Business Continuity Plans
Written by Tom Dunn
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, morphs and continues to disrupt the lives of individuals and businesses to varying degrees across the country, the need for an overall business continuity plan is a critical resource for tree care businesses to proactively deal with any crisis you may encounter.
You could argue that the tree care industry was not as affected by COVID-19 as other industries, but safe to say no one predicted the scope and duration or was fully prepared for it. If there are any positive takeaways, the pandemic did force tree care businesses to become more nimble, resilient work forces.
When looking at the bigger picture beyond a pandemic like COVID-19, there are a myriad of scenarios that can disrupt your operations from inside or outside the organization. Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or wildfires can strike anytime. The loss of key personnel or a business partner can be just as debilitating and sometimes as unpredictable as the weather. Technological hazards are an entire subject area by itself where most tree care companies are left exposed.
The thought of trying to address all of the scenarios can seem daunting, but trying to handle a situation in real time is frightening. Hoping you can recover, without having a plan in place beforehand is not an easy way to go through a tough time. The familiar phrase, “hope is not a strategy, or is not a very good one” cannot be truer. Being prepared with a solid plan, that has been tested, will give you a much better chance to recover and speed up the recovery time.
There are typically four steps to developing a business continuity plan. Using a team approach from different functional areas of the company will help. This approach brings different perspectives, lightens the load for any one person and will result in a better plan. There are endless resources that can be found on the web, but https://www.ready.gov/ recommends addressing the operational and financial impacts from business disruptions through the following steps:
- Business Impact Analysis
Assessing the different threats to the business processes that organizations face is usually accomplished through a risk assessment as part of a broader (BIA) Business Impact Analysis. The items that you need to look at to complete a BIA are:
- Lost sales and income
- Delayed sales and income –Cash Flow
- Increased expenses (e.g., overtime labor, outsourcing, expediting costs, etc.)
- Regulatory fines
- Contractual penalties
- Customer dissatisfaction or defection
- Delay of new business plans
For more help in creating your BIA visit https://www.ready.gov/business-impact-analysis.
- Recovery Strategies
Once you have a handle on the impact a specific threat has to your tree care company, it’s time to plan on your recovery. This worksheet from ready.gov is a great resource to help you and your team think about what will be needed in the recovery period. When completing the worksheet, think about the following:
- Alternative ways to restore business operations to a minimum acceptable level
- Prioritized recovery time objectives
- Developing manual work arounds
- Plan Development
The third step is to create the actual plan. Your plan can use any format that you’d like, but ready.gov has a template that you can use to organize the necessary plan components here. A few key areas that you need to look at when developing the plan are:
- Assemble a business continuity team
- Address Crisis Communication
- Incident Management – who’s in charge?
- Program Maintenance and Improvement
- Testing and Exercises
Testing the business continuity plan allows the team to tweak how to approach an incident and find gaps in the plan and address where it needs improvement. For ideas on how to test your business continuity plan, visit https://www.ready.gov/testing-exercises.
In addition to creating your own business continuity plan, most insurance companies will offer loss prevention/loss control services for their policy holders that will further help you mitigate against losses. These services are built into the premium that you already pay so take full advantage of these services. Remember, while business insurance can cover a portion of the losses from these events, and should be a part of any business continuity plan, it will not cover all loss scenarios.
There is no getting around the fact that developing a Business Continuity Plan and updating it regularly will require a significant time commitment from you and your staff, but the time put into it will pay off tenfold during a crisis. Work on the plan during the slow season. Just like your insurance policy, it will provide you with some peace of mind, so you can work on other areas of the business.
ArboRisk has additional resources related to business continuity and disaster planning that our clients have access to. Contact a team member anytime to help you get started on developing a business continuity plan or sign up for our Thrive Strategic Planning Package to set the proper trajectory for your business.