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Business continuity

Chris Elphick
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A SERIES of short practical articles on keeping our businesses going during and following a disaster — part three.

We are used to keeping our car or vehicle engines tuned, we top up the oil, we try not to run out of petrol, we keep them clean, we have our cars serviced — if we don't the vehicle breaks down, we use more fuel, it is inefficient, it will often let us down, it will not last as long, it will be a waste of money.

We need to apply the same thinking to our business. If we don't tune up our business regularly we will lose money, we will lose staff, we will lose customers and market position, we will encourage our competitors to overtake us — we may even go out of business.

This will be especially true following an emergency or disaster.

During this short series of articles Chris Elphick takes us through a service check for our business.

Today the focus is on creating a business recovery plan (this is sometimes called a business continuity plan).

While the next cyclone season is nearly here business owners have to be thinking ahead and asking ourselves one question — what can I do to be better prepared next time?

Because we live in the Pacific we know that extreme weather-related events, and other crises, are part of our business environment yet often our planning does not take these into consideration.

Also, business disasters are not only the well-publicised cyclones or tsunamis — fire destroys many businesses, health issues close many other, localised events can impact negatively on local businesses.

All business owners should be aiming to have resilient organisations. Resilience is not just about getting through crises — truly resilient organisations do what they can to prevent potential crises emerging and they have the ability to turn crises into a source of strategic opportunity.

What is a business recovery plan

This plan records what you will do after a disaster to continue to run your business. Of course, it has to be created before the event. Think about these areas and begin to make notes:

Your priority products and/ or services

There will be a few priority products and/ or services that are fundamental to the survival of your business and that you will want to make available to your existing key customers.

You might also want to supply new customers that may emerge after a disaster, for example government agencies and NGOs.

Make a list of your products and/or services.

Which of these are priorities to maintain existing contracts and customer relationships, including within your local community, and also provide to new customers? Keep the list focused on essentials.

What products and/or services could you stop providing, even for a short time?

Priority tasks and key people

To deliver the key products and/ or services that you have previously identified, certain fundamental tasks must be completed.

You, or staff members, usually take responsibility for these tasks. You need to think about how to share the load and what would happen if those key people were not available. Can others from inside or outside the business step in to do these tasks?

Do any of the tasks involve business processes that require authority — such as financial delegation?

List the tasks that will be essential if you are to deliver the priority products and/ or services and identify the people capable of taking responsibility for these tasks.

Priority equipment

To complete your priority tasks you may need essential tools, equipment, and computer software.

Your own may be destroyed, damaged or inaccessible.

You need to think about where you could get these essentials from, and whether alternatives could be used.

Can you buy, hire or borrow replacement equipment anywhere locally?

List the equipment that is essential to delivering your key products and/or services and the options available if this equipment is unavailable.

Priority stock and resources and key suppliers

To complete your priority tasks you may need essential resources including utilities. Your own stocks of resources may be destroyed, damaged or inaccessible.

You need to think about where you can get these resources from and whether there are alternatives to what you usually use.

Make a list of the stock and resources that are essential to delivering your priority products and/ or services, suppliers, alternative supply options and alternative resources.

Priority customers

Some customers are particularly important to you because they are members of your local community, you have ongoing contracts with them, or they account for significant amounts of your business income. Where possible you want to keep supplying your most important customers.

In a disaster new customers might emerge like government departments or NGOs. Think about what you sell that they might need to buy after a disaster.

Make a list of your priority customers.

Priority property

In a disaster the property or properties you operate your business from may be destroyed, unsafe or inaccessible.

List all the possible options where you could relocate your business. Note any advantages and disadvantages associated with each option.

Delegation of authority

If you as the owner or manager is unable to run the business and make key decisions then someone has to be able to step into your role. This includes handling potentially sensitive and confidential business information.

List your essential business processes, who has authority for them now, and one or two people who you trust to have authority to run the business in your absence.

Priority business records and systems

In a disaster the business records and systems you need to run your business may be damaged, destroyed or inaccessible. Backing up your data onto a portable hard drive that is kept in the office is not much use if the office is destroyed.

List your methods for backing up your business records and vital information.

Critical communications channels

You probably use landline phones, mobile phones and emails to communicate with staff, customers, suppliers, utility providers and government offices. You probably get some important information via the radio or the web. You need to work out what you will do if any of these communication methods is not working.

List your usual communications channels, potential problems and alternatives.

Information, advice and assistance

You must take responsibility to make sure you are well informed about what to do to prepare your business for a disaster and what to do should a disaster situation arise.

List the organisations that will be most useful to you in the event of a disaster — e.g. NDMO, chambers of commerce, NGOs, industry and sector groups.


If a natural disaster affects your business, it is likely that many other businesses around you will be affected as well.

It is worth considering how you might collaborate with other businesses to share skills, equipment, property and other resources.

List the businesses around you that you could help, and that could help you, in the event of a disaster.

In the next article I will move on to looking at a business resilience action plan which focuses on what to do before a disaster hits, to make sure your business is more resilient and is as prepared as possible to deal with a disaster if it happens.

We will look at the same topics but this time from the point of view of what actions to take now to plan before a disaster hits.

Breadfruit Consulting have produced Be Prepared — a step-by-step disaster resilience planning guide for Pacific Island businesses — please contact me if you would like a copy and details of the workshops we run around the guide.

* Chris Elphick is partner in Breadfruit Consulting, formerly Learnfast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Melanesia and other parts of the Pacific. He is an experienced trainer, coach and business mentor and has years of experience of working with small and medium enterprises. He and his partner Hazel Kirkham live in Vanuatu.

If you have an issue or query related to this article, please contact Chris at or text to +6785500556.

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