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Developing a Contingency Plan

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 30 Jul 2012 | comments*Discuss
Developing A Contingency Plan

Sometimes even the best laid plans can go awry and, in business, that’s no exception. That’s one reason why it’s important to consider and develop a contingency plan for your gardening business.

When your business is going well, sales are up and you’ve got a steady stream of customers, it’s hard to see that times could change. But change they can and usually when you least expect it. The harsh reality of running a business is that the market can alter unpredictably at any time, customers could dry up or your crucial IT network could fail. Add to that the fact that natural disasters could occur too, like flooding, or your premises could catch fire, and there’s a whole host of factors that are completely out of your control.

These are all good reasons why it’s important to give careful consideration to a contingency plan. A contingency plan is essentially concerned with the identification of potential risks and developing an impact-reduction plan to cope with it, should any of the risks actually happen. Ideally, this should be done sooner rather than later, but you can update it with new ideas or plans as your business progresses.

Identifying Potential Risks

In the first instance, you need to identify the potential risks that could have an impact on the day-to-day running of your business. For example, these could be:

  • Flooding.
  • IT or technology failure.
  • Burglary.
  • Running out of money.
  • Major outbreak of staff illness.
  • Life-threatening illness or disability.
  • Fire.
  • Loss of stock.
  • Vehicle loss.
  • Loss of essential tools.
  • Litigation.
  • Destruction of business premises.
Once you’ve got a list of the potential problems that could affect the smooth running of your gardening business, then you need to go through each one and consider what plans you could outline for dealing with each issue. For example, in the case of an IT or technology failure, think about how you could get up and running quickly again, perhaps using hired equipment, without it affecting your business too much.

It’s helpful to include in your plan details of any contacts, experts or other companies that could help you out of a tricky situation – such as IT experts or computer hire companies – so that you’ve got all the details to hand if you need them. In the case of natural disasters, such as flooding, then include details of your insurance company alongside the information. As much as you may be aware of who your insurance company is, it’s easy to forget the key facts when an emergency situation occurs.

For some of the situations, like litigation, it’s harder to know how to plan as you don’t know the exact ways in which it may affect your business. For these sort of situations, you could list details of solicitors or other key figures who you could contact.

In addition, it’s helpful to outline and predict how long you expect your business to be out of action, or how soon you could be up and running again, if any of the circumstances does occur. This may seem like a ‘piece of string’ prediction, but at least having a timescale to work to will give you something concrete to work with and provide motivation in an emergency situation.

They may also be practical steps you can take to avoid or reduce the potential of some of the situations happening. For example, in the case of financial issues, it’s good to have a contingency fund in place in case you suddenly find your funds and capital have run dry.

At times it may seem like there’s a lot of planning involved for a ‘what if?’ situation. But as hard as it may seem now, things would be a whole lot harder if any of the circumstances evolved and you didn’t have any plan in place. So be glad of the chance for your contingency planning and take time and care over it.

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