Expect the unexpected when it comes to business

With the uncertainty of Brexit, the ever-increasing threat of a cyber attack and the perennial concern over extreme weather, it pays to have a contingency plan for your business.

It is not only major disruptions like these that could upset your business – how would you cope if your biggest customer moved to a rival or a key member of your team took a job with a competitor?

Our team at Jacobs Allen Chartered Accountants and Chartered Tax Advisors encourage clients to build a robust contingency plan to ensure your company can ride whatever wave it may hit, and in the past three years this has become even more important.

It has been a challenging time for businesses in Suffolk and the rest of the UK and with the Brexit negotiations rumbling on we can expect an eventful few months, or even years, ahead.

Can your company cope without you?

The first issue to address is whether you have the right personnel beneath you to carry the business on should you be forced to step aside.

If you were taken ill suddenly, would your team be able to continue trading or is key information that is fundamental to the operation held solely in your head?

Writing a process log could help ensure that someone could step in should they need but it could also help you identify ways of streamlining your operations, and making the business more efficient.

Putting Plan B in place

No matter what size your business, having a contingency plan that you can call on when disaster strikes gives you a fighting chance of surviving when others may crumple.

To be most effective your contingency plan should be simple, easy to follow and communicated to everyone in your team, as well as having an element of flexibility so it can be applied to a variety of scenarios.

Creating a contingency plan

Your operational guide for your business should outline how you plan to keep running should a fire destroy your premises or flooding prevent your staff from getting to work.

Think about including details on suppliers and how often they are paid, production procedures and shipping plans.
Also outline alternatives for each of these elements of your business so you can continue even if there is a broken link in the chain.

Your plan should outline each person’s role and their responsibilities so others can take this on, detailing what they do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

You also need to think about how you would communicate the situation to staff, customers and others connected to your work.

Once you are convinced your plan is robust enough to keep your business running, it is advisable to produce multiple copies with some kept off site.

Risk assessments

Analysing the risks to your business and taking appropriate measures to reduce that threat is a vital tool in protecting your company.

A risk assessment should identify anything that could pose a threat to you – natural disasters, terrorist attacks, Brexit, interest rate rises and changes in customers and suppliers.

Ask yourself three questions: What could happen? What is the most suitable response on your part? And what are you going to do to prepare yourself and your business?

Prioritise your risks – it’s likely the biggest issues your business will face will be the internet going down, being hit by a cyber-attack or a large proportion of your work force being unable to get into work.

To determine which risks are more likely to occur, you could use a risk impact or probability chart which weigh up the likelihood of an event happening.
Then it is time to weigh up the possibility of a certain event happening versus the impact it will have so you can prioritise risks and put together a plan to mitigate them.

Backing up data and cloud storage solutions

There are few businesses now which do not rely on the internet meaning it is vital we all plan for a potential cyber-attack, data breach or ransomware attack.
Keeping multiple back up versions of company can safeguards your business should be putting in place, having a cloud-based storage solution or keeping copies off site will offer a higher level of protection.

Another important but simple contingency plan is ensuring every single member of your staff knows the basics of where the router is, how to restart it, who your supplier is and how to contact them.

Updating your contingency plan

A contingency plan should be a live document that is routinely updated as your business evolves, and your staff should also be updated at regular intervals.
Going through the plan with key members of your team will help identify when updates need to be made, when staff need further training and when changes need to be made.

Nobody likes to think about being hit by something that could jeopardise their business, but it’s critical that you are ready. Speak to us for further advice on planning for the unexpected.

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