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Business continuity plans good idea for business owners

By Gheni_Platenburg
May 23, 2012 at 12:23 a.m.

Kacey Lindemann, senior business advisor for the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center

Nine Basics your plan should cover

1. Develop and practice a contingency plan that includes a succession plan for your CEO.

2. Train backup employees to perform emergency tasks. The employees you count on to lead in an emergency will not always be available.

3. Determine offsite crisis meeting places and crisis communication plans for top executives. Practice crisis communication with employees, customers and the outside world.

4. Invest in an alternate means of communication in case the phone networks go down.

5. Make sure that all employees as well as executives are involved in the exercises so that they get practice in responding to an emergency.

6. Make business continuity exercises realistic enough to tap into employees' emotions so you can see how they'll react when the situation gets stressful.

7. Form partnerships with local emergency response groups - firefighters, police and EMTs - to establish a good working relationship. Let them become familiar with your company and site.

8. Evaluate your company's performance during each test and work toward constant improvement. Continuity exercises should reveal weaknesses.

9. Test your continuity plan regularly to reveal and accommodate changes. Technology, personnel and facilities are in a constant state of flux at any company.

Source: csoonline.com

FOR MORE INFO

Business owners can go to ready.gov to find out more about the process of business continuity planning and download documents, all for free.

This hurricane season business owners are urged to have a plan in place to not only resume business operations quickly after a disruptive event, but to also keep making money.

A business continuity plan, BCP, as it is called in business circles, is a comprehensive approach business owners can take to ensure their business can survive a natural calamity.

"We all pay insurance every month and hope we don't have to use it," said Kacey Lindemann, senior business advisor for the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center. "It's the same thing with a business continuity plan. You plan and hope you don't have to use it."

Although a BCP is like insurance, it does not replace it, Lindemann warned.

While the details can vary greatly depending on the size and type of business, all continuity plans should encompass details on how employees will communicate, where they will go and how they will keep doing their jobs, according to the International Data Group's website.

"For some businesses, issues such as supply chain logistics are most crucial and are the focus on the plan," according to the data group's website. "For others, information technology may play a more pivotal role, and the Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan may have more of a focus on systems recovery."

Texas business owners should be particularly serious about creating a BCP, as Texas has more natural disasters than any other U.S. state, said Lindemann.

Eighty percent of businesses may never reopen if they do not resume operations within the first month after a major disaster occurs, Lindemann said.

The following steps are usually taken to create an effective BCP: Do a business impact analysis, identify preventative controls, develop recovery strategies, test the BCP and maintain the plan.

Other steps can include creating a plan to partner with compatible businesses, cross-training employees and keeping important financial documents somewhere other than at the place of business.

Three years of recent tax returns and balance sheets are just some of the requirements business owners need if they hope to apply for assistance from FEMA in the aftermath of a disaster, Lindemann said. He suggests owners copy these forms on a USB drive or set up an account with other businesses that specialize in backing up data.

"A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow," said Lindemann.

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