So when you think about a resilient business, what comes to mind?

Strength in adaptability.

Fast-moving parts.

Account managers with a pulse on how their clients are feeling, leaders keeping in touch with world news, and marketers constantly evaluating trends and culture.

As a business owner, you’re often asked to be all of these at the same time.

Beyond the day-to-day operations—a resilient business is prepared.

Business continuity doesn’t simply happen in reaction to floods, bushfires, and global pandemics—it happens with effective advanced planning and a comprehensive strategy.

Ready to build that strategy?

Let’s get started.

Resilient businesses aren’t magic—they’re a series of comprehensive processes.

What is business resilience?

At its’ core, business resilience is the ability to rapidly adapt and respond to business disruptions, whether that’s an economic crisis, natural disasters, or the loss of a key employee.

Resilience is the key driver behind business continuity—an essential strategy for any company that’s serious about sticking around.

Most business owners spend the majority of their time working in their business rather than working on their business. It’s hard to be proactive, when you’re busy being reactive.

Even if you’ve got great marketing campaigns, a steady stream of income, and happy customers & employees, you’re at risk. You’ve made your business work for you in the current state.

What happens when that state changes?

The truth is 40% of businesses don’t re-open after major disruption. Of those that do, another 25% fail within the first year.

It’s impossible to plan for the unknown completely, but you can put strategies in place to build your business’s resilience. It’s important to do so now, because it’ll all okay, until it’s not.

Business resilience vs Disaster recovery

Business resilience planning is all about creating steps in response to a crisis. 

However, approaching the entire strategy from a disaster recovery perspective is a mistake.

A resilient business isn’t just prepared for an external disaster—this is just one piece of the bigger picture.

A disaster recovery mindset focuses on 3 major steps:

  1. Control the initial damage (clean up the mess, prepare an initial cashflow, etc.)
  2. Check-in with your staff (do they have the tools to manage moving forward?)
  3. Pivot and prepare better for next time (revisit your business continuity plan)

(This may differ depending on your business model.)

Business resilience improves upon the disaster recovery mindset by including:

  1. Planning for external crises, including economic downturns
  2. Creating contingency plans for the unexpected
  3. Testing and changing plans annually

Simply put, you can have a disaster recovery plan without a business resilience plan, but you cannot have the opposite.

Preparing your business for resilience

Now that you understand the risk of being underprepared and that true business continuity goes beyond disaster recovery, the planning can begin!

Start with a Business Impact Analysis

Before creating any effective plan, you have to know where you stand.

A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) is a risk analysis that outlines your current continuity gaps.

This first step is vital, because no two businesses are the same. A BIA cannot be copy & pasted.

Here’s how to outline your BIA:


1. Analyze your threats and risks

What risks are most likely to affect your business?

For example, if you run a café, it’s unlikely that cyber security is your biggest concern. A natural disaster that forces you to shut up shop for a month, however, could be devastating.

The most common risks for small to medium businesses are:

  • A key staff member leaving unexpectedly
  • A lack of systems and procedures
  • The inability to withstand an economic downturn
  • Natural disasters
A risk likelihood matrix can help you make decisions about which risks to prioritize, based on their likelihood and the impact on your business.

2. Understand what you’re currently not prepared for

If you were hit by a bus, would your business fall apart?

If yes, you’re unable to withstand a crisis.

While every business owner should have a working knowledge of the many different parts within their business, you cannot be an expert in every field.

Therefore, you cannot be the sole driver of your business’s success. Even if you’re a sole operator, you need external advice and support.

Common signs you’re underprepared include:

  • Not having clearly defined second-in-commands
  • Not knowing the goals and metrics of every department
  • Not having a working knowledge of every aspect of your business
  • Only one person holds all the knowledge


3. Start building business resilience with a business continuity plan

What would you do if you had to close your doors today?

Contingency manual processes outline the framework to be used in the event of an emergency.

Similar to disaster recovery planning, contingency manuals are one piece of the broader Business Resilience Plan, but will make a world of difference when an emergency happens and everyone’s required to react.

Here are a few processes to start with:

  • If an employee takes a leave of absence or quits
  • If a major client doesn’t renew
  • If you get robbed
  • If the owner becomes incapacitated or dies

Create your business resilience plan

Laying out your Business Impact Analysis allows you to see where your business really stands in the face of risk. If you’re like many small to medium businesses, there’s some major gaps to fill.

This is exactly where the business resilience plan begins.


1. Set up your crisis management team

Before your business can react to anything, you need a team to support and follow-through with the plan.

Depending on the size of your business, you team may be anywhere from 3-5 people, including yourself. Just like a board of directors, ensure this team is an odd number of people with varying skillsets within the company.

If you’re a solo operator, you’re going to need some external support.

Some examples of the people you’d include are:

  • Your team leaders
  • Your longest-standing employee
  • A creative younger employee
  • An external stakeholder like your business advisor or accountant

It’s vital that everybody in the room brings a different perspective—to allow for a comprehensive business resilience plan to be built without the worry of Group Think.

