works with organizations to ensure they’re more resilient in protecting their assets.
“The biggest thing I see is that many companies still don’t know the difference between a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and an Emergency Response Plan (ERP),” he says.
The key point of a BCP is that it defines the most vital processes within your organization and outlines a plan for those processes to remain operational in the event of an emergency so that critical business functions don’t come to a halt.
“Plans should not be done in isolation. It requires collaborative discussion among departments and it needs to be championed by the powers that be so that it’s treated as a priority.”
“Start by identifying all the departments within your organization,” Reddock says. “Then identify which are essential and what processes within those departments are essential.”
Companies then must consider a time tolerance—how long they can go without certain functions—and be clear on which departments can be put on hold without it having an immediate impact on the most vital business services.
“This is not something that gets done in a month,” Reddock says. “This is a lengthy process to explore. And plans should not be done in isolation. It requires collaborative discussion among departments and it needs to be championed by the powers that be so that it’s treated as a priority.”
The Business Development Bank of Canada published an eight-step guide to building an effective BCP, which includes establishing an emergency preparedness team and preparing a plan for each essential service or function of your company. It also provides downloadable templates you can use to help structure your own plan.
“A plan can keep you from overlooking critical steps in the heat of the moment,” says Martin Allard, assistant vice president, Special Accounts at BDC.
Anderson Group, a Quebec-based agriculture equipment manufacturer and BDC client, recently shared its story on how having a strong continuity plan helped save the business after 75 per cent of its factory was destroyed in a fire.
Other tools to build your plan
The federal government recently updated its online resource centre for business continuity planning, which includes a detailed guide to help Canadian businesses get started, along with a list of local, provincial and territorial Emergency Management Organizations (EMOs).
There are also online forums you can join to follow the latest news around continuity management and engage with other business leaders on best practices and global trends.