For Small to Medium Entrepreneurs (SME’s) it’s not only important but an essential survival strategy to keep business operations and processes lean. Now is the time to revisit and shed off any extras in your business operations in regards to processes that may be too tedious, require too many approvals, consume excess amount of time and need too much paper printing or something as simple as amount of paper movement in an office. All these non-lean processes essentially boil down to lost money.
Lean business operations take the essence of sustainability to the next level of cost savings; and bring in the concept of business continuity planning. This is not a new concept, I have prepared BCP plans for organizations as far as 15 years ago. But the benefit of proactive business continuity planning and lean operations is more evident now than ever.
As an SME, how can you prepare for BCP and ensure regular checks on business operations? Here are a few practical steps you can take during times with stretched resources & budgets:
Differentiate the essential vs supporting processes: Review each area of your business to segregate operations into 2 streams; Essential operations would include key revenue generators, sales, customer care & future revenue generating projects. While supporting processes would include functions like branding & marketing, non-urgent IT upgrades, renovation projects or launching new products or services in some cases. This differentiation does not mean that supporting functions are not essential, it translates to functions which if needed, can be delayed or put on hold in time of crisis and for business continuity.
Operations Skill Share: As an SME, where resources are limited, your business continuity plan should include transfer of skills and ensure that there are always at least 2 people or 2 teams who are able to run the essential operations. User access and security would need to be managed for operations of sensitive nature. But in time of need, sickness, unable to travel, death or disaster your business will have enough skilled people to switch hats and perform business essential tasks. Not to mention increased employee satisfaction, self-actualization, learning and motivation.
Emergency or Crisis Management Action Plan: You don’t have to wait for a crisis to occur to build an action plan. Now that your business critical processes are well defined and have a skilled team, ensure that each associate knows what to do and when to execute. Having an ‘emergency call tree’ helps teams & staff to understand the levels of execution (top-down) and when to run in business continuity or crisis management mode. An emergency call tree is a mechanism for checking the safety and vital contact information of each team member. This needs to be a password protected document & which is shared internally, due to sensitive employee contact information. Download an emergency call tree template here.
Data Management & Security: If your business collects client data or involves sensitive client information it is worth investigating options for back up data storage solutions and off-site data back-up storage. Having your data on the cloud targets 2 important aspects in 1 go: Disaster Recovery & Easy Access. There are numerous companies offering cloud based data management solutions for SME’s, but key points to consider for choosing a service would include cost, ease of access and data transferability.
Alternate Work Arrangements: Now more than ever work from home has become the norm. Then why not embrace it and make it part of your BCP plan? As a small to medium business owner you will need to ensure that the essential operations can be executed independent of staff location with the following areas addressed:
Remote access via laptops or configured personal devices
User security & VPN connections
Software availability (consider cloud based solutions like Xero Accounting, Microsoft 365, Google Drive, DocuSign)
Agree on possible cost compensation for employees in case they are using their own resources (internet, phone, fax, printer)
Business Continuity Planning may seem like a mammoth task, but if each point is knocked off step by step, your BCP plan will be more functional. Additionally, you don’t have to implement everything together but plan to work towards each area over a period of time – while trying to keep your essential operations running. Good luck and let’s stay connected in this time when we all need each other’s support. Together we can make it through – Let’s be lonely at home, but together.