The posts in this series have been drawn from Xero’s Stronger and smarter: a small business handbook. Designed to help small businesses determine which steps to take next, this practical guide uncovers the 10 trends shaping the future – so you can come back stronger and smarter than ever.
The uncertainty created by COVID-19 led law firm director Jo Alilovic to create a long-overdue business continuity plan. With a framework in place to safeguard the future of her business, Jo was then able to focus her time on helping clients manage their workforce during the pandemic.
When COVID-19 started affecting the Australian economy, Jo Alilovic of 3D HR Legal wanted to regain a sense of control over her business and her life. Creating a business continuity plan not only helped her to navigate the potential impact of the pandemic, but it empowered her to take charge and help her clients to do the same.
Jo’s specialist employment law firm, located in the south-west of Western Australia, provides workplace relations services to businesses operating in a range of sectors including health services, mining, manufacturing, recruitment, local government and accounting. Few of her clients were untouched by the disruption wrought by COVID-19.
Taking the reins
Like many other new business owners juggling multiple balls (including a young family at home), creating a business continuity plan wasn’t high on her priority list – that is, until a global pandemic came along and changed everything. For Jo, the process was an empowering one.
“Creating a plan gave me a sense of control. During a pandemic, it can feel like everything is happening to your business and that you don’t have a say in it. Thinking about what you can do in response gives you some of that stability and security back.”
“Ultimately, you never know what’s going to happen to you, your partner, team or suppliers. One small change can have a big impact. Unless you’ve considered what will happen when a key ingredient of your business is taken away, then you’re not prepared,” says Jo.
This is why her plan contains clear steps and measures to take if team members are unavailable to work for a period of time. By distributing knowledge across the team, she can ensure that no one person is the sole gatekeeper of essential information.
Maintaining the plan
Jo advises that a business continuity plan isn’t a static document that you create and then forget, but rather a plan that evolves as your business and circumstances change.
A change in supplier, amendment to your business structure, or investment in new technology could expose your business to new risks if you haven’t considered the potential ramifications. What happens if a key supplier stops trading? What steps do you take if your technology fails? How do you react to crises like bushfires?
“We all think these things won’t happen to us, but they do. It’s often not the big, global events but the smaller things like team members falling ill that have the greatest impact,” says Jo.
“Prevention is better than a cure. A business continuity plan is an important measure everyone can take to safeguard their business.”
Jo’s tips for building a business continuity plan
Do your research
First, you need to understand exactly what a business continuity plan is and why you’re creating one. So you can get as much value as possible, do your research before jumping in.
Make it a group project
Meet with your team to document the risk factors that your business is exposed to, then brainstorm solutions together.
Involve your advisors and partners
Talk to your key advisors like accountants, lawyers, and IT providers to see what strategies they have in place that you could integrate with your own plan.