Business continuity planning 101

Added April 22, 2022

For a business like yours that relies heavily on seasonality and outlying environmental conditions, missing a peak sales time can be devastating to your year-end bottom line.

Extreme weather events, wildfires, and billion-dollar disasters are occurring ever more frequently. In 2021, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, 20 weather and climate disaster events across the U.S. each had losses exceeding $1 billion. The events included:

  • 8 severe weather events

  • 4 tropical cyclone events

  • 3 tornado outbreaks

  • 2 flooding events

  • 1 drought/heat wave event

  • 1 winter storm/cold wave event

  • 1 wildfire event

Whether or not these incidents occur within your ZIP code, they can still affect the livelihood of your business. Global influences, such as COVID-19 and supply chain disruptions, have already caused temporary closures and complicated recovery times throughout the horticulture industry.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to severe supply shortages and we expect supply chain issues to continue through 2022,” notes Traci Dooley, national agency sales director for Hortica®, a brand of the Sentry Insurance Group. “We currently see cases where it takes six months to get a business up and running again, when typically it would only take three months. Doubling your downtime could be crippling to your bottom line.”

What is business continuity?

It's a detailed strategy you develop to help your business recover quickly in the event of an unexpected shutdown. Data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows that 90 percent of businesses fail within a year if they're not able to get back up and running within five days after a disaster. The longer recovery takes, the more likely a business will permanently shut its doors.

That's why a continuity plan—with processes and contingencies outlined relative to your business operations—is your blueprint to sustaining your employees, property, and assets if downtime occurs. You can build an effective plan by:

  • Identifying risk. Recognize the risks that could leave your employees, customers, and vendors vulnerable.

  • Defining impact. Determine your critical business operations and prioritize their recovery.

  • Being responsive. Outline your emergency response, public relations, and employee communications.

  • Practicing. Test and update your plan annually. Train employees to understand their role in the plan.

Identify threats or risks

Completing a risk assessment is your first step in developing a plan for your critical functions and services. It’ll help you identify the probability of threats to your business and evaluates their impact if they were to occur.

Here are some common risks to consider:

  • Cyber attacks

  • Data breaches

  • Crime

  • Fire

  • Flood

  • Climate change

  • Transport disruption

Keep in mind, today’s businesses are becoming more mutually dependent. Whether it’s a pandemic, ransomware attack, or an electrical grid failure—such as the February 2021 Valentine’s week cold weather outage in Texas—your business should be prepared when it relies on other businesses for transportation, supplies, or technologies.

Define impact

business impact analysis is another important step in building your plan as it helps you pinpoint critical business functions and their financial impact on your business.

Start by evaluating the following factors of each business function you identify:

  • Operational impacts

  • Financial impacts

  • Timing

  • Duration

Understanding these factors can help you determine your recovery priorities and strategies. Use this impact analysis worksheet to  organize your findings. It’s a good idea to periodically review and update your impact analysis since the elements of your business change over time.

Be responsive

Outlining a clear response, whether the incident is a major disaster or temporary downtime, helps reduce the chances of post-incident miscommunication. Make sure your continuity plan details emergency response, public relations, resource management, employee communications, and customer notifications.

Include the following directives in your response checklist:

  • Roles and responsibilities

  • Key personnel

  • Updated emergency response contacts

  • Internal and external communications plans

  • Inventory and equipment checklists

  • Locations of data backups and backup sites

  • Backup site providers


Think of business continuity planning as a project that requires regular reviews and adjustments based on changes to your business operations. Test and update your plan annually, and any time critical functions, structures, or suppliers change.

Train your employees to understand their assigned roles and responsibilities in the plan. Consider doing dry runs of various disruption scenarios, especially when onboarding new employees. If a shutdown does occur, assess and update your response when it's fresh in your mind. Your goal is a quick recovery, and a well-practiced plan can help make that happen.

You can't be totally prepared for every disaster that affects your business, but fine-tuning the strategy will strengthen your approach to a future crisis.

The value of business insurance

Business insurance can also play a large role in your recovery success. It’s important to make sure your insurance policy aligns with today’s evolving risks. Evaluate your current policy and have a conversation with your insurance provider about the following coverages:

  • Commercial property can help cover buildings and greenhouses, equipment breakdowns, crops and inventory, and business income. 

  • General liability can help cover property damage, product protection, and chemical applications. It can also include cyber liability.

  • Professional liability can help cover losses connected to the operation of your business. It includes employee benefits, cyber liability, errors and omissions, and directors and officers liability.

  • Umbrella liability is an optional coverage that can help protect your business in the event of a catastrophic liability loss or a huge judgment against you or your company. 

  • Commercial auto can help cover company vehicles if they’re involved in an accident. It can also cover your business if you or an employee use a personal vehicle on behalf of the business.

When your business is shut down, temporarily halted, or not producing at full capacity, you lose money. Your business insurance coverages can be your lifeline during catastrophes. Along with the standard coverages noted above, business interruption can help you recover lost business income, cover payroll, and even assist you if you have to move your business to a temporary location. Contact us today to learn more about insurance coverages that can help you keep your business open.

Related links:

Discover the risk management solutions and loss control programs available to help protect your employees, customers, inventory and bottom line.

Learn about common cybercrimes, how to avoid them, and how cyber liability insurance can help protect your horticultural business.

We’ve compiled the top nine risks for horticultural businesses like yours and shared the business insurance coverages that can help protect you against losses caused by those risks.

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The information in this article is for informational or entertainment purposes only. View our disclaimer by going to terms and conditions and clicking on Learning Center disclaimer in the table of contents.