Keep operations & revenue on-track with a business continuity plan

The first half of 2020 has been rough. Any other year, you might expect to deal with “minor” disruptions, like severe weather, unreliable supply chains, and data breaches that rattle business operations and put a dent in recurring revenue. 

The reaction to SARS COV 2 was to shut down the global economy which forced a change in how we conduct business. And the likelihood of a long-term impact is high. 

Philanthropist and business icon, Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, both prophetically predicted[1] a pandemic which Gates called “Pandemic 1” in his personal blog[2]. This seems to suggest Gates believes the stage is already set for “Pandemic 2”.  

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails,” reminded Todd Grannis, CEO of Visp.  “At Visp, we’d prepared work-from-home policies as part of our business continuity planning a year earlier. We expected to use these in the event of a natural disaster to distribute our team outside of our main office, which was a single point of failure. We never anticipated these preparations would be so handy. When we saw lockdowns coming, it was a push-button execution.”

This is an example where an ounce of prevention, or preparation in this case, is worth a pound of cure. You can prepare for the risks to your business with a business continuity plan.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

It’s a plan that allows you to maintain business operations or recover from disruption should disaster strike.

  • Preparation = success; build a business continuity plan.

Recovery, Like Growth, Takes Planning

Most small businesses (93%) feel prepared to recover from a disaster – but, only 48% of small businesses have a business continuity plan.[3]

Many owners and operators fail to plan because they think experienced staff will know what to do. Yet, how often does a WISP team have to deal with disaster? Not often.  You’re gambling that untested staff can keep your revenue flowing and maintain your reputation. 

Without a plan in place, your chances of recovery are low. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% to 60% of businesses will not reopen after a disaster.[4] A key indicator of whether a business reopens and gets back to profitability is whether they have a recovery plan.

Improve  your business survival rate — take these four steps to establish a business continuity plan: 

Step 1 — Business Impact Analysis

Take an audit to identify threats and their impact on every area of your business operations. This is a substantial list that includes the departments impacted, the overall effect on processes, and whether it causes your bottom line to drop. 

A storm that shuts down internet flow for several hours to a day is different from a hurricane that destroys towers and access points and takes down internet service for a large region. Here are possible impacts from a storm:

  • Damage to buildings and equipment
  • Road closures that obstruct access to towers, radios, etc.
  • Inability to access a building
  • Inability to access technical tools and equipment
  • Damaged computers, servers, etc. 
  • Supply chain interruption
  • Employee absenteeism

The potential impact on economic health:

  • Lost sales and revenue
  • Subscriber loss
  • Delayed income
  • Expenses
  • Regulatory fines
  • Penalties from unfulfilled contracts
  • Delaying new business plans/expansion

The departments impacted:

  • Front and back-office operations
  • Network Administration
  • Customer Service
  • Installations, upgrade and repair
  • Human resources and payroll

During your assessment, you may uncover outdated processes. For instance, while examining how a long shutdown impact billing and receivables, you may be aware that a prepaid billing practice would reduce unpaid, consumed internet. Read more about this best practice, or contact us for more information about how to Visp helps you implement prepaid billing.  

Create strategies to recover from weather-related disasters.

Step 2 — Identify Recovery Strategies

Your recovery strategies should be based on business needs. The network administration/tech operations should be among the first areas to recover because they manage internet service, which pays the bills. Manage the phones to answer subscriber questions.    

After outlining business priorities, identify the resources needed to operate your WISP:

  • Employees
  • Technology
  • Facilities, including office space and furniture
  • Equipment
  • Inventory
  • Utilities – power, water, etc. 
  • Vendors that provide services for normal operation and recovery 

Plan for all scenarios, from worst to best. Downed computer networks and damaged phones will make it difficult to reach employees and other “resources.” Should a printed list or a flash drive filled with employees’ and vendors’ phone numbers be stashed at your home in case your database is damaged? 

What about an office? Can employees work from home? How quickly can technology and internet connections be set up? This should be part of the pre-planning process. 

If an office is necessary, then identify other spaces that can be used. Are there business owners in the area who have extra space that they’ll lend or rent to you in case of an emergency? Work out the details and set up the agreement ahead of time then add it to the plan.

This also allows you to coordinate your recovery efforts with neighboring businesses. Sharing the resources, muscles and brainpower can help your local business community thrive. 

Step 3 — Build the Plan 

When you’ve accounted for every possible disaster scenario, it’s time to build the plan. Use the predetermined recovery strategies. Engage your staff members in creating the process. Then, critique the plan and improve it. 

Before finalizing it, there’s one final step… 

Step 4 – Test the Business Continuity Plan

Test out the plan with your team by walking through several scenarios – from mild disruptions to several days to a week or longer. This helps pinpoint whether the right recovery strategy is being used, making the plan. 

The benefit is two-fold, making the plan as foolproof as possible while familiarizing the entire team with recovery steps.  

If the plan is used, measure the plan’s performance after operations return to “normal.” If the plan didn’t perform as expected, revisit how the disaster impacted your WISP, and re-think the steps that each department took to get up and running.

The “final” step is to get everyone’s agreement to follow the plan should an emergency arise. 

Additional Steps

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) offers a 21-page booklet that can be used to develop a continuity and recovery plan. Contact your state or county government information office to see if there are state and local resources to help you in emergency recovery.  

Offset some of the costs of business recovery with business interruption insurance. Careful – all insurance won’t pay for all recovery expenses. Before signing on the dotted line, find out what your policy covers.  

Support your long-term success by maintaining a business recovery plan. Review it at least twice a year to ensure that the plan is current and does what it’s supposed to do in the event of a disaster. 

Vendors that are committed to your success are another critical element in your business continuity plan. Your success is mission one. Save time and money with a billing and automation system from Visp.net. Learn more

Thank you William Iven, Mark Stenglein, Tai’s Capture and Hush Naidoo for contributing the images in the article. You can find their work at unsplash.com.

Rererences:

 

[1] Sonnemaker, T.; Fauci warned the Trump Administration in 2017 that an unknown infectious disease was likely to spread widely within years; Business Insider online: https://www.businessinsider.com/fauci-warned-trump-infectious-disease-pandemic-danger-2017-2020-4

[2]Gates, B.; The First Modern Pandemic; April 2020, online: https://www.gatesnotes.com/Health/Pandemic-Innovation

[3] Travelers Insurance, Why Is Business Continuity Important, Copyright 2020, online: https://www.travelers.com/resources/business-continuity/why-is-business-continuity-important

[4] Make Your Business Resilient: Federal Emergency Management Agency,  https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1441212988001-1aa7fa978c5f999ed088dcaa815cb8cd/3a_BusinessInfographic-1.pdf