BBB business tips: Start your year off with a plan

If 2020-2021 taught us one thing, it's that anything can happen. Be better prepared for whatever 2022 brings your way with these planning tips from Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland.

 

If 2020 and 2021 taught us anything about running a business, it's that things might not always go as planned. Getting creative and having a backup can help your business when something unexpected happens. Better Business Bureau (BBB®) suggests starting the year off with a business continuity plan (BCP.) A BCP is a strategic plan for an organization to continue providing its goods or services through a disruption such as a natural disaster, fire, cyber attack, or public health emergency like the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Even if the chances of an unexpected disaster are low, they aren’t zero. According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, phishing and spoofing attacks were the most common cybercrime in 2020 and are one of the top scams targeting business, with almost one-quarter of a million victims and $50 million in losses nationwide. In 2020, lost business costs from a cyberattack accounted for nearly 40% of costs for a data breach, totaling an average of $1.52 million, notwithstanding the losses from other business disruptions. Having a BCP not only gives business leaders peace of mind knowing they are prepared to face a challenge like a phishing attack but can be used as a critical tool to continue or recover normal business practices. Businesses that aren’t able to create a BCP might have a longer recovery time from an incident due to loss of client data, productivity, and revenue. This in turn may have an impact on customer retention and could impact your business reputation. 

When designing a BCP, it is important to consider these things: 

1. Strategy and organization: Elements such as employee structure, skills, and communications
2. Technology: IT elements such as systems, data backups, and networks
3. Facilities: Physical infrastructure that may get damaged and need to be replaced

Creating a BCP involves analysis, creation, execution, and evaluation. BCP’s should also be realistic and adaptable to unexpected obstacles. 

BBB Serving Greater Cleveland has the following tips to help your business create a BCP: 

Tip no. 1: Create a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). What is the impact of an unexpected disaster on your business? How does it affect business functions, resources, people, and suppliers? Your impact analysis should start with brainstorming scenarios of threat. Then create a concise plan with documentation that recognizes which processes are most important to your business. 

Tip no. 2: Identify risks, vulnerabilities, and threats. Create a list of possible disruptions that may impact your business. This may include physical damage to property/equipment, supply chain or transportation interruptions, utility outage, and corruption of sensitive information technology. After you have identified possible risks, create a list of safeguards to help reduce these risks or improve recovery. For example, if an employee goes home from illness, you can implement an overnight cleaning to protect other employees or create an on-call system for when people call off. 

Tip no. 3: Assign leadership roles. Identify a team to help implement your plan. This team will help create the readiness plan, including focusing on the cost of business disruption and solution costs for continuing your business. This plan should also include anyone who will know the plan well enough to train the rest of the employees. 

Tip no. 4: Create a plan for workers and operations. A well-assembled BCP includes a list of priorities in critical business operations and time-sensitive tasks. The plan should also list administrators and contact information for emergency responders, key personnel, and backup site providers.

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Tip no. 5: Create a disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery (DR) plan is part of a BCP. However, a DR plan focuses on restoring IT infrastructure, whereas a BCP considers business processes, assets, human resources, and business partners.

Tip no. 6: Store important documents. Creating a Business Continuity Resource Requirements document helps keep a clear view of what the business would need in case of a specific loss in resources. The owner should also create a BIA worksheet to analyze what operational and financial activities will be prioritized in the event of a disruption. 

Tip no. 7: Test the plan. Training exercises will help to familiarize your employees with the plan, allowing for a better, realistic execution. Controlled training strategies, such as a simulation of a disaster, can help determine if the business will be able to carry on critical business functions.

RELATED: Read more from BBB Serving Greater Cleveland

Tip no. 8: Measure Performance. Management can then analyze the plan's performance to see if it fulfills its intended purpose. We recommend testing a continuity plan two to four times a year, depending on the organization's size and the number of business processes occurring between each test. 

Tip no. 9: Continuously review the plan. Finally, it is crucial to determine the plan's KPIs by measuring if the recovery objectives were met. Management should assess gaps found in the implementation process and train staff accordingly. A periodic review of the plan will contribute to the plan's success. 

For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.

 
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