99.9% of the time, business runs as usual. But what about when something unusual happens? From environmental disasters to society-wide lockdowns (hello coronavirus), there are more potential-catastrophes waiting in the wings than we’d like to admit.
The good news is, with a business continuity plan in place, you can assure your parents and teachers that you know how to survive the present and be ready for the future.
But that kind of business resilience is tough to achieve. According to a 2019 Tanium survey of over 4,000 global business decision makers, 96% of agreed resilience is critical—but only 54% had actually made steps to become more resilient. The stakes are especially high in ECE, with over 44% of US education businesses failing after the first four years.
So how can your ECE business avoid the four-year trap and plan for long-term success?
That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve created a done-for-you template plus the essential know-how for a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) that will see you through all types of business ebbs and flows.
Business Continuity (or BC as it’s affectionately known) is all about maintaining business function no matter what.
That means keeping calm and carrying on in the face of natural disasters, cyber-attacks, flood, fire or any other major disruption.
A business continuity plan is your go-to emergency guide that outlines the procedures to follow if the unexpected happens.
The three main areas a business continuity plan should include are:
First thing’s first, to create a killer BCP you need to have the data to back it up—that means drilling down on the must-have metrics behind the plan.
And that’s where your BIA and risk assessment comes in. These docs will help you identify the threats that could impact your business—and to what extent the damage might be.
Top tip: Don’t skip this step! These important risk assessments will have a big impact on how you approach your business continuity plan, so it’s important to start here first.
Every business pro knows risk assessments = good practice.
But when it comes to preparing your business continuity plan, you need to take your risk assessment to the next level. That means covering even the most outlandish possibilities and measuring the possible damage against each of your critical business functions.
Every business has functions it just can’t live without.
Whether it’s your enrollment workflows or IT infrastructure, these are the must-have elements that support the rest of your day-to-day business.
Make two lists: one of your key business areas and one of your critical functions. Note which are your top priority areas and which you could (temporarily) live without—so if your operations ever shut down, you know which areas to get up-and-running first.
The three areas you should assess are:
For a robust risk assessment, compare these potential risks against each of your business’ critical functions. Rate the potential damage done and how you can mitigate those risks.
Your BIA helps you identify and evaluate potential losses caused by unexpected disruptions. To get the numbers you need, ask employees what effect they think each disruption would have on their department and then use real-life metrics to create hard data.
(Don’t worry—it’s easier than it sounds. 😉)
For example, if a Director of one center told you one day of downtime = ten full-time employees out of office + a day of lost income, then you can look at the sum total of ten employee wages (ie, $2K) + an average day of income (ie, $6K) to figure out the total loss.
In this case, the total loss for one day of downtime in one department would be $2K + $6K = $8K.
With this super relevant info, you can start to see exactly how your company would be affected (and why your business continuity plan is SO necessary).
Here are some other examples of metrics to look for:
Businesses are like children: no two are the same.
That’s why before you start your business continuity plan, you need to think about your individual business needs.
When you’ve figured out the answer to these initial q’s, you’ll know where to start, who to involve and what to include. Simple.
Once you have your impact and risk assessments in place, it’s time to dig a little deeper.
To get your BCP right, you need to fully understand your business needs and how each function impacts the rest.
During your risk assessment process you identified your key business areas and critical functions. Now it’s time to connect the dots.
Bring the two lists together and ask yourself what critical functions are the must-haves for each business area. For example, you need to pay salaries for teaching to continue—so your payroll functions are important.
Knowing where your dependencies lie will give you a deeper insight to what your business needs to function—and which areas you’ll need to focus on if disaster strikes.
Once you’ve figured out your dependencies, it’s time to ask the question: ‘How long can my critical functions cope?’
Head back to your business impact analysis and check in with the data. For example, if your company temporarily shut down, you should know how long you can afford to pay wages before having to escalate to the next step of your contingency plan (like laying people off or closing down your operations).
By now, you have the key elements to create a stellar business continuity plan that’ll see you through the hardest times.
To get to this point, you’ve already done some awesome work—congrats! 🙌Now it’s time to tackle what you came here for.
This part of the process happens in two steps:
When disaster strikes, this is the part you most look forward to: the recovery. But remember, most disasters = chaos. That’s why you need to plan this stuff now, so past-you can hold future-you’s hand through the commotion.
Communications: To ace the this section you’ll need:
Resources: Think about what resources your business will need to survive a disruption. This could include personnel, finance reserves, office equipment or alternate office space. Note down when these would potentially be needed, how you’d get them and the names and numbers of suppliers.
Decision-making: A great way to figure out which decision-makers will be required and when is to create a visual chain of events. Create disaster-response teams now so you can train them in what to do should the unexpected happen. Keep a list of their contact details and when they’ll be required.
Disaster assessment: Define what a ‘major disruption’ actually means for your business. Is it a loss of services for more than 3 days? At what point do you declare an emergency? Who makes that decision?
You did it! 🎉
All that’s left is to pull it all into a clear and concise document to act as your go-to action plan should the worst happen.
Use our Business Continuity Plan Template to guide you and rest assured that next time, you’ll be better prepared to handle any crisis.
You’ve done the hard part—now it’s time to test and iterate. The testing stage is all about improving what you’ve already done to make your business continuity plan as streamlined as possible.
Think about how you want to test (ie, checklists, simulations or interruption tests) and what you’re looking for. For example, you could simulate a coronavirus-style lockdown by getting all your employees to remote work for one day to test your systems.
Use your findings to fill in any gaps and improve your BCP processes. A solid plan will leave you secure in knowing your ECE business will survive no matter what.
Initially, it will take some time. But a great business continuity plan will save you countless hours, dollars and stress should disaster strike (again).
From writing a risk assessment to prioritizing your critical functions, the information you’ll learn about your overall business will set you up for success even if (fingers crossed) you never need to use it.
But whether you end up sounding the alarm or not, your families and staff need you to look ahead—because when it comes to survival: you have to expect the unexpected. Our new free handbook, "Business isn't as usual: The ECE Leader's Guide To A Resilient Re-Opening" is filled with tips from ECE experts on how to look ahead.