When envisioning your company’s future, getting real about potential crises should be part of the plan
When a business looks to the future, it looks toward goals, profits and growth plans. Dreaming big and envisioning what success might mean are crucial – it is the engine room that drives a successful business. But at the same time, good risk directors reinforce the importance of keeping two feet firmly on the ground and taking practical steps to protect a business in the event of a crisis. And, rather than sitting separately from your business’s growth plans, it’s important to treat a business continuity plan as part and parcel of its overall success strategy.
When considering the impact of a disruptive event – be it a health epidemic, natural disaster, a cyberattack, Stage 8 loadshedding or a burst water pipe at a company’s main headquarters – thoughts immediately turn to minimising its impact and repairing immediate damage through using a business continuity plan. However, this is only half the solution. Risk directors are aware of the simultaneous hit business will take if their company fails to keep operations running in the aftermath of a disaster. Shutting up shop for too long during and after an event can be just as disastrous to some businesses’ bottom lines – and hamper future success – as much as the immediate chaos and devastation caused by the event.
Business stability during a crisis, can only be achieved by pre-planning. Risk directors must assess the likelihood of each potential threat to the smooth-running of their business, and formulate an appropriate contingency plan. This means keeping abreast of the latest innovations to help companies get to a state of business-as-usual in the aftermath of all kinds of disasters. It means building a business continuity plan that offers a workplace-recovery solution for every aspect of the company that could grind to a halt during disruption, as it did recently in São Paulo.
On Sunday 9 February, the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo was rocked by a massive thunderstorm. Then the heavens opened and the deluge continued throughout the night. The city of 12m people woke the next morning to find large areas of the centre and surrounding suburbs flooded; electricity was down and public transport was at a standstill. Commuters were left stranded, unable to get to their downtown offices, and power cuts meant working from home was also not an option for many. That’s when a business leader posted a message on LinkedIn that rescued the working lives of thousands of residents.
That notice was posted by Tiago Alves, IWG’s country manager for Brazil, and it invited anyone who needed an office that day to use one of the 34 Regus or Spaces coworking sites dotted around São Paulo free of charge. The post went viral, and soon the centres – that usually serve 16,000 customers – swelled with people who desperately needed a place to do business. When the weather still hadn’t improved by Tuesday, IWG decided to extend the offer for a second day, by the end of which Alves reckons around 4,500 workers had used a Regus centre for the first time. “We estimated that we gave back around 8 million real, which is roughly R27m, to the São Paulo economy as a result of opening our doors to everyone,” explains Alves. “Large corporations also started to send their employees to our centres, as well as entrepreneurs and even judges who could not go to the courts.”
But how did Regus centres stay open for business when others struggled? The secret, says Alves, was a carefully thought-out workplace recovery plan. So what does that look like? He says that companies must first map out where their staff work and live – and that means all employees, not just IT or top management. Secondly, companies need to test providers to make sure they have solutions to the problems they’re likely to envisage, whether that involves transporting goods, Wi-Fi networks, warehouses or workplaces. It’s important to know there’s a backup plan that definitely works in practice. Finally, Alves states it’s also about adopting the mindset that anything can go wrong – and being prepared for it.
The conservative nature of preparing your company for worst-case scenarios can feel at odds with the blue-sky thinking needed to expand horizons. But, in fact, some solutions that drive growth can also serve as smart business-continuity tools.
For example, while businesses are increasingly aware of the benefits of using flexible workspace to retain talented employees, boost productivity and use resources more efficiently, they may be less aware of the role it can play in crisis recovery. When disaster strikes, having a strategy about how and where employees can continue working is a godsend. The increasing ubiquity of flexspace means there’s a strong possibility that a nearby flexible-office location can serve as back-up workspace when your company’s main headquarters become inaccessible during a crisis. And these days, there are a range of workplace recovery plans and packages available that can be tailored to your business’s needs – so that when you and your team need it most, the right kind of office and hardware is ready and waiting for you.