How to Develop a Crisis Plan

Your business may be running strong but it’s always good to plan for the worst. A crisis in business can pop up from the most unexpected place: a natural disaster that affects your supply chain or a poor review that leads customers to jump ship in droves, for example. While you can’t always stop every crisis from happening, you can make your best effort to be prepared. That involves developing a crisis plan for the business and making sure everyone on your team knows where to turn for help.

Here’s where to start in creating your crisis plan.

1. Assess your risks

You can’t foresee every problem that could arise, but you can try to assess the potential for crisis in various areas. The first step, then, is to look at all aspects of your business and to try to find places where you’re vulnerable. That can include determining what resources are most crucial to do your business, for one. In a bakery, for example, a crisis could ensue if the owners weren’t able to get the flour they normally use – necessitating a plan for getting it from another source.

Get your senior managers to help you identify potential weak points in the business. Look at your business plan to assess all the pieces that need to fit together for your business to function. If you’re a business who might have to deal with negative public opinion – and what business isn’t? – try to come up with potential scenarios you might encounter. In short, this phase involves asking the question "what if?" for every element of your business.

2. Create a plan for what to do

The next step is to create a contingency plan for every element you identified in the first phase of the process. If you’re the bakery owner and flour is your most crucial ingredient, you might contact several other suppliers and get quotes of prices and how quickly they can deliver, and store that information in your crisis plan. Create a manual that lays out the exact steps someone might take in order to handle the crisis, and what should be done first, second, third and so on – as well as what should be done the first day, the second day, and so on. The plan should be detailed and include contact information and points of contact for each element; after all, if something happens to you and your absence is the crisis, others within the company will need to know how to step in and help. Lay out the steps someone should do first, who needs to be notified in times of crisis, where you’ll meet to handle the crisis, and the messages you’ll send out to the public related to the crisis.

3. Train staff in handling crises

With your plan in place, it’s time to share that plan with the rest of your staff. You don’t have to go over every detail of the crisis plan with your staff, but you should alert everyone to where the information is stored, and the people to whom they should report in a crisis. In addition, the staff should know who’s authorized to call the problem a “crisis”, as some things are only part of the day-to-day operations of the business. If you worked at a clinic that administers birth control, for example, having protestors outside your door might be “normal” while having protestors try to enter the building might escalate the issue to a “crisis”.

4. Test it out

With the plan in place and everyone informed of what to do, the final step is to test out your plan. Business owners who handle things like emergency response might choose to use an outside training or crisis management team to help test out the plans, but for crises that are more public relations oriented, you could also stage your own simulation in-house by simply giving your staff a scenario and having them work out the steps to handle it.

See also: How to Predict an Organisational Crisis

You’ve created the crisis plan, but your job isn’t done just yet. In fact, it’s never quite done, because you’ll need to continually review your crisis plan to ensure you’re still considering all the elements involved with the smooth operation of your business. But keep the plan continually updated and keep everyone in the know, and you’ll be as ready as you can be if an actual crisis hits.

Ivey Business Journal