Brexit and business continuity planning

If you’re a small business, the current Brexit issue is probably quite high on your agenda at the moment. With the situation changing on an almost daily basis, it’s likely that the ongoing uncertainty is causing as many problems as preparing for the EU exit itself.

If nothing else though, Brexit does raise the issue of business continuity planning in general. If you don’t have a business continuity plan for your business, this is as good a time as any to get one in place as you’re probably covering similar themes as part of your Brexit preparations.

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan sets out the measures you will take to protect your operation in the event of an emergency, disaster, or anything which would result in your business not being able to function properly. This could include small-scale threats such as breakdown of equipment, to significant issues such as power outage or loss of IT systems, to full on disasters such as fire or terror threat.

Devising a plan involves first taking stock of everything going on in your business. This includes identifying the main tasks needed to keep your business operational.

Questions to ask yourself could include:

  • What are the potential threats to your business?
  • What are your most critical functions?
  • Do you have an off-site data back up?
  • Could your business relocate in the event of a disaster at your premises?
  • Do you have emergency contact lists for management, employees, customers and suppliers/contractors that can easily located off site?
  • How many orders do you have to fulfil in a day/week/month and do you have any backup plans in place regarding those orders if your business is suddenly hit with disaster?
  • Who are your suppliers and where are they based?
  • What contractors do you rely on?
  • Who do you need to communicate an incident with and what channels will you use?

Creating your business continuity plan

Creating the plan involves having some outline procedures and back-up plans in place should the worst happen. It can’t be set in stone as your response will very much depend on the issue or disaster at hand and therefore it needs to be quite flexible and fluid, but it should cover some key procedures and processes.

Once you've thought about the biggest potential threats to your business you can start to think about disaster recovery and alternatives.

For each risk area, think about the critical business functions and who is responsible for them. Identify what would need to happen after one hour, four hours, 24 hours, one week, a month and so on. Make sure you have emergency contact details for the relevant people.
The next step is to list the most critical resources needed to get the core functions operational again and identify where you will get them from.

Your plan needs to set out the stages of a recovery plan, including a ‘chain of command’ in terms of who will make decisions and who will be responsible for what and when.

It should also include your procedures for telling those who need telling about any situation and how you will inform them. This might include employees, suppliers, customers and even the wider public.

Once you have drafted a plan, you might want to share it with key personnel before putting it to the test as much as possible with simulations/desk-top exercises.

Everyone in your business needs to be aware of your final plan and where it is stored. Consider backup versions off site, including hard copies in secure locations.

Hopefully this guide will help you prepare your business for a variety of scenarios. In the meantime, if you need more advice on preparing your business for Brexit, the Government has some useful information on preparing your business for Brexit.