Seven essentials to keep business going in a crisis

The ‘it will never happen to me’ mindset is part of the confidence of being in business for many people. But disaster strikes and can it strike anyone, anytime. People die, people get sick, accidents will happen – health and wellbeing are key issues for small businesses. Not especially the health of those directly involved – that you can insure against to some extent, but the health of loved ones, especially those entirely dependent on YOU.

The odds against what happened to a business we know were around 2 million to one – they had done some of the right things – the rest they learned fast.

Because it isn’t a direct risk the fact is very few plan for it. The key is to be flexible enough to adapt, in doing so the following proves indispensable:

A crisis communications plan

This might seem like a luxury that only Big Cos can possibly afford. But it isn’t. In fact a day planning for the worst can prove an invaluable investment. This isn’t because of the cost when something actually happens; it’s because something probably will happen. Having some idea who does what, how the messages will happen, who the key people are – it all makes a difference to how quickly you can get moving again – or how you protect the reputation of your brand. You don’t need fantastic detail – every crisis communications plan has to be adaptable – but an outline should be considered essential.

Great IT support that means you can work anytime, anywhere

Doesn’t everyone these days have the ability to work from anywhere, anytime? Don’t we all have our software in ‘the cloud’ can’t we easily connect to pretty much anything? Err, well no. We were lucky. It had long been part of running Public Impact that a seamless service to client meant being able to access whatever we needed from anywhere in the world. So getting to the office didn’t matter so much. Much more to the point we had a great IT support company who could advise on or set up anything additional that we needed very quickly.

It is important to say that this is not just about being ‘in the cloud’ – it’s about having the right remote access arrangements that are right for you based on you current set up. If you normally do the tech yourself, for good reasons, you may well find that when bad things happen it just isn’t viable to continue that approach.

Good supplier relationships built on trust

All business is built on trust and the greater the trust you have in your suppliers the easier it is to cope when events intervene. Knowing you can effectively delegate key aspects of your work to your supply chain in the near certainty that they won’t let you down is a huge weight off your mind when disaster strikes. So look after your suppliers when times are good.

Work out what and how you are going to tell your clients

Communication always matters – but the decision of how and what to communicate to the organisations with which you do business has to be conscious. Sometimes the right thing IS to do and say nothing – so long as you believe that you can continue to deliver service. Always bear in mind, however, that all business is built on trust. Honesty and openness builds and maintains trust. So considerer whether to say anything, what to say, when to say it and by what channel.

Have priorities, review priorities, make lists

The default for everyone is ‘muddle through’. The reality is muddling through is just that – a muddle. So be clear in your own mind about the priority. For most people top of the list will be the continuation of service deliver. Your reputation as a provider of professional, good value services is paramount – lose that and the damage to your business can become permanent.

So it’s not rocket science – the thing at the top of the pile on your desk or at the top of your inbox is not always the most important. So revise the strategy – go through everything as soon as you get the chance and make lists of everything – then decide what’s got to happen, what’ going to happen and what can’t happen right now . It’s not just sensible organisation, it’s good stress management too.

Scheduling proactively buys time

Once you have your lists you will be able to buy yourself time by scheduling or rescheduling clients into the future to buy time. It’s all about calling them before they call you – you might appear to be creating more work – but by massaging the relationship you keep the door open.

Take one day at a time

Finally, remember why you are doing what you do and that (hush!) life is more important than work. Set you own boundaries for dealing with the immediate issues on your lists, find something good in the day, understand you can’t always make progress but be glad that you’re still here.

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