Plan B

The only disaster occupying the minds of many small business owners at present is the economy. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t spare a cheerful moment to think about the other misfortunes that could befall their business.


The only disaster occupying the minds of many small business owners at present is the economy. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t spare a cheerful moment to think about the other misfortunes that could befall their business.

The only disaster occupying the minds of many small business owners at present is the economy. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t spare a cheerful moment to think about the other misfortunes that could befall their business.

Given the UK’s history of fires, floods, disease and social unrest, it’s probably wise to have some kind of contingency plan in place, especially when you add technology to the mix. Business Link adviser Ganesh Selvarajah recalls assisting a company that was hit by a virus attack on its server and lacked any kind of backup.

‘Effectively, they had to try and rebuild their [accountancy] ledgers from hard copies. There were huge gaps and they were never sure who they had invoiced and what they’d lost in terms of revenue,’ recalls Selvarajah.

Planning for the worst doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it shouldn’t cost a penny as initially it’s a case of assessing where your business is most vulnerable and developing contingency plans accordingly (i.e. data backups, supply chains, key staff).

Another kind of virus, in the shape of the swine flu pandemic, recently served as an overblown reminder that it’s wise to have a Plan B if you want to keep your business running effectively. Mhairi McEwan, the co-founder and MD of marketing agency Brand Learning, says: ‘We have refreshed our crisis contact list and made sure that we have really up-to-date information – often people move, change numbers or their circumstances change in some way. We’ve also given one person the responsibility of being a point of contact for employees – it’s all very well ringing the NHS, but not for the most basic enquiries.’

However, research by the Chartered Management Institute shows that IT failure remains the biggest source of disruption for business, followed by bad weather and staff leaving. Interestingly, the biggest perceived threats came from fire and terrorism, even though in realty the chances of these events occurring are very low.

For a small business, where headroom is often marginal, a minor disruption in trading can cause major problems. So take a moment to kick the tyres of your business, but keep it simple. Selvarajah explains: ‘This doesn’t need to be expensive. If you use your own people, you can do it relatively easily and cost effectively. Bringing in a consultant to do a forward plan is probably more relevant for a mid-sized company as opposed to a small business.’

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