Business Continuity and Common Risks for Small Businesses

What makes small businesses different to bigger ones when it comes to business continuity? Common risks for small businesses are linked to their operations being confined to one specific sector and one geographical location. They don’t have the possibilities of mitigation available to larger, more diverse, distributed companies. Disaster can strike all of their resources at once. Accordingly, larger customers often scrutinise their small company suppliers to see whether they have an effective business continuity strategy in place.

The smaller a business is, the more it needs a contingency plan: even a small incident can disrupt business. That’s why common risks for small businesses like the following need to be addressed before they cause problems because of resignations, illness or maternity leave: the capability or the knowledge for making decisions that is limited to one key person; single signatory or password-holder for initiating action; and a lack of documented procedures or cross-training to allow employees to fill in for each other. Other “accidents waiting to happen” include the use of on-site PCs as the only business system without off-site backup, untested back-ups and untested system recovery.

Business Continuity planning to counter common risks for small businesses benefits from common sense and keeping it simple. The first steps are to define possible disasters, the risk of them happening and the potential impact on the business; fire, floods, denial of access to work premises, terrorist threats and utilities failure are all contenders. The next step is to determine which risk scenarios you want to address (such as those with high likelihood or high impact on your business) then assign ownership of each risk/issue and the responsibility for implementing a strategy to address or mitigate it. A  Business Impact Analysis will identify the aspects of your business that are critical and what are the requirements to keep them in operation in survival mode.  Compile a suitable business continuity plan, train staff, test your plan and regularly update it. It’s also better to start now with something basic and perhaps imperfect that can be updated in reasonably quick stages, instead of waiting to try and get it all right and never implementing it and finding it’s too late.