How to keep your business going in a crisis
Graham Clark, Business Continuity Manager, EMEA at DHL Supply Chain makes the case for strong business continuity planning in crisis preparedness.
Never before have businesses’ technical capabilities been as great as they are now. However, no matter how advanced our technologies and practices get, entire organisations can still be wiped out in the blink of an eye by the same age-old dangers posed by Mother Nature.
Case in point: the Japanese earthquake last year cost £189bn in repairs. The effects of the earthquake were felt much further afield than the area of impact, and caused massive disruption to global businesses. For example, the earthquake and its aftermath shattered supply chains, with some businesses taking up to six months to resume operations. But disaster can also strike on a much smaller scale than the tragedy in Japan. A warehouse fire or a nationwide strike can have a big impact on your bottom line. Businesses need to be prepared to deal with all of these potential issues – no matter how big or small – whenever and wherever they may strike.
This is where business continuity management becomes crucial to the success, or failure, of an organisation. Without a well thought-out business continuity plan, a disaster can bring an organisation to its knees. However, with proper procedures in place, a resilient and prepared business can continue to provide a good service to its customers when faced with some of the worst crises possible.
With the introduction of e-commerce, consumers demand complete availability and home delivery at times of their choosing. This requires businesses to be flexible, and particularly nimble when moving stock from warehouse to distributors, stores and supermarkets, or moving stock between facilities. For example, in my role with DHL Supply Chain, I work with businesses of all shapes and sizes to ensure they have sufficient safeguards in place to keep these operations going, no matter what problems they may encounter. I find that the most important thing is for a business owner to know their organisation inside out. It’s only by having a complete understanding of your company’s issues that you can see potential problems before they arise, and then work to address them.
Once you’ve identified a problem, carefully assess what needs to be done to give you the flexibility to work around any issues it causes down the line. You should be working to make sure that you have a contingency plan for everything. To do this, always ask ‘what if?’ For example, what if your employees are unable to make it into work – how will you ensure your operations keep running smoothly? What if one of your warehouses floods – where will the remaining stock be stored until it’s back up-and-running?
When you have solid answers to these questions, our second key principle comes into play. It’s important to make sure that absolutely everyone in your organisation is on the same page when a crisis strikes. To ensure this, each arm of your business needs to be involved in the business continuity process, and every site needs a champion who can make sure that every employee knows what will be required of them in any eventuality.
As soon as all your plans are in place, and everybody knows their role, the most important thing is to test the plans regularly and to keep adapting them to address any new weaknesses that you discover as your business evolves. Finally, when you’ve done all of this, try to keep calm and carry on as usual. If you have a strong, tried and tested plan in place that covers all the bases and has looked at every potential question and situation possible, you can rest assured that you’ve done all you can to protect your customers by offering them the best service you possibly can, and ultimately protecting your business.