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Thoughts on Business Continuity Planning

With so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and its impact on your business, we suggest taking some time to focus on what you can control by thinking through elements of your Business Continuity Plan so that you are in a position to focus on providing support to your clients and customers.  In particular, we encourage you to put together or update the following two documents:

  • Operational Letter: We suggest that all business owners have an operational letter that is stored in the cloud and in a fireproof safe.  This letter outlines who is responsible for taking over the tasks of you and/or your key employees should you be unavailable.  For example, someone must have the ability to run payroll and authorize payments from the bank to your vendors.  Further, someone must have access to your online passwords so that accounts can be properly managed.  By providing an outline for how the business will initially run, you help to reduce uncertainty, which allows your business to be able to provide service regardless of the macroenvironment.
  • Family Letter: We also suggest that all business owners have a family letter that is stored in the cloud and in a fireproof safe.  This letter outlines which family members will have responsibility for certain key tasks should you be unavailable.  For example, who will make decisions about how to value the business and future ownership changes?  Further, if you own the real estate where you operate your business, who manages the property and how will the proceeds be divided in a sale?  The Family Letter is particularly important in businesses where the next generation of owners are also family members.  Just as with the Operational Letter, providing a roadmap for how your family will manage periods of uncertainty can keep infighting to a minimum and allow your business to continue to serve your community.  

Taking the time to think through which employees and family members would be the best to handle specific tasks is your first step.  The second step is to set up calls with your key employees and your chosen family members to discuss your thoughts and let them express their concerns and expectations as well as ask questions.  The final step is to formalize the Operational and Family Letters and make sure your work and family teams are informed about the contents of each letter and know how they can access each letter.  

By focusing on what you can control, such as your Business Continuity Plan, you can build a stronger foundation so you can focus on supporting your customers and clients as they navigate these trying times.