The start of the new year is a time for resolutions, and not all of those resolutions involve losing weight or getting in shape. Business owners also need to examine what they have been doing and look for ways to do things more effectively in the coming year.

As the owner of a financial planning or wealth management firm, you have more on the line than most. From the livelihoods of your employees and management team to the long-term financial success and future retirement of your clients, many people are relying on you. That is why it is so important to create a detailed plan for the year ahead, and why having a continuity plan needs to be on the top of that list.

Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

In the world of business, it is smart to hope for the best while planning for the worst. The creation of a business continuity plan (BCP), is the ultimate expression of that desire.

By creating a business continuity plan, you recognize the unique challenges your business faces every day. Some of these challenges, like the risk of cybercrime and data theft, are somewhat new. Other risks, like physical theft, fire and flooding, are as old as time itself. Recognizing these challenges and finding a way to prepare for them is at the heart of any effective business continuity plan.

Despite these daily challenges and ongoing risks, it is easy to see why so many practice owners put off formal disaster planning and the creation of a business continuity plan. After all, those practice owners have made it this far without a formal business continuity in place, and it is easy for them think you can continue to operate with nothing but a few informal ideas and a telephone chain.  

The problem with that thinking is that business owners never know when a disaster will strike, or what form it will take. If you do not yet have a business continuity plan in place, make 2017 the year you finally create one. The peace of mind alone is worth the price of a plan, and once it is done, you will have one less thing to worry about.

New Threats are Constantly Emerging

There are many reasons to make the creation of a business continuity plan a priority in 2017, but chief among them is that new threats are constantly emerging. If you stand still in a changing world, you cannot help but fall behind, so make this the year you finally catch up with a detailed BCP of your own.

A good business continuity plan does much more than reassure your clients and your employees that they will be protected in the aftermath of a disaster. A quality business continuity plan will protect the owner of the practice, safeguard their considerable financial investment and allow the company to continue to operate in the face of ransomware, hacking and other emerging threats. 

Old Dangers are Not Going Away

Even as new threats continue to emerge, the old challenges are not going away. Even if your network is locked down tighter than a drum and your employees never click an emailed link, there are still physical threats and insider dangers to address.

From disgruntled employees stealing contact information to petty thieves breaking in to steal your computer equipment, these old dangers are not going away. Knowing what you will do in the event of a physical disaster is a vital part of a good plan and one more reason to create one in 2017.

You Owe it to Your Clients

Your employees and members of your management team rely on you for their livelihoods, and your clients rely on your expertise for their financial futures. You owe it to your clients to create a comprehensive business continuity plan, one that will allow you to serve their needs even in the face of an ongoing disaster.

This focus on continuing client service following a disaster is not entirely altruistic. While you always put the needs of your clients first, you also recognize that any disruption in service, even one that is not technically your fault, will erode trust and make clients less likely to stick with you for the long term. By putting the creation of a BCP at the top of your 2017 to do list, you are protecting your clients, but you are also protecting yourself.

The Dangers of Living Without a Plan

As a financial professional, you would never invest without having a solid plan in place. When a new client walks through the door, you sit down with them and discuss their short-term needs and long-term goals. You take the chance to get to know them, and you develop a comprehensive investment plan that matches their short-term and long-term goals.

Managing the future success of your business is no different. If you are still operating without a business continuity plan in place, you are breaking a cardinal rule of business management and taking far more risk than you should.

There are enormous risks associated with not having a business continuity plan in place, starting with serious damage to the reputation you have worked a lifetime to build. In the flash of an eye or the flames of a fire, you could find your reputation in tatters and your clients fleeing. If you have a business continuity plan in place, you can pick up the pieces and get on with rebuilding your physical office space while maintaining quality service to your clients. Without a plan in place, you may never have the chance.

Not knowing what to do when disaster strikes can put your reputation at risk, but the results could be far worse. A significant number of businesses that suffer a disaster never reopen, and without a plan in place, your own firm could be one of those casualties. 

The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to evaluate your business practices and make a plan for the future. As 2017 gets underway, you should take the time to evaluate potential risks to your business, create a plan to address them and write it all up in a detailed and comprehensive business continuity plan. Having a plan in place will set your mind at ease, reduce risks to your clients and your staff and give you one less thing to worry about in the year to come.

If you are in the process of creating your plan, you may want to read: "Why a Discounted Cash Flow Valuation is a More Accurate Measure for Valuing Your Practice."

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Disclaimer

The above article is meant for information purposes only and is not intended in any way to provide legal or other advice for any specific situation.  Readers always should consult their own tax, accounting and legal advisors before taking any action related to the above article or subject matter.

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