Establishing a Contingency Plan

Lane Hickey WigginsIf the past year has taught us anything for business operations, it's the necessity of contingency plans.

During PRINTING United Alliance's virtual SPIRE event last week, Lane Kathryn Hickey-Wiggins, president & CEO, Douglass Screen Printers, led a session called “Benefits of a Contingency Plan,” that looked at the elements needed to ensure your business is prepared for anything that might come your way.

“As business owners and executives, it is very easy to get wrapped up as being visionaries, because that’s what we like to do,” she said. “However, it is certainly important to recognize the need for policies and procedures as it pertains to operating a business. … A contingency plan is a course of action that your company would take if an unexpected event or situation were to occur.”

She noted that business should want to be as prepared as possible for anything, including fires, floods, equipment going down, or even the current crisis of plants closing due to COVID-19. To get there, she has a 7-step contingency planning process:

1. Develop a statement. This is a formal policy that lays out the authority to develop a productive plan.

2. Conduct a business impact analysis. This will identify the information, systems, and components critical to support the organization’s mission.

3. Identify preventative controls. These are the measures that can be taken to reduce the effects of systems disruption.

4. Create recovery strategies. Ensure the system can be recovered quickly and effectively following a disruption.

5. Develop a system. This should be detailed procedures to follow to restore a damaged system back to its working state. And this isn’t just the equipment — information, services, software, detail how each component of the business can be brought back online if a disruption occurs.

Business Contingency Planning6. Ensure testing. This is where you test the recovery systems that were developed to ensure they will work as intended. It is also a place to train staff on what those system are and how to use them, so when — not if — a disruption of any type occurs, staff already know exactly what their role is, where the information will come from, and how to get the business back up and running as quickly as possible. This is also a way to test for gaps and weak points that can be addressed before a crisis hits, rather than in the middle of one.

7. Ensure maintenance. Don’t just create a plan and stick it on a shelf, and hope it’s still good 10 years later when it’s needed. Instead, it should be a living document that is regularly examined and updated, including a detailed list of alternate suppliers for goods the shop needs, money set aside in case of a disaster, technologies that need to be updated or changed, etc.

Given that every shop has been touched by COVID-19 in the past year, Hickey-Wiggins suggests starting there — use it as a working example, not just of how your own shop responded, but how other printers reacted to the pandemic as well. What did they do well? Where did they stumble? This can be a good starting place when determining what elements your contingency plan should include.

SPIRE is an invitation-only event and is a unique network of CEOs and top executives from industry leaders in retail, point-of-purchase, OEM, transit, outdoor, and similar graphic solutions. Next year's event is currently planned for Feb. 20–22 at the Bonaventure Resort and Spa in Weston, Fla.

Toni McQuilkenToni McQuilken is currently the senior editor – Printing and Packaging Group, NAPCO Media. She has been writing and editing for more than a decade. Her work includes B2B publications — both in print and online — in a range of industries, such as print and graphics, technology, hospitality and automotive; as well as behind the scenes writing and editing for multiple companies, helping them craft marketing materials, write press releases and more. She is a self-proclaimed "tech geek" who loves all things technology, and she knows that she is one of a select group of people who get to do what they love for a living.