Crises can occur at any time – and without warning. You can put yourself in the best possible position by creating a crisis contingency plan. Let’s find out more.
We’ve created a checklist to help you navigate the process of creating a crisis contingency plan. Whether you anticipate future business issues or not, you need to know how to prepare for an economic crisis. Work through these 10 steps to build a solid plan and protect your business.
1. Identify key risks
If you want to prepare your business for disaster, you’ll need to work out which crises are most likely to affect it. Then, you can create relevant plans to safeguard the company.
Think about whether you work with hazardous products, sell appliances that may need to be recalled or deal with large volumes of data, for example. Is your business based in an area at risk of natural disasters, like flooding, hurricanes or wildfires? Are your employees hired to do manual labour and are accidents likely to happen?
Once you’ve jotted down a list of the top risks facing your business, it’s time to think about how you can avoid them…
2. Work out what you can do to avoid these crises in the first place
Before you start drafting up a list of response measures, take the time to consider whether the issues you’ve identified could be avoided altogether. As they say…
prevention is better than cure
You’ll be wasting your time if you set about remedying issues that could have been sidestepped in the first place. For example, if you can, consider running extra training workshops to make sure your employees are using the strictest safety measures, or implement precautionary measures when floods are forecast.
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3. Develop response measures
If there’s nothing you can do to stop certain issues arising, you’ll need to work out how you can react quickly to protect your business as much as possible. The measures you take will depend upon the specific risk you’re facing, so you should think long and hard about how you can best minimise disruption.
Let’s say fire damages your business premises. It’s likely you’ll need to find a temporary place to work from, until your original site has been restored. You may also need to be ready to invest in new equipment or hire IT support to install computers at your new address. These are just a couple of emergency measures; you should also consider your response from a management, logistical and personnel perspective.
4. Work out what you can do in advance
Once you’ve got a plan of action for each potential crisis, you should make sure you know your timeline. Which actions should be taken immediately, and which ones can wait? With your timeline in hand, scour the list for measures you can take in advance. Is there any way you can save time by completing some steps before you actually need to?
Using the example of the fire again, you might end up replacing damaged equipment, paying extra rental fees for your new site and losing some of your local clients. So, taking out the right insurance and developing an emergency customer newsletter or marketing material beforehand could help you save time and money if disaster strikes.
5. Identify essential operations
To make sure your business continues to run smoothly, your crisis contingency plan should include a rundown of your company’s ‘essential operations’. In other words, which aspects of your business do you most rely on to attract customers and generate money? Once you’ve considered this, you should ask yourself which areas can you afford to neglect for the time being.
For instance, could you pause your overhaul of the company website to pour all available capital into safeguard the business? Could you temporarily shut down your secondary income stream to dedicate more time to focussing on a fraud case? In the event of a national epidemic, could you withdraw from industry conferences and events to protect your workforce?
6. Identify alternative operations
Of course, minimising your operations will probably have a negative impact on your revenue, so you’ll need to think about how you can compensate for your emergency measures. Focus on free or low-cost ways of boosting your income, productivity or brand recognition.
Rather than overhauling your company website, you could launch a social media campaign. And while you’re not attending industry events, why not join online communities and host virtual conferences?
7. Implement flexible sick leave and other employee support policies
One of the biggest problems for businesses is employee absenteeism. So, your crisis contingency plan should also include measures to minimise disruption caused by workers taking sick leave when bugs are going around.
If possible – and if you haven’t already done so – make it easier for staff to work from home. Once you’ve put these allowances in place, they won’t have to take a day off if they can work, but don’t want to give co-workers their cough or cold.
Also, consider taking measures to protect employees’ mental health – particularly if their jobs are stressful. By granting small amounts of time off here and there, you can avoid larger problems in the long run.
8. Create plan of action if absenteeism spikes
If the situation deteriorates and lots of your workers need to take sick leave, your business is likely to suffer. It’s crucial you think about how you can keep staff numbers up, should viruses affect a large portion of your workforce. This might involve hiring temp workers or even enlisting the help of friends and family.
Needless to say, the COVID-19 crisis has shown us just how devastating viruses can be for businesses. Even if staff members aren’t experiencing symptoms, government safety measures may force you to send your workers home. This is particularly likely if you work in the hospitality industry, and your employees interact with customers all the time. There may be nothing you can do, but in this case, your crisis contingency plan could include applying for government loans to cover your temporary staff shortage.
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9. Test your crisis contingency plan
Once you’ve finished building your crisis contingency plan, you can check its effectiveness by simulating potential disasters. Of course, there’s no need to actually cause them – simply role-play scenarios without making any real changes. When you’re doing this, always ask the relevant people to run through the main processes with you. This is key; having a fresh pair of eyes to review the plan may help identify any flaws or snags.
10. Regularly review your crisis contingency plan
Your plan should always be up to date and relevant. You can avoid having to rewrite it every time a staff member leaves or joins the team by using job titles rather than personal names. But, aside from this, consider revisiting your contingency document on a regular basis. Insert additional measures for any new services or platforms you introduce over time, and reconsider any actions you proposed for areas you’ve since made changes to.
You can never be completely prepared for crisis, but having an extensive contingency plan will help you combat the issue as best you can. Being proactive and putting safety measures in place before disaster strikes should minimise disruption to your business.
If your business is struggling and you haven’t yet prepared a crisis contingency plan, there’s no need to panic. Read our article ‘Create a Crisis Management Plan For Your Business...Now!’ for helpful guidance on how to survive unforeseen issues.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©