Preparing for Business Continuity has never been more important. There are several things that could go wrong in business, some will be within your control and some, like the current #COVID-19 #Coronavirus pandemic, are partially beyond your control. Nevertheless, there are important steps that you can take so that your business is well prepared for any eventuality. If you weren’t prepared for this one, learn the lessons for the future and write down what you could have done to make things easier. For example, if you run an office based business, is the software you and your employees use online so that you can all work from home? Are you well versed in having online meetings, using VOIP or web conferencing? What if you run a gym – could you send out a link to your members to join classes online from the safety of their homes? Maybe you could even get more members that way – perhaps even a global membership. Could your store or restaurant do home deliveries from your website? Do you have your customers’ email addresses to contact them to keep them engaged in buying from you? It’s truly a time to recognise and seize opportunities and make the best of a bad situation.
Now that a serious situation is affecting many businesses on the planet, it adds credence to the mantra that anything can happen to your business, and you should try to be prepared for any eventuality. At Cedar Rose, in our 23 years in business we have moved offices 7 times in 3 different countries, been burgled once in the UK, been through a war, been flooded, been subject to ransomware, cyber-attacks, fraudulent emails, excessive workload following 911, water cuts, daily power cuts both in Lebanon and when the power station exploded in Cyprus, been through a serious economic crisis including 2 week bank closures in Cyprus and now restrictions in Lebanon, been through the Cedar Revolution, the Arab Spring and more recently the Lebanon Demonstrations against the government which have made home working a regular occurrence for our research and IT teams. On top of that, we’ve been subjected to extortion in Lebanon and had to fight in both Lebanon and Cyprus for VAT refunds! But, we are still here, still in business, growing and going strong. Every new disaster gives us more experience and makes us better prepared for the next one! So, how can your business be prepared and how do you start with writing a Business Continuity Plan, or a Disaster Recovery Plan?
- Start with identifying what could go wrong. My list above may sound extreme, but I never would have imagined many of these things would happen. Disastrous situations don’t usually come with a warning either – they often happen instantly – so being prepared for any kind of disastrous scenario is essential. Use my list as a guideline, but imagine what else would severely affect your business. It’s time to be over-dramatic and plan for the absolute worst – earthquake, fire, flood, pandemic, war, revolution, internet breakdown, fuel shortages, postal strikes, lack of power, lack of financing, death of key personnel or cash-flow crisis. Be as pessimistic here as you possibly can.
- Think what is essential for your business to operate and whether there could be a replacement. For example, most businesses need finance to keep going (in the form of payments from customers or loans from the bank) but what else fuels your business? In our business it is data, our servers, the internet and our people so these are the main things we need to protect with our Business Continuity Plan. Identify what your priorities are, and how you could find alternative ways of working, even if it means going back in time temporarily to how things were done in the past, perhaps even bartering or heavens forbid, dusting off your fax machine!
- Plan how you would continue either in business or personally (if you are a sole proprietor) if any of the above disasters happened and what affect they would have on those essential factors identified in number 2) above. Do you have cash reserves, a healthy stock of goods, staff trained to know what to do, electricity generators or server batteries, laptops fully charged, dried and tinned food reserves at home, water supplies, enough toilet paper to last a few weeks ahead or at least a plan to survive without!
It may seem late now to plan for such a scenario, because we are currently living it – but it is still a good exercise to go through now because it will help you be fully prepared should another similar crisis happen in the future. Writing down what steps to take will also help you see more clearly what you can do now, if anything, to ease the current situation. And in my experience, if your business survives many years, you will face many challenges. In the words of Lord Baden Powell, like all good boy scouts and girl guides – “be prepared!”
Having a well disseminated Business Continuity Plan at the start of this global crisis meant that even though the Directors of Cedar Rose were abroad at the time of the office closure, our Business Continuity Committee – who meet regularly from two different continents to discuss new thoughts and ideas and make action plans – stepped up to the plate and put the previously written plan into action. Having learned from the past, we have made sure our website is ready to take orders and provide information to our clients, for new clients to register and for our risk mitigation services to continue from our clients' point of view as if nothing had happened. We are even launching a new, even more user friendly website this weekend, 21st-22nd March, 2020, to make that process easier. I'd welcome any feedback if you want to check it out.
Together, we can get through this. Let's help each other. And remember, slowing down payments to your suppliers will create a domino effect. That's really not what the world needs right now, so keep those payments going out on time and encourage your customers politely to do the same. If businesses are not paying you on time, let us know by adding your rating on our website - just search for the company and click to anonymously rate so that other suppliers of theirs can be warned when they purchase a credit report. Sharing this information will encourage companies to do the right thing, and keep their own credit rating healthy by making timely payments. Let us know about the good payers too!
At Cedar Rose, we continue to adapt and learn from what is happening now to be better prepared and turn a bad situation now into positive action for the future. Perhaps you can too.