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Business Continuity Planning for Small Business

Business disruptions are a hassle and cost money. For small businesses, such disruptions can be too costly and pose significant threats to their existence. A business continuity plan (BCP) for small businesses is essential.

A business continuity plan is a vital document that outlines the essential framework to enable businesses to maintain operations during disruptive events such as natural disasters, technological mishaps, and cyber attacks.

Small businesses have different resources than large corporations to recover from setbacks resulting from such disruptions. An example is the COVID-19-induced lockdown, which resulted in the closing down of almost 53% of small businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region in the US. To avoid such an outcome, you must be prepared to manage crises effectively as a small business owner. A BCP can help you ensure you can quickly resume critical operations, minimizing downtime and financial losses.

This article discusses creating a business continuity plan for long-term survival and success.

Step 1: Conduct a Risk Assessment

You can only create a successful business continuity plan if you are aware of the pitfalls in your small business operation. That’s why BCP starts with a comprehensive risk assessment. This process involves meticulously evaluating potential threats that could disrupt business operations.

Risk assessment is the first step in identifying the bottlenecks and loopholes that could impact your business. The underlying risks vary widely depending on the nature of the industry and location. First, you should list the most likely scenarios that can affect business operations, such as natural disasters like floods or earthquakes, technological issues like system failures, or even market-driven challenges like sudden shifts in consumer demand.

Small businesses must delve into internal and external threats, unlike big corporations. Internal risks include factors like a key employee leaving the company or a conflict within the management, while external threats can range from economic downturns to regulatory changes. You can use tools like SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to identify internal and external factors affecting your business.

Step 2: Identify Critical Business Functions and Resources

Once risks are identified, you can recognize the functions and resources essential for small business continuity. It will require scrutinizing every aspect of your business operations to determine which functions are vital. For small businesses, this can be tricky. There are often interdependencies between different functions. For instance, your business’ sales process might be critical, but so is the IT support that enables it.

After identifying the critical functions, you should focus on the resources that are required to support these functions. Generally, essential resources for small businesses include staff, technology, infrastructure, and external partners like suppliers and distributors.

Prioritize functions and resources by asking questions such as:

  • Which employees are essential to keep your operations running?
  • What technology is non-negotiable for day-to-day activities?

Step 3: Develop Emergency Response Procedures

The whole point of a small business recovery plan is to ensure that it can respond immediately in emergencies. A set of emergency response procedures is essential for such preparedness. It not only helps in minimizing damage during an incident but also expedites the recovery process.

Developing emergency response procedures as part of a small business continuity plan involves outlining the procedures for each type of emergency identified in your risk assessment. These procedures should be as detailed as possible. For instance, outline the steps to secure your networks and inform affected parties in case of a data breach.

Additionally, clear communication is vital during emergencies. A communication plan should be in place outlining in case of a business disruption who will communicate what information, to whom, and through which channels.

Step 4: Establish Communication Protocols

As part of the business continuity for small businesses, establishing robust communication protocols ensures that all stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, and the wider community – receive timely and accurate information about the situation and the business’s response.

Nothing can be more disruptive in the after-effect of a disaster than confused stakeholders. You have to ensure that information is effectively relayed across effectively. Small businesses can use email, messaging apps, or an intranet for internal communication with employees. Consider using social media, your business website, and traditional media channels for external communication, if appropriate.

Your goal is to ensure that misinformation is not spreading during a crisis. Without communication protocols, information can be delayed, exacerbating a problematic situation. Designate a spokesperson or a communication team responsible for drafting and disseminating information. Ensure all communication is clear, accurate, and consistent across all channels.

Step 5: Implement Data Backup and Recovery Strategies

Digitization has become integral for small businesses to operate efficiently. Data is a pivotal asset for any business, and protecting this data becomes a cornerstone of business continuity planning. Having a plan to backup data and recover it promptly ensures that your small business can quickly regain access to essential information following a disruption, be it a cyberattack, a natural disaster, or a technical failure.

Depending on the requirements and size of your business, the amount of data produced will vary. Pick a data backup strategy that might work best for you, including regular on-site backups, off-site backups, and possibly cloud-based solutions. However, data backup frequency should align with the rate at which your data changes. The next step is establishing a recovery strategy to restore operations swiftly in case of a disaster. Also, the recovery process should be regularly tested to ensure it works when needed.

Step 6: Test and Update the Plan Regularly

A small business continuity plan is not static and should be regularly tested and refined. There is no point in creating a BCP that only exists on paper. With regular testing, you can ensure it is also practical and effective in real-world scenarios.

One business continuity plan example for small businesses for testing is simulation or drill. Examples include drills testing evacuation routes, emergency communication channels, or tabletop exercises, where team members discuss their roles and responses to hypothetical scenarios.

A feedback routine must follow up on every test to gather participants’ responses and identify areas for improvement. This is essential for refining the plan to make it more effective. It’s important to document these changes and ensure that all stakeholders are aware of any updates.

Benefits of Business Continuity Planning for Small Businesses

Risk Identification and Mitigation

A robust small business continuity plan can effectively identify underlying risks and mitigate their effects. As a small business owner, you are more vulnerable to disruptions, so a well-documented BCP can anticipate potential threats and outline strategies to minimize their impact.

Peace of Mind

Without uncertainty over your business operations during emergencies, you have peace of mind. Your employees and customers can also be saved from anxiety when they know the business has predefined steps to handle unexpected situations.

Minimized Downtime

Downtime can be dangerous to the existence of small businesses. Continuity planning ensures minimal disruptions, and a recovery strategy is in place to swiftly resume operations, thereby limiting financial losses and customer dissatisfaction.

Employee Morale and Decision-Making

A well-communicated business continuity plan empowers your employees and facilitates decision-making. BCPs clarify their roles and responsibilities during crises, which gives them a sense of preparedness and confidence. This boosts their morale and leads to better decision-making under pressure.

