3 Reasons Business Continuity Planning is Essential, Even with Online Businesses

Running a business is not easy. Your predecessors know it. You know it. After all, you’ve experienced it. Right?

There are several challenges that all businesses face. There are also challenges that pop up on the road to success for any business-in-the-making.

In spite of these challenges, you have to stay focused on the areas that matter most.

One challenge is “Business Continuity.”  And, when thinking of business continuity, the phrase, “Business Continuity Plan” (BCP) or “Business Continuity Planning” (which could also go by BCP). For the sake of simplicity, we will use the acronym, BCP, for the plan itself, rather than the planning process.

Business Continuity Examined

Over time, people have had issues with business continuity. Great. But, what is business continuity and why should you care?

Business Continuity is where a business needs to continue to deliver its products or services to customers in spite of its environment or the impact of environmental factors. In effect, it is the answer to the question of “What does it take to continue business?” Hence, the phrase “business continuity” aptly describes what is occurring, as well as what is happening in the planning process.

Most of the time, people think of this in terms of what happens after a disruptive event. So, an example of a disruptive event may be a “caused” event, like a riot, or a “natural” event, like an earthquake.

However, just because the disruptive event has a negative connotation does not mean that it is negative. This event does not necessarily have to be a bad thing like a natural disaster, it could be something like a shift in the market or new technology.

Planning for what will occur during that event (even if it is good!) is essential. As we mentioned, this planning is called business continuity planning (BCP).

Now that we know what business continuity and BCP are, let’s look at the three essential reasons for having that BCP.

BCP Essential Reason 1: Maintaining Business Income

When a sort of business disruption happens, like a change in the market, and you cannot deliver products or services to customers, your business loses sales.

The question is not whether or not the disruption or change caused a loss, but rather, how large is that loss. It is more of a case of the measurement of the loss than a binary of whether or not the loss occurred. The odds are that at the end of the day, there is likely a customer that is probably not going to be back at your business. This, unfortunately, is normal, with any sort of disruption, good or bad.

Even something as basic as changing the event calendar can cause customers or clients to move away from a particular brand because they are not comfortable with the new schedule. This is only used as an example.

The current market is so competitive that companies cannot afford to lose sales that are potentially “in the bag.” By having a plan (BCP), your company can act quickly when needed. This keeps things going. There are many companies that do not have a plan, so if you have one, you are ahead of the game.

Possibly, by having a BCP, your company will gain market share during more global disruptive events (even if localized).

BCP Essential Reason 2: Credibility of Your Business

Another essential reason is the existence and credibility of your business.  Refer to the “cherry pie” example, below, for an example that helps illustrate this reason.

So, we already looked at the fact that it is important to continue to make a profit, in spite of the circumstances, but what about the business itself?

Even if your business could technically survive an outage (money-wise, continuing to pay the employees and bills), it doesn’t mean that your business could survive.  You still need the credibility of surviving in spite of the outage.

You need the business that you bring in AFTER the disruption and this is why you need to survive DURING the disruption.

BCP Essential Reason 3: Stability in the Community (and Market)

When something major happens and it is disruptive to the community (i.e. a negative community event, earthquake, tornado, etc.), there is sometimes a fear that permeates the community. Even when undefined, all who live and work in the community feel it.

One of the biggest (and first) signs of recovery is that of the doors re-opening. It is when small businesses open their doors to the community and start up business again.

Small businesses play a vital role in the local community.

This is true even if the small business is online. They can still give that feeling of “doors opening” even if it is about getting their website up and running after a disruptive event has thrown the community off-balance.

When something happens to disrupt life, it is vital for companies to get back up and running quickly. This not only drives their sales, but more importantly, it provides stability in the community, the market, and the economy overall.

Business Continuity and the Online Company (or Online Presence of an Offline Company)

These days, many companies have an online presence in addition to their “brick and mortar” existence in the community. And, there are those companies who start with their online companies and develop a local presence after the fact. Whether one comes before the other or vice versa, it is not uncommon for businesses to have the existence of both.

For those who have the online business, it is just as imperative that business continuity planning takes place for them, as well. In other words, that business continuity planning is essential for both the online and offline world.

Many people who have the online business have made the mistake in the past of not having a continuity plan. However, even with an online business, it is essential for you to have a plan in this area.

An online business can be disrupted just like any physical business. In addition, online companies are susceptible to different risks as well.

An example of a risk that faces an online business is a cyber attack.  Such an attack could wipe out the online platform for a few hours, at the very least. In this case, the BCP would be a plan that deals with the cyber attack immediately. In contrast, not having that BCP may mean waiting for things to recover on their own (and suffering the very detrimental consequences).

Developing a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

The discussion of developing a BCP goes beyond the scope of this discussion on why you need one, but we don’t want to leave you completely empty-handed on this topic, eh?

Here is a simple (in concept) Business Continuity Plan (BCP) exercise to help you get started. Before we start, just a reminder that your BCP (even if it is your first) does not have to be entirely comprehensive.

In a nutshell, you want a plan that describes the steps needed to return your business to a functioning level.  So, you need to make a list of those items that epitomize the functioning of the business.

Here is the example I often use to describe it…  If you have a bakery that is known for its cherry pies, how long would the business survive without them?  If you are known for one item, like cherry pies, it is likely that more damage is done to your business if that item is unavailable for a week or so than if a few other pastries are temporarily unavailable.

Do you see the difference?

The exercise is to list those items, like the cherry pie, whether it is a service or a product.  When you have finished that exercise write out the step-by-step process of accomplishing the delivery of those products and services.

In Summary

If you do not have a business continuity plan (BCP), now is the time to start developing one.  With the new technology today, developing a BCP is easier than it was previously. As a result, there is no excuse to suffer losses because your business cannot deliver products or services to customers.  And, you have the ability to search for the answers to your BCP questions.  You also have the ability to search for experts who can help you develop and implement your BCP.

Featured image: 123RF

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