There are many instances in life, and in entrepreneurship, where proactivity pays off.
In Aesop’s fable on preparation, the ant toils to carry grains during summer saving for winter. The grasshopper prefers to dance and play the summer away. When winter comes the grasshopper is left hungry, realising that he should have spent at least some time preparing.
Now, translate this to the fluctuations of the modern economy. Businesses face risk all the time – none quite like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Unexpected events and market forces can pose significant challenges to businesses and the aftermath will preclude a slower recovery to resume normalcy.
More resilient businesses will have been thorough in their planning, and have the necessary tools in place to be able to adapt to any changes – be it external market forces or internal organisational changes.
When businesses consider a proactive approach towards long term planning, they can help to prevent these challenges, and support the continuity of critical operations.
Enter Business Continuity Planning or BCP: in essence a plan that helps a business safely continue to deliver its targeted goods or services following a disruption.
BCP is critical for any organisation to enhance their resilience, and even more so for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) whose operations are threatened with the risk of complete closure where there are unexpected risks.
With the ongoing second COVID-19 wave in the country, BCPs are now a must for organisations, so here’s four key areas you’ll need to consider when preparing or revising your BCP.
What are the risks to my business?
Understand what kind of risks your business will face. Furthermore, the industry in which you operate, and the maturity of your business will have additional considerations too. For example, running a brick and mortar business such as in food and beverage, will have a different set of risks to businesses who are operating direct delivery services.
Once you understand what the range of risks your businesses will face, an important step is to evaluate the likelihood of these risks so that you can plan proportionately to the respective scenarios. Every business will also have a different perspective on their individual risk appetites, however it’s worth noting to be over prepared than under prepared.
Understanding the risk in this context also means staying up to date with the latest health regulations and developments: MoH’s website and the government’s Telegram channel are the main channels for official sources.
How will this affect my business?
Now that you have a better understanding of the risks that your business is susceptible to, begin a Business Impact Analysis of how this will affect your business over a period of disruption.
Think about the priorities of your business, for example if you are a food and beverage (F&B) outlet, how will you continue to sell? How will you procure your rice to make your nasi pusu? What about if you run an e-commerce platform and your internet is suddenly disconnected?
Develop your strategy
With your understanding of the risks your businesses will face and how they will impact your business, begin to curate a solution that will resolve these challenges. Always revisit your business plan to remind yourself of your mission and company direction. This will help you to balance your priorities and the steps that you’ll need to take to plan for any crisis.
If your organization is medium or large in size, you’ll want to include additional personnel on the team and deputise responsibilities accordingly. Every organization is different, but in general, your business continuity team should have at least one representative from each department.
Do also keep in mind your customer base, how will you manage communications with them during this time, what do they need to know and how will you convey that?
Test, Test, Test!
Consolidate all the information that you’ve gathered as part of this exercise, and document the steps that your business will take in the event of a disruption. Ensure you test these steps out as well (preferably ahead of a disruption!), and evolve these processes, iterate with each execution depending on what works for you and your customers.
You, the business proprietor, management team and employee, will know your business best. You will know what will work for you and what won’t.
Every business is unique, but that does not mean that you cannot derive industry best practices and apply it to your own business. Look inwards too, speak to your team, speak to your business partners and collaborate together.
Remember to not be distracted by the presumptions that BCP will need to be an endless number of pages detailing every single possible impact on your business.
If you run a MSME that is not restricted by external standardisations, and you find that SOPs can be communicated through a simple whiteboard at your office site, then do that. The critical activity in continuity planning is that you just have a clear, transparent plan understood by your team, which you revisit in line with ongoing developments.
For further support, Darussalam Enterprise’s (DARe) also has a detailed BCP guide and resources for businesses during this difficult time. The Prime Minister’s Office has also released a BCP for the civil service. These will provide a strong anchor to get your business going with BCP planning.
Yvonne Teng is the founder of Teng & Co, a management consultancy based in Brunei, which has been offering BCP consultancy for MSMEs during the ongoing second wave of outbreak. Yvonne has extensive experience in public sector strategy, digital service delivery and programme assurance. During her time at Accenture, she worked closely with senior government officials on continuity and contingency planning.