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Crisis management and business continuity

Within the UK retail and leisure and hospitality Sector

Aerospace|Financial, Executive and Professional Risks (FINEX)|Talent|Wellbeing|Risk Management Consulting
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Gary Donlon | May 11, 2020

When working out what’s best for your business and people, split your response into two main phases – crisis management and business continuity.

Crisis management

The basis of crisis management is about being as clear as possible about what it is that your business is facing.

Consider the parameters and constraints that your response needs to operate within. Decisions can then be made, and resources and communications deployed to protect your business welfare.

Remember the four Cs:

  • Contain the event
  • Clarify the information
  • Coordinate the response
  • Communicate with stakeholders.

Business continuity

Your business continuity plan needs to be a useable resource that will help you adapt to operating in the current circumstances. To underpin your business continuity plan you need to have a business impact analysis that specifies critical activities, minimum resources and recovery solutions.

The diagram explains the timeline from crisis management to business continuity
Crisis management timeline * for illustrative purposes only

The diagram explains the timeline from crisis management to business continuity and is for illustrative purposes only

The aim of crisis management is to try to put a lid on the impact curve so that you take back as much control as possible as quickly as possible. Consideration needs to be given to how long the flatline at the top continues.

Measures such as reaching agreements regarding fixed costs, furloughing staff, renegotiating credit terms, engaging with HM Treasury and assisting the country-wide response are all examples of managing the crisis.

Scale of impact

The scale of impact from this crisis is unprecedented and both the supply side and the demand side of operations are impacted.

For many businesses, the demand side has been completely withdrawn due to government-enforced closures and the public being asked to stay at home. For others, some parts of the business can continue to operate, but they will still face their own challenges.

Trusted resource

You need to remain a trusted resource. A difficult balance may need to be struck between reducing operational costs and keeping people with you.

Keep in touch with people and customers without being invasive. Reassure and reinforce that you have a plan in place and are working through it. This may not be a time to overtly sell but remember that you need a business to come back to.

Returning to normality

Ensure you have plans in place for recovery and business continuity for when things start to return to customary practices.

You may face uncertainty regarding how your dependency on suppliers might be restored – and whether this will align with your existing plans on how to recover your business. It may become necessary to consider multiple sources where possible, mutual aid or market solutions.

Review plans, strategies and solutions

Review your plans, recovery strategies and solutions, and consider whether they are still deliverable in the current climate. Some assumptions made during their development may now be defunct.

Don’t forget about the welfare of the crisis management team too. Many people are working under extreme pressures, so you will need to account for this in recovery plans.

A basic timeline of what to do


Consider whether your crisis management and business continuity plans align. Check that the priorities, parameters, constraints and objectives remain valid and workable during the current crisis.


Maintain key operational and financial controls. Minimum resources should be used to provide critical activities.

Once a company reaches the flat line at the top of the impact curve, crisis management can start to plan for recovery.

Once a company reaches the flat line at the top of the impact curve, crisis management can start to plan for recovery. Businesses should engage with support services, government agencies and trade bodies to keep on top of what is happening.


It is recommended you put a team together now to focus on recovery and to understand whether the people and organisations you will be relying on are ready too. Consider the enabling services that need to be in place to restart – such as cleaning or IT.

Think about possible further delays in your supply chains – suppliers will need to be producing products before businesses can resume selling them.

New risks to consider

Despite the pandemic, the world keeps turning and other risks remain. It’s important that the focus of attention on the pandemic doesn’t also detract from broader risk management and mitigation.

There’s a new working environment for many organisations, and you will need to ask whether you can operate effectively this way long-term. There may be an increased risk of cyber-attack with many people working from home.

As of the day the pandemic crisis broke, business continuity planning should have been and should continue to be a part of day-to-day management, not an add-on to satisfy auditors or insurers.

Make sure plans are properly implemented and that you’re confident in their capability and operability through testing and exercising.

Looking ahead, you might have a new operating model with different risks, supply chain, business processes, infrastructure and customer engagements. Think about what this will look like and how you can orientate your organisation appropriately. What are the potential implications for insurance or financial impacts on the business, and what does this mean for future services?


Each applicable policy of insurance must be reviewed to determine the extent, if any, of coverage for COVID-19. Coverage may vary depending on the jurisdiction and circumstances. For global client programs it is critical to consider all local operations and how policies may or may not include COVID-19 coverage.

The information contained herein is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with your own legal and/or other professional advisors. Some of the information in this publication may be compiled by third party sources we consider to be reliable, however we do not guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of such information. We assume no duty in contract, tort, or otherwise in connection with this publication and expressly disclaim, to the fullest extent permitted by law, any liability in connection with this publication. Willis Towers Watson offers insurance-related services through its appropriately licensed entities in each jurisdiction in which it operates.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation and changes are occurring frequently. The information given in this publication is believed to be accurate at the date of publication shown at the top of this document. This information may have subsequently changed or have been superseded, and should not be relied upon to be accurate or suitable after this date.


Kelvyn Sampson
GB Industry Practice Leader – Retail and Leisure & Hospitality

Associate Director – Risk

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