At CommBank, business and personal resilience are at the forefront of our discussions with our mid-market corporate clients. Mario Saia, General Manager of Client Acquisition at CommBank, said many were quick to turn the challenges of COVID-19 into opportunities and look at how to pivot their business towards recovery.
One crucial step towards recovery is business continuity planning. And while some businesses rely on responding to disruption, early planning is essential.
During the first session of the Road to Recovery Masterclass webinar series, Dan Clarke, CommBank’s General Manager, Protective Security and Business Resilience; Matt Donnelly, Financial Advisory Partner (Business Restructuring) at Deloitte; and Andrea Culligan, Strategy & Business Design Partner at Deloitte, discussed core elements of business continuity planning.
Business continuity planning
Done properly, business continuity planning minimises the impact of disruption on your business, customers and community. It starts with business impact analysis. This involves understanding each aspect of your business, as well as the people, workplace and technology resources of each function, its suppliers and dependencies. The key here is to prioritise functions by importance.
Forecast cash flow every week initially, then monthly. As you do, test what is happening and what has changed. If 20% of historical revenue disappears for two years, what would budgets look like and does your cost structure still fit?
Dan recommends running a few crisis exercises every year, for example, simulating major workplace disruptions and cyberattacks. “Embed the lessons from these exercises and previous disruptions into continuity planning to share with your people,” says Dan.
Create as many options and alternative pathways as possible for your finances and operations. That ensures you can stretch and bend your business when its needed most.
Shane Fitzsimmons, Head of Resilience New South Wales, has been quoted as saying that a crisis only amplifies the leadership and resilience already there. Crises use the muscle memory of knowing what to do and having the right people around you.
Start with the discipline of being on the floor with your team, planning for disruption and documenting it.
However, Matt notes you can’t do it all yourself. “You need others who understand the detail, including the operational aspects, and have their sleeves rolled up,” he says. “Bring subject matter experts into the team and draw on their wisdom. Involve business partners too.”
Andrea says it is a time to set key accountabilities and take action as leaders. “Don’t put your head in the sand but step up and have those hard conversations,” she says.
Keeping close to your customers
The customer is the starting point. Customers define what robust business continuity planning looks like. Dan says this includes “knowing how long the business has to recover before impacting customers and having a communication plan to quickly alert them of any impact”.
Stay close to your customers to understand what they want from you, gather more details about your business and understand the opportunities a crisis brings. Andrea adds, “trial new things with customers to move your business forward.”
Decisive action and communication
Speed trumps elegance at times of crisis. Everything is up for conversation, whether it be business optimisation or cashflow. Ask what you are doing to build resilience into your finances if a full recovery takes two years.
And always stay on top of costs. For example, is this CRM critical to the business? It is a never-ending, continuous process of tidying up costs.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best
Be a bit pessimistic in your planning and even though things may be changing very quickly, take the longer-term view. “Good business continuity planning is less about surviving the next few months and more about resetting your business for tougher times and making decisions you would not have previously contemplated,” says Matt.
Use the crisis as a catalyst to have different conversations that could open up a new suite of opportunities.