Business continuity for family-owned businesses

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In this economy many family-owned businesses are fighting for survival. If they have a disruptive incident in their business, what would be the consequences? Depending on the nature of the disruptive incident and how quickly they recover, perhaps they stand a good chance of business continuity. However, if the disruptive incident is major such as a fire, explosion, loss of a major customer, the business could go down the tubes.

Someone said on a business radio program the other day that there’s something like 400,000 family businesses in the country. These business owners are the real backbone, the real foundation of economic activity in the country. But they are hampered by business regulation and laws, an unfriendly, even sometimes hostile, business climate, hefty interest rates for overdrafts, lack of access to finance, very late and increasingly late payments from customers. In other words, simply put, they are vulnerable and even more so in these economic circumstances.

As a business, especially a family business, how do you ensure business continuity after a major disruptive incident?

It all starts with understanding the nature of your business. Doing a proper business continuity assessment of the business is a step in the right direction. But more than this, once you begin to understand your business and its vulnerabilities, strengths and opportunities, you won’t have a business continuity plan but you will also have a strategic document. It’s not so much about coming up with a business continuity plan but it’s the process of better understanding your business and what you should do in the face of calamity.

The business continuity document will include defining the scope of the business, identifying risks and performing a business impact analysis of significant risks, defining the business recovery time objective and developing a business continuity strategy.

However, there is one obstacles standing in the way of many small businesses and family businesses. It’s simply that they don’t have the time and resources to better understand their business and its vulnerabilities. And you can’t blame them. They have to operate business as usual. Customers are threatening to close their accounts. Other customers are demanding unrealistic delivery times. Suppliers are not always delivering on time. Employees come with challenges that need to be given attention and solved.

That’s why plans or ideas to increase business or improve resilience often fall on deaf ears.

The challenge about preparing for a disruptive incident or recognising the need to prepare, is selling yourself that you need it. You, you are the only one that can be sold. Others think that are selling you on something but you have to see the need, you have to see the problem, you have to do something about it.

But if you do see the need and take action you will realise many benefits, the most important one being that special destination for anyone, peace of mind in your business.

Chesney Bradshaw, in business sustainability, is an accredited Lead Implementer and Lead Auditor for Business Continuity registered with the PECB.

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