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Business continuity: It pays to think ahead Add to ...

Whether it's a natural disaster such as an ice storm, or a serious accident in an industrial plant, an unforeseen event can disrupt business operations at any company.

After all, in an emergency situation, your employees may not be able to come to work. Your suppliers may face a shortage of the materials you need to continue your business activities, or demand for your services may simply decline.

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The key benefits of a plan

No one can predict the future; however, you can be ready with a sound business continuity plan. Getting a plan in place shows your employees, shareholders and customers that you are a proactive organization; it improves overall efficiency in your company and helps you allocate the right financial and human resources to keep your firm up and running during a serious disruption.

Here are 8 basic steps to keep in mind when putting together your plan. Click on the link in each step to find more information and useful templates from the BDC's complete Business Continuity Guide.

  1. Establish an emergency preparedness team Assign the responsibility for emergency preparedness to somebody who can take the lead in the initiative. This person will oversee the team that implements the plan, sets up key policies and procedures, and establishes communications channels.
  2. Identify essential services and functions Determine the essential services needed to keep your business running. Keep in mind that you may face high absenteeism rates, shortages of supplies and services, or power interruptions. That means you may have to modify or even cut some of your services during a disruption.
  3. Identify required skill sets and think about staff reallocation Determine the people and skills you'll need to offer those essential services. Special skills may be required in emergency situations, such as crisis management or information technology backup.
  4. Identify potential issues Assess issues that may arise if you need to modify or eliminate some services. For instance, will you need to cross-train people to take on other work? Do you have contact information for all your employees, so that you can communicate with them outside of the office in an emergency?
  5. Prepare a plan for each essential service and function Tackle each essential service with a specific plan. Each department in your company should know exactly what to do in an emergency. The plan should describe each service, state who is responsible for it, list employee backups, explain how the emergency will affect each business unit and outline resource needs.
  6. Compare the plan with the preparedness checklist Look over our preparedness checklist and make sure you've covered key areas, such as emergency policies, communication with employees and the emergency's impact on your business.
  7. Review the plan with the emergency preparedness team Show your plan to the members of your emergency preparedness team; they can look it over for consistency and ensure it contains all the critical elements relevant to each business unit.
  8. Revise and test the plan, and update it as required Perform trial runs of your plan and ensure that it evolves. As your company changes, so should your plan.

Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.

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