If everybody in your crisis management team looks, thinks, and acts the same, chances are you’ll miss a key factor in your business’s operations. Photo credit: Brian Bagnall

2. Identify your key business continuity areas

No two businesses are the same; therefore, no two businesses will plan business continuity in the same way.

To understand exactly which business areas are the highest risk to your business, ask yourself a few questions:

  • If we stopped [insert business area], what would happen?
  • If we had to close our shop, would we survive? Why/why not?
  • What business areas drive our revenue?

Tip: this exercise is not only to prioritize which business continuity areas to address first, but to also see how well your new crisis management team works together.


3. Break these areas down into their critical functions

Once your business continuity areas are defined and prioritized, you can begin to understand which specific functions create the machine that is your business.

This could include:

  • Your ability to see clients
  • Keeping your doors open
  • Maintaining your 24/7 customer service
  • Interacting with your remote team
  • … and many more

After you’ve broken down your key business areas into their critical functions, the specific pieces of the puzzle become much clearer.

Decide on one thing to help you define if a crisis has happened: What is the maximum acceptable downtime for each critical function?

For some, such as contacting your team, this could be minutes. For others, like your ability to stay open, could be a full day.

It’s important to have your entire team weigh in on these, because different perspectives will give everyone a better understanding of how this will work in reality.


4. Reconnect the pieces with workflows

As you’ve gone through this process with your team, you’ve likely begun to realize that no two business functions are removed from one another.

Your business is a machine. And just like any other machine, if it’s not well-oiled, it won’t run.

With your critical functions defined, put them back together to see how your business really operates, with the intent of improving.

This could be workflow charts, process maps, or mind maps.

It’s likely your operations people will shine here.

While working through these, ask yourself and your team:

  • Where are the blockages in this system?
  • Where are they likely to be?
  • If [insert role] can’t be performed, how will that affect the business at whole?

With the business areas, critical functions, and workflows defined, the last piece to building your business resilience plan is filling the holes.

Work through your updated workflows together.

5. Fill in the missing pieces with an effective strategy

The goal of your business resilience plan is to maintain business continuity no matter what.

This includes any disaster event or external force that disrupts your normal flow of business, forcing you to reconsider your operations moving forward.

Essentially, a strong Business Resilience Plan allows your business to maintain operations in any case scenario.

Your plan should include:

  • Your updated workflows
  • Quick-reaction checklists
  • Organizational charts of your crisis management team
  • Documents outlining most likely risks and scenarios
  • Mock tests, exercises, and walkthroughs
  • Statistics, data, and likelihood of risks for your business
  • Outlines of any employee’s role within a crisis
  • Images to help break up monotony
  • Critical functions contingency manuals

Reminder: Every Business Resilience Plan will be different, not only in the unique risks your business faces, but in the tone of the plan, as well.

No two people in your business will react the same way in a crisis—they tend to bring out our strongest baseline operating systems.

Some employees will revert to logical problem-solving. Some will end up crying under their desk.

Above all else, the health of your employees comes first before your property or assets. 

Outlining policies surrounding mental health responses to crises is a quick way to remind your employees and yourself that in good and bad times, employee mental health is a priority.

Because if your employees aren’t happy and healthy, your business won’t be, either.

Next steps

Congratulations! You’ve completely outlined a new Business Resilience Plan from start to finish. That’s no small feat!

The work doesn’t stop here, however.

Business Resilience Plans are just one point of many foundational business processes for healthy, secure, and resilient businesses. As your business grows, your Business Resilience Plan should be frequently tested, reviewed, and readily available for employees to access.


Just like the size of your crisis management team, how often you test and how you test your Business Resilience Plan depends on the size of your company and the risks at play.

When first starting out, try bringing in a third-party business growth consultant to help out as a facilitator. Not only will they give expert advice on how to improve the plan, but they will also help your team take the tests seriously.

Some of the most common exercises include:

  • Table-top explanations
  • Structured walkthroughs
  • Disaster simulation meetings
  • Realistic drills


Your Business Resilience Plan should be reviewed at least annually.

As time goes, your business grows, and your processes grow with it.

For a more effective review, hire a third-party business growth consultant to help your business continuity grow alongside you.

Your finished Business Resilience Plan’s pieces should all be available to anybody who needs it—you, your staff, or emergency responders.


Part of developing a healthy business is integrating new processes across the board.

Every employee should be well-versed and aware of what business continuity means for your company, and the role they play in that.

Integrating your new plan means:

  • Making it part of employee onboarding
  • Supporting awareness from the top-down
  • Ensuring business resilience is part of your company structure
  • Hosting regular meetings to test the plan
  • Doing what you can to make it unique to your business

Your finished Business Resilience Plan’s pieces should all be available to anybody who needs it—you, your staff, or emergency responders.

At the end of the day, hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Resilient businesses aren’t magic—they’re a series of comprehensive processes.

If you’re struggling to wrap your head around the best way to build your business resilience plan or continuity strategy, consider speaking with a business growth consultant.