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+ Business continuity is just as important for small firms as it is for large companies.

As a French business continuity professional who was in Paris during the attacks in November last year, I wonder how businesses in the French capital are recovering. 

According to the Strategic Research Institute, “Companies that aren't able to resume operations within ten days (of a serious disruptive event hit) are not likely to survive.” I firmly believe that to ensure their survival all businesses, especially SMEs, need to have business continuity procedures in place. As research from KPMG shows, 40% of all organisations suffering major business disruption go out of business within two years.

The French Government is taking action to reinforce security in the capital. But I didn’t witness a proactive response from businesses, especially SMEs. Business continuity is not just an issue for big companies. In fact, larger companies often cope better because they’re spread across more than one location with greater resources to draw on. 

All too often SME owners see business continuity planning as a cost rather than an investment. To me, this is a real shame. Simple steps, like making sure your insurance policy is up to date and keeping a copy of it off your premises make it far quicker to deal with any damage and easier to retain your key staff.

Paris’ tourism sector, which includes SMEs that open to the public like hotels, restaurants, and shops, has suffered significantly as a result of the attacks. On the Saturday after the attacks, all the commercial centres, museums and theatres in Paris and its suburbs were closed. Some chose to stay closed for longer, causing further economic loss for businesses. 

There’s another component of business continuity: the way that risk is viewed in the national culture. Let’s compare the ways in which London, Paris and Brussels have reacted to terrorist threats and attacks.

In November 2015, Brussels shut down the capital for four days, in anticipation of a terrorist attack. The government closed all the transport networks, museums, shops, restaurants and theatres, and police and military forces patrolled the deserted streets

By contrast, Paris simply asked its inhabitants to limit their comings and goings. Most businesses were not compelled to close, except those in commercial centres.

And in 2005, Central London briefly came to a standstill during the bombing attacks on the morning of 7 July. But that afternoon, and the following day, businesses opened as usual.

Businesses, and in particular SMEs – who are rarely multinational – need to incorporate their own national culture into their business continuity procedures.

I also believe there needs to be a change in mindset. We need to stop thinking ‘it won’t happen to me’ and instead start thinking ‘it can happen to anyone, anywhere so I’d better spend some time and money preparing my business’.