Creating a business continuity plan

4 min read | Published 09/07/2024

A business continuity plan is a roadmap of action that you can turn to if an unexpected event stops you from trading. Here’s how to write one.

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You can’t always count on things running smoothly for your business, but a business continuity plan can help you contain and recover from the unexpected.

It’s not always possible to predict when an emergency might stop you from trading.

Unexpected events, like severe storms or sudden supplier failures, are difficult to plan for. But, a business continuity plan can help get you back up and running.

Here’s everything you need to know about creating your own business continuity plan.

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What is business continuity planning?

Business continuity planning is about setting up procedures to minimise the effect disruptions can have on your business. It involves outlining actions that you need to take, and assigns responsibilities to different team members. 

This type of planning also includes making sure your business has the necessary insurance in place to cover related losses. Topics that should be covered when planning for business continuity include:

  • What should be done with stock and equipment?

  • Is there a backup power arrangement and how is it triggered?

  • Who is responsible for what during an emergency?

  • What insurance do you have to help in such situations?

  • How can you communicate with your customers and partners in a crisis?

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What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan is a written document. Its purpose is to provide you with guidance on how to help your business cope effectively in an emergency.

Usually, it outlines the procedures necessary to respond to and recover from a range of different scenarios. This can include everything from ransomware attacks to weather disruptions.

Why do I need a business continuity plan?

Reasons to create a business continuity plan include:

  • It helps your business to recover from a disruptive event in the shortest possible time

  • It shows customers, suppliers and partners you take potential risks seriously

  • It protects your business reputation in a crisis situation

  • It ensures the safety and well-being of your employees

  • It helps you meet and stay up to date with your regulatory obligations

  • It can make it easier to make a business insurance claim

Read more: 

How to write a business continuity plan

Following these 5 steps should help you create an effective business continuity plan. 

Step 1: Conduct a risk assessment 

Your first job is to identify potential threats, which could be anything from a natural disaster to a cyberattack.

Carrying out a comprehensive risk assessment is the best way to do this.

Areas you should cover include:

  • Employees

  • Premises

  • Customers and suppliers

  • Systems and processes

  • Finances

  • IT

  • Equipment and vehicles

The risk assessment should attempt to answer questions such as:

  • How much would you lose if your business was unable to operate for an hour, a day or a week?

  • How much would it cost you to get back up and running using overtime, outsourcing or other methods?

  • Could a breakdown in services lead to regulatory fines and, if so, how much might they be?

  • Do you have access to lines of credit you could use to plug any gaps?

  • Would a pause in operations mean having to break any contractual obligations?

Step 2: Write your business continuity plan

Once you understand the risks, you need to plan how to respond to them.

Let’s say the key risks you’ve identified are flood, fire, burglary, and IT failure. You need a checklist covering each scenario. Include details of who to contact and what resources you need. Also think about how long you expect it to take to get your business running again.

For more guidance on this, check out the toolkit and business continuity plan template on the GOV.UK.

Step 3: Test your business continuity plan

The best way to test the effectiveness of a business continuity plan is to rehearse your response to the risks identified in your risk assessment. 

That way, you can be confident of how it might work if a real crisis occurs. 

Step 4: Communicate your business continuity plan

It’s important that everyone in the company knows what to do in an emergency. All employees and contractors should read the business continuity plan once it’s written. You should arrange relevant training where necessary.

You may also want to share the document with your main customers and suppliers. That way, they'll know what to expect if something goes wrong. 

Step 5: Review your business continuity plan

A business continuity plan needs to evolve with your company. It’s sensible to review it regularly – say, every three to six months. That way, you can ensure the plan’s steps and information are still up to date. 

How to protect my business against risks

Buying appropriate business insurance is one a great way to protect your business against risks like natural disasters and unexpected accidents. Depending on the type of company you have, business insurance policies to consider include:

About Alex Ryde

Alex joined in 2019, bringing his expertise to a range of roles working in both the Analytics and Commercial teams. More recently he has stepped across to focus on Product, where he’s been focusing on scaling up the teams’ SME offering.

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