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A business planning meeting which is an essential step to develop Business Contingency Plans.

A good argument to be made, at any time, is that hubris warrants contingency. This is the story of Icarus, Odysseus, Achilles, and more recently, of the Great Recession of 2008 and of the global COVID-19 pandemic. For each scenario, there were plans, but a mix of overzealous attitudes and lack of risk assessment left the plans ignored, to the detriment of those involved. Let’s learn more about the importance of business contingency plans!

Contingencies Are Inherent Features of Our Lives

Failure is about people, not an automation error or a flaw in reality. It is about what people cause to happen and what happens to them. Contingency accounts for both outcomes because it is a handmade antidote to, often, handmade problems. When living in a “what-if,” the hope is that people have been trained to think hypothetically and in terms of the worst possible situation; they have planned and reviewed, and somehow, they have met a future they predicted, ready to face it. The thing to take away is that success is also about people, people with business contingency plans, and the foresight to prepare them.

To take the business perspective, which is almost all perspectives, an industry aware of and taking action against a destructive possibility to its standing will last longer than an industry putting aside doubts and fears for short-term relief. The latter behavior is in no way delusional and comes instead from innocence, the conviction that something can go wrong with one business and not the other.

Let us reexamine the Great Recession now and focus on the buzz phrase, “Too Big to Fail,” a sentiment that, while wary of the precipitousness associated with the financial industry’s failure, is also seen as a benchmark that cannot be crossed. Except, it was, and crossing it nearly took down the global economy. The contingency was bailouts. However, that is not to say that there were no plans in place before the Recession hit.

Preparation Always Takes Precedence

In a chapter from Introduction to Security: Tenth Edition, authors Fischer, Halibozek, and Walters claim that crisis plans are lacking in the United States, citing a 2006 briefing that reports that 39% of U.S companies do not have a crisis plan, with 56% of companies having failed to have conducted crisis reviews and preemptive training. Said neglect, as stated by the chapter, indicates why human error is the greatest cause of crises. Perfection is not the answer in that it is impossible, and in a practical sense, errors are inescapable. The idea is prevention, and if that should fail then intervention. Dismissal and/or willful ignorance are often the main causes as well. Human characteristics stick around even if we pretend they were never there at all. It is better to know them, anyhow. Worse than ignoring something is not knowing whether you should know about something. A contingency plan seems very superfluous then.

At the least, a contingency plan must be useful, the lifebuoy for a business. When it works, the business continues. It might not grow, but it will keep its doors open. Stability beats downward progress, and sometimes, it is the best thing to expect — case in unintentionally pontificating point, the pandemic.

During an outbreak of the avian flu in 2006, the New York Times wrote an article about what it would take to prepare for a pandemic. Now-common vocabulary was used in the article to detail the actions taken to prevent systemic failure. Reporting from Hong Kong, Keith Bradsher interviewed FedEx representatives who told him that they had contingencies “down to every district or market…in Asia Pacific”. Compared to the Guangdong Province Chamber of Commerce in China, where “54 percent of members had made no preparations,” FedEx analyzed the risks a pandemic presents, many of them unpredictable, and thought of the potential for action.

a Group of Employees Sitting at a Conference Table, Smiling, Representing the Importance of Business Contingency Plans for Success

The Key to Business Contingency Plans

Success with contingency means taking the act of thinking seriously, and making constructive habits logical business routines. People may survive a building fire, but generally, we have drills to make sure nothing goes wrong with the escape. Hopefully, a tornado does not appear, but if one does, we have secure areas to house people. It goes similarly for sickness, theft, civil disorder, malfunctions, change in leadership, ethical dilemmas, and internecine scrimmages. 

The complexity associated with contingency, or how it connotes danger and the despair over that danger, is somewhat hyperbolic and thanks to that, mostly underestimated. We are skeptical of exaggeration insomuch as it applies to all else but ourselves. Still, we prepare. Whether we should credit self-interest or pure altruism is a question more likely to concern us after the fact. What we do in the moment, not the matter of motivation, focuses us. Nothing would get done the other way. This is a possible reason as to why, after several millennia, philosophy has not come to an end.

Need Help Coming Up With a Plan?

Do one of your business contingency plans pertain to what happens if you are unable to make the others? Might I recommend you consider Essential Data Corporation as an aid? Given that contingencies can be bound up in jargon, we translate the terms to suit the needs of your business. You take planning and risks seriously, and we do the same. Before long, there will be a time when the plans have to be solidified, so why not start now?

If you would like more information on emergency planning documents, here are some additional resources:

Business Continuity Plans: Why You Should Believe in Them

Why Your Company Needs Business Resource Planning

Technical Documentation in Risk Management

Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or

By Will Boswell