Losing key staff, phones, computers or utility supplies are the biggest potential headaches for businesses in Northern Ireland — but over half have a cunning plan if things go wrong, according to a business survey.
Goldblatt McGuigan’s research, carried out in conjunction with the Belfast Telegraph, found over 60% of companies had experienced some disruption or crisis which had affected their operation in the last two years.
A sample of 110 businesses of all sizes in the private sector were questioned for the quarterly survey to identify the events which could jeopardise businesses and the measures which businesses have to deal with them.
The effect of extreme weather was highlighted by just under one fifth of businesses, perhaps still experiencing the repercussions of last month’s flooding.
But the highly publicised business issues of a downturn in demand, the credit crunch and bad debts were matters of major concern to just 8%, 5% and 2% of businesses surveyed respectively.
At 54%, the number of businesses with a business continuity plan for a crisis was higher than the UK average, and almost 90% were training senior leaders to deal with challenges to their business.
Michael Clarke, director of management consultancy services at Goldblatt McGuigan, said he welcomed the willingness of businesses to prepare for the unexpected — but said using the same skills in day-to-day business would give a competitve edge.
"We would argue that it is not just about having a ‘break glass in case of emergency' crisis management plan in the filing cabinet.
“If a business is to be able cope in the face of adversity and continue to operate and service its customers irrespective of the pressures that are being brought to bear upon it, leaders at the top of a business might need to think differently about how to lead in times of adversity.
“If they can lead in this context, transferring this skill to daily business is very likely to yield a meaningful competitive advantage.”
John Toner, director of the Hastings Hotels Group, said unexpected events could often create business difficulties in the hotel sector.
“People, property, systems, security, health and safety are all vulnerable areas in our business. At Hastings Hotels we undertake continual risk assessments and have in place, and regularly test and update, a business continuity plan for the group and for each of our individual properties."
Norman Taylor, director of Dyno-Rod Northern Ireland, said the business fortunes of its customers posed the biggest threat to businesses.
“The downturn that the construction and manufacturing sectors are currently facing is a major cause for the local economy.
“While we can all take steps to protect the long term viability of our businesses by being as lean and as efficient as possible, none of us can operate in a vacuum.
“All businesses are interdependent and individually we are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain."