Do you have a business contingency plan? Or a continuity plan? Or an ‘in case of emergency plan’?
Whatever you call it, if you were run over by a bus tomorrow, would someone be able to contact your clients to tell them?

Whether you are a small business, a large business or a solopreneur, it’s worth documenting useful information, as well as coming up with some plans for how you would deal with things that might go wrong. It’s worth doing it now, in a calm place, so you don’t have to face this when you’re under the pressure of an emergency situation.

“And why is this a marketing question?” a client of mine once asked me.
“If that lot goes up in flames,” I replied (pointing in the direction of his well-equipped workshop) “are you telling me it won’t have an impact on the service you are able to provide to your customers?”

Here are five simple steps to help you put one together.


1. Brainstorm all the things that might possibly go wrong.

Without getting depressed, think about what might happen that could affect your business. Everything from you being stranded abroad on holiday to a power cut at your offices; a hurricane rendering your workspace unsafe to a new outbreak of flu rendering your staff unable to work; a staff member being killed in the course of their work or a gas leak…


2. Risk assess the impact of this list.

Decide what impact these issues could have on your business and how likely they are to happen. In other words, do a risk assessment and assign a risk rating based on how severe and how likely each event is. This way, you will end up with a priority list of scenarios you might want to plan ahead for. Many situations will have a similar result; office site inaccessible; IT inaccessible; staff unable to get in etc. so it might be worth grouping scenarios by impact.


3. Work up your contingency plans.

Taking the highest priority first, work up some plans for what you would need to carry on doing business under those circumstances. This could be anything from researching the contact details and prices for temporary office space to making sure system back-ups are accessible remotely. Note all of these things down. Think about who might be the best person to be responsible for key tasks in an emergency.


4. Think about your communications plans.

If an emergency does occur, how will you contact your key staff? How will you inform your customers or other stakeholders? What message will you want to give them? It’s worth making sure that you have key contact details as well as things like website and social media logins accessible remotely in case these circumstances arise. It’s also worth drafting a few possible messages (tweet wordings, press release templates etc.) so that you don’t have to think on your feet in a pressure situation – or so that someone else could take charge of this if you are not available.


5. Write this plan down and share it.

Have at least a couple of copies of this plan, preferably stored securely in more than one location. One organisation I worked at made sure that all senior managers had sealed copies both at their desk but also at home; that way, if the worst happened, we could still communicate with each other and with key stakeholders without even being on site if necessary. It contained our own mobile numbers as well as those of local councils, our solicitor and accountant and non-999 emergency service numbers.

And don’t forget to update the plan. ‘Phone numbers change, staff move on; perhaps an annual review just to double-check the details are correct?


It might be a slightly sobering exercise but it is well worth thinking ahead when time is on your side. Most likely, you will never need this document but, if you do, you, your staff and your customers will be very grateful you spent some time putting it together.