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Selling Business Continuity to the C-Suite: Don’t!

This bulletin week Charlie talks about the importance of senior manager buy-in within business continuity.
 

In my last job before PlanB Consulting and Business Continuity Training, I was working for a consultancy in Perth. I worked closely with the organisation’s salesman and we were often on the road together selling business continuity. This salesman had sold everything to everyone and had ‘been around the block’ several times. He always told me that business continuity was the easiest sale he had ever had to make. If business continuity is such an easy sell, why is selling business continuity to senior managers even an issue?
 
Last week was ‘Business Continuity Awareness Week’, and as such we saw a whole series of articles on the business benefits of business continuity (details of the articles can be found by clicking here). Over time, the reasons for carrying out business continuity have included trying to scare senior managers with the personal impact on them if they get their crisis response wrong. Examples of this can be found within articles by Paul Robertson FBCI entitled, ‘Return on investment for crisis management’ or, perhaps, Dear Chairman, how much do you like your job?’ 
 
Other reasons can be found within articles such as, ‘Supply chain resilience – The case for understanding the ROI in resilience’, by David Window, which looks at the return on investment in mitigating supply chain risks. Other articles put forward a straightforward business case for the savings which can be made by implementing business continuity. There are also a number of articles highlighting the additional risks that will be identified by implementing business continuity, where the organisation will then have the ability to take measures and invest to mitigate them.
 
Researching the web and doing a simple Google search will provide lots of other advice on selling the benefits of business continuity to senior managers. Fran Howarth, in her article on the March 24, 2016, ‘How to Sell Business Continuity to Your C-Suite’, discusses three ways to sell business continuity. I have listed her main points here:


1.     Use the information from your BIA to make senior managers aware of the impact of an incident occurring.
2.     Build relationships with key stakeholders by taking time to explain the benefits of business continuity. This will create buy-in by senior managers.
3.     Be creative and think outside the box when presenting your information, including the use of internal case studies so that the business benefits are presented    in an appealing way to the C-suite. 
 
I would agree with her on all these points!
 
If all the business benefits are categorised for business continuity, why are senior managers not convinced? The BSI, in their whitepaper for business, ‘Beyond Recovery – The broader benefits of Business Continuity Management’, put as one of their bullet points in the executive summary:
“It is time for the ‘C-suite’ to wake up to the full range of BCM benefits and the true ROI the discipline offers”.
 
My own experience is that you cannot persuade people to invest in business continuity if they are not already convinced. By way of an example, I have a good personal friend who is Commercial Director of a large firm close to where I live. Due to the nature of their operations I knew that they really needed business continuity. For years I had tried to persuade my friend to have us in, even to do a gap analysis, to look at their risks, but I had no luck. About a year ago their board said that they should carry out business continuity, and now we are working with them. Absolutely nothing to do with my persuasion!
 
I am sure all of us have tried to persuade potential clients or a friend or colleague of the benefits of business continuity, and have had the familiar argument that ‘it would never happen’ or ‘we have x y z in place’ and the conversation goes nowhere. Even if we bring out our best arguments, I think that people who can’t see the benefit of it, cannot in the short term be persuaded that it is worth doing. Senior managers need to make their own journey and have a change in mindset to be convinced. I think that as business continuity becomes more mainstream, with more and more businesses undertaking it, we will see a growth in the number of senior managers getting on board.
 
As we know, it is almost impossible to implement business continuity in an organisation, either from the bottom or middle up, as you need the buy-in and support of senior managers. If you are not getting the buy-in or they are not persuaded, don’t waste your time trying to convince them. It is a wasted effort. Coming back to my salesman, it can be the easiest sale, because when senior managers are convinced they want it, they want it now! So perhaps if you are not getting senior management buy-in, you should move on and find an organisation which appreciates the work you are doing and sees the benefit of implementing it.

About Charlie Maclean-Bristol

Charlie Maclean-Bristol is one of the Founders and Directors of PlanB Consulting. He is also the Training Director of Business Continuity Training Ltd., a UK-based training provider accredited by the Business Continuity Institute. Charlie is a former Business Continuity Institute board member and one of the very few Fellows of both the Emergency Planning Society and the Business Continuity Institute.

A former Infantry Captain in the British Army, Charlie held several emergency planning, business continuity and crisis management positions within the energy and utility industry before founding PlanB Consulting in 2007. Over the past twelve years, Charlie has delivered business continuity consultancy in 6 of the worlds 7 continents, frequently providing full business continuity roll-outs to organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.

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