Protecting Company Reputation

Crises and disruptions are not suitable for your business reputation. A business continuity plan for a small business involves establishing communication protocols to respond swiftly and competently to stakeholders. This can significantly protect and even enhance a company’s reputation. Customers tend to trust businesses that are committed to reliability and service continuity

Competitive Edge

Small businesses with resilience and reliability in business continuity have a competitive edge. Businesses that demonstrate an ability to manage crises effectively establish themselves as reliable players in their industry.

Improved Business Continuity

Agility can be improved with regularly tested and updated business continuity plans for small businesses. It prepares firms to adapt to new challenges, whether technological advancements, market changes, or emerging risks.

Compliance with Regulations

For several industries, such as health and finance, having a documented business continuity plan is not just good practice but a regulatory requirement. Small businesses in these sectors must demonstrate their ability to continue operations in customer interests. Demonstrating adherence to these regulations can avoid potential fines and legal issues while also building trust with regulatory bodies and customers.

Potential Insurance Cost Savings

The ultimate goal of a business continuity plan is to ensure minimal incidents, which ensures there are less severe impacts from disruptions. As a result, there are fewer insurance claims and potentially lower insurance premiums.

Customer Satisfaction

You continue to serve customers with minimal disruptions, even in adverse situations, which leads to high customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Employee Relations

Similarly, clear communication and involvement in continuity planning improve employee relations by demonstrating a commitment to their well-being and career security. 

Business Continuity Plan Checklist for Small and Medium Businesses

Whether you are a small or medium business owner, it is essential to implement a business continuity plan. As there are too many factors to consider while creating a BCP, a checklist can help you manage it effectively.

We divided the business continuity plan checklist into three sections: Pre-planning, planning, and post-planning.

Pre-planning checklist steps

Program Initiation and Management 

Begin by acknowledging the need for a business continuity plan to commit to the planning process. Start by drafting an outline for the plan and assigning roles and responsibilities to key personnel to oversee the continuity planning.

Risk Evaluation and Control

This is the step to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the business to identify potential threats. It also involves developing strategies to mitigate identified risks to reduce their potential impact on business operations.

Business Impact Analysis

Evaluation of the possible impact of disruptions on the business operations and finances. At this step, you identify and prioritize critical business functions that must be sustained during a crisis.

Planning phase checklist steps

Developing Business Continuity Strategies

Create specific strategies for your business to maintain or quickly resume critical operations during crises, depending on your business type and industry. This will require allocating the necessary resources for implementing the BCP strategies.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Develop and document emergency response procedures for various crisis scenarios by ensuring all necessary emergency supplies and equipment are available and in working order.

Developing and Implementing Business Plans

Develop detailed business continuity plans based on the identified risks and start implementing the plans within your organization. Ensure all stakeholders know and understand their roles in the BCP implementation cycle.

Post-planning checklist steps

Awareness and Training Programs

Continue testing BCP and training employees so they know their roles within the business continuity plans and provide feedback for improvements. Keep staff updated on any changes or updates to the continuity plans.

Business Continuity Plan Exercise, Audit, and Maintenance

Regular exercises and drills should be conducted to test the effectiveness of the business continuity plan. Audit the plans for their effectiveness against emerging threats and based on test results.

Crisis Communications

Establish communication protocols to ensure all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and stakeholders, receive timely and accurate information during emergencies.

Coordination with External Agencies

Establish relationships and coordination mechanisms with external agencies, such as local emergency services, suppliers, and partner organizations. There should be plans to include these external agencies within the BCP during a crisis. 

Case study of small business continuity

Cantey Technology, an IT infrastructure provider for over 200 global clients, faced disruption when 2013 lightning struck one of their facilities in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The fire caused severe harm to Cantey’s network infrastructure. The hosting servers were destroyed beyond repair, but their clients never noticed any service outage.


Cantey, as part of its business continuity plan, has already emphasized regular backups of their data to remote servers.

This business continuity plan example for small businesses demonstrates that effective BCP can save your company and clients from dissemination.

How Can An Attendance Tracking System Like Truein Help With Business Continuity Planning?

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from attendance monitoring tools like Truein for business continuity planning. Truein is a cloud-based, hardware-less time and attendance tracking system that can be deployed in-house and in remote locations.

Truein has GPS geofencing technology that can track the location of the workers across multiple sites. Managers have a real-time view of staff across various locations, making it particularly useful for businesses with multiple sites, like retail chains. In the event of a temporary closure at one site (due to a natural disaster), managers can quickly assess staff availability and reallocate personnel to other locations.

Real-time monitoring of attendance and scheduling also makes Truein a potential tool for BCP, as managers can swiftly change shifts to overcome any production disruptions in events like machinery breakdown in a manufacturing plant. Instead of halting production, management can immediately reassign staff to different tasks or locations or schedule maintenance without significant disruptions to the production schedule. This capability ensures operational continuity and helps minimize financial losses.

In some industries like healthcare, staff may need to work longer or have atypical hours during crises. With Truein’s accurate time tracking, employers can ensure that all hours are accurately recorded. Precise record-keeping is essential in sectors like healthcare, where extended shifts might be necessary, compliance with working hours regulations is critical, and accurate compensation is also crucial.


A business continuity plan for small business is not just a precautionary measure but an existential strategy for ensuring long-term viability and success. As we’ve explored throughout this comprehensive guide, small businesses can face many potential disruptions, so it’s imperative to be prepared with a solid, actionable BCP.

As a small business owner, it is essential to prioritize the development and maintenance of a business continuity plan customized to your business requirements and operations. Commitment to a well-strategized BCP safeguards your business against unforeseen events and strengthens its overall resilience.

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