Creating Your Business Development Plan

I had just been hired by a company to help it turn things around when there was a fire in the corporate office. Now, as a Turnaround Authority I had come in to “put out fires” before but this was the first time we literally had flames!

Fortunately, the company’s records were backed up once a week. Unfortunately, the person designated to take home the back-up every week so it would be in a separate location was out sick that day. In addition to everything else that was lost, a week’s worth of records were unrecoverable.

While this company eventually recovered, some don’t ever recover from a disaster. They lose weeks of production resulting in the loss of sales, profit and customers. Even if a company has business interruption insurance, it may not be enough to cover the losses suffered. And it won’t get your customers back.

In last week’s column I discussed the need for every business to have a continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan and the three elements that should be included: how employees will communicate, where they will go and how they will continue to do their jobs.

This week I’d like to address how you get started creating one. It is an extensive document and can be an overwhelming process, but there is help.

There are a lot of great resources for businesses on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website, including this helpful diagram of the four steps of an effective BC/DR plan. Business Continuity Planning Process

Step One: Business Impact Analysis

The first step is to gather information to evaluate how your business will be impacted should operations be disrupted. Conduct a risk assessment and look for areas where your business may be vulnerable should a disaster occur. For example, does your building have an operational sprinkler system and are your fire alarms fully operational? Do your employees know what to do in case of fire?

Use a Business Impact Analysis Worksheet that breaks down the operational and financial impacts according to the timing and duration of the disruption in business operations. For example, a company that distributes gardening supplies and experiences a disaster in January will be less affected than if the same disaster occurred in April, a busier time of year. And obviously, a power outage that lasts a few hours is much less disruptive than one that may continue for several days.

Step Two: Recovery Strategies

Using the information you gathered in step one, document and identify your options for recovery and areas where you may need to fill in gaps. You may have identified that you don’t have current information on how to reach your employees in the event of an emergency. Perhaps an alternate site that you had previously identified for relocation is no longer a viable one or your technology needs have changed.

After selecting strategies that will work for your company, have management approve them and then begin to implement those strategies.

Step Three: Plan Development

Develop the framework of your plan. You may wish to use the Business Continuity Plan form that is provided on the FEMA website. The form will help you organize the business continuity team and addresses interaction with external organizations. Who will contact your vendors and contractors? The form includes a place to list all your vendors and contractors along with their contact information.

Step Four: Testing and Exercise

The last step includes developing an orientation exercise and testing for the business continuity team. Employees need to understand their roles and responsibilities and have a firm understanding of all the procedures involved.

After conducting testing, incorporate any lessons learned or gaps that were discovered into your plan.

The FEMA website also has Business Continuity Planning Suite software that you can download to help your business create, improve or update your business continuity plan. The software includes a 30-minute video-based course to get you started. And that is an important step if your business does not have a BC/DR plan — get one started.

Look for me November 10 at 4:30 at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. I’ll be discussing my book,  ”How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes.” The event is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.

When Disaster Strikes: Creating a Business Continuity Plan

The pipes in the office on the floor above yours burst and your entire floor is flooded and all the computer equipment is destroyed. There is a weeklong ice storm that shuts down the power in your building and no one can work there until it is restored. There is a flu epidemic in your town and half your staff is unable to work for several days.

These are just a few among many events that could occur that could temporarily shut down your business. What would you do then? Do you have a business continuity plan?

In this two-part series we will cover what should be included in a business continuity plan and how you get started creating one.

You have probably also heard of a disaster recovery plan. That is essentially the same as a business continuity plan but because of our human nature and our “that can’t happen to me” mentality, business owners and CEOs often neglect to get around to creating one so the industry often uses the term business continuity plan instead. While there are some distinctions, the two types of plans are often referred to as BC/DR — business continuity, disaster recovery so that’s the term I’ll use.

I will address three elements that should be included in a BC/DR plan: how will employees communicate, where will they go and how they will continue to do their jobs. Let’s address each of these.

1. How will your business communicate?

Every business should have an emergency communication plan and a person designated to be in charge of declaring a disaster and implementing that communications system. Determine whom your business will need to communicate with: off-site employees, families, vendors, customers, emergency responders. Make sure you have up-to-date contact information for everyone and assess the availability of alternate means of communication, for example using your Facebook and Twitter account to communicate with the public on your situation.

In the old days, groups of people used to communicate with phone trees – a network of people to spread information, set up like a pyramid with one person calling two people, who each call two until everyone is notified. Set up a phone tree for your business as a back up in the event other types of communication are shut down.

2. Where will your employees go?

The most important rule in a BC/DR plan is people first. You must first secure everyone’s safety before moving on to the resumption of business operations. If the offices are not inhabitable the next issue is where the people and operations will go. The BC/DR plan needs to include a designated relocation area.

You will also want to have a teleworking policy in place for employees for whom that is appropriate.

3. How will your employees continue to do their jobs?

This step is obviously the critical one for the continuity of your business. Assuming you have a place to go and all your data backed up and available off-site, how will your employees access it?

The days of lining up desks and phone and getting back to work are over — getting the necessary systems up and working can be much more complicated these days. Your plan needs to include how you can get employees functioning again as soon as possible.

Creating an effective BC/DR plan is time-consuming and complicated. But your business really can’t afford not to have one. Next week we’ll discuss how to go about creating one.

Look for me November 10 at 4:30 at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. I’ll be discussing my book,  ”How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes.” The event is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.