August 16, 2019—As protests in Hong Kong intensify, they are having a growing impact on the city’s businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Here are some business continuity planning (BCP) and communication strategies for SMEs dealing with civil unrest.
Your business won’t survive a major interruption without the support of your staff. Listening to employees’ concerns, involving staff in the BCP process and letting them know that you are looking out for their welfare are essential. Honest, open communication is the key.
Assess China dependencies
Many Hong Kong businesses rely on goods, services and customers from the mainland. If the Chinese government intervenes overtly in Hong Kong, the flow of these products, services and clients may be interrupted.
Anticipate your China-related vulnerabilities and carry additional inventory, if possible. Produce communications materials for likely scenarios. For example, prepare a web page explaining alternative arrangements for customers that can be published if there is a service interruption.
Expect disruptions to Hong Kong’s infrastructure
Protesters have targeted Hong Kong International Airport, Mass Transit Railway services and the Cross Harbour Tunnel. Protests may prevent staff from reaching the workplace. Where appropriate, let employees work at home and provide the tools, like virtual private networks and videoconferencing software, to facilitate telecommuting. Tell staff to use their best judgment and to travel to the workplace only if it is safe to do so.
Update contact lists
Confirm that you have redundant means—home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses and messaging services—to communicate with senior executives, middle managers and staff. Ensure messages can be cascaded to front-line staff if there is a disruption. Repeat this process for key clients, suppliers, regulators and emergency services, as appropriate.
If you operate a branch office, keep headquarters apprised. Ask what resources—such as staff, backup facilities and contingency plans—are available. This also applies to affiliate networks.
Contact service providers that you use sporadically, such as lawyers, translators, insurance agents, public relations firms and travel agents, to ensure they are available if you need them.
Mainstream and social media
Gather your social media and website passwords. Develop a backup plan so these channels can be used if the person who normally manages them is unavailable. Write messages for likely scenarios, like office closures.
If your business is big enough to warrant mainstream media coverage, update your media contact lists. Designate a spokesperson and backup, ensure your company backgrounder is current, and prepare Q&As and standby statements for likely scenarios.
Communicate with stakeholders
Where appropriate, share your business continuity plan with employees, customers and suppliers. Encourage them to share their insights and concerns. You will build goodwill with key audiences, and you may have overlooked a vulnerability or a potential resource.
Gather critical resources
Create a reserve of critical resources like petty cash, batteries, spare mobile phones and laptop computers, and consumables that are critical to your business. Check that your first-aid kit is fully stocked with fresh supplies and you can find your fire extinguisher.
Back up data
Ensure essential data is backed up in multiple locations, with an extra copy in the cloud. Confirm the backups are usable. Make copies of essential documents, like licenses and passports.
Check financial resources
Ask your insurance agent what your policy covers and excludes. If appropriate, talk to your bank about standby credit facilities. Ask suppliers about extended payment terms.
Review physical security
Check windows, doors, shutters, alarm systems and locks. Property crime will be a low priority for police during civil unrest.
Finally, consider how you would react to a range of possible scenarios. For example, would you continue operating if there were changes to Hong Kong’s legal system? If the peg to the U.S. dollar was abandoned? If the People’s Liberation Army was deployed in Hong Kong? These scenarios may seem far-fetched, but they are best considered when things are quiet.