Most businesses have some form of a plan for when disaster strikes but a small business usually relies on insurance. Yet how about the times when insurance doesn’t apply – like now in the midst of the global Coronavirus pandemic?
Businesses around the world are going through a period of great upheaval, compounded by multiple factors that have combined to clash in a big way. From digital disruption changing the way brick and mortar businesses operate to rapidly transforming consumer behavior, small businesses need to be able to adapt quickly to survive.
Agility is the key and as long as you are able to quickly adapt, your business will stand a chance of survival. If you haven’t already a business continuity plan in place, walk yourself through these steps and build one as you go.
Managing Business Continuity
1. Assess Potential Impact
With the current state of most of the world, it doesn’t take much to imagine a scenario. As a business owner, you should already by now be very much aware of not just how your business has been impacted but also in which key areas.
It is also important to consider the business from your customer’s point of view. How badly are they affected and how easily would it be for them to get supplied by alternative sources?
All of this information needs to be clearly spelled out in order for you to generate ideas through which they can be mitigated.
2. Dealing with the Crisis
Once you know how your business has been impacted, look towards revenue generation. This requires that you have a delegate and brief key personnel in the roles they need to play during the period of emergency.
Remember that in all out of the norm circumstances, your instructions need to be clear and well thought out in order to work. One way of supporting this is by creating checklists that employees can refer to as they go.
If your business has been so badly impacted that there is no way you can resume even partial operations the way it used to be, consider alternatives. For example, brick and mortar outlets can convert to digital fairly rapidly by making use of tools such as website builders like Shopify.
Some of the most important things you remember include;
- Ensuring Strong Leadership – Keep your cool and consider what you need to do carefully before delegating. Your entire staff will be looking to you for clear guidance.
- Leverage on Experience – Taking everything on alone can be a recipe for disaster. Make sure you have a team to help you avoid potential blind spots.
- The Plan isn’t Built-in Concrete – While a business continuity plan is important, be flexible enough to recognize a good idea and seize on it if it appears.
- Communicate Consistently – Be unified with your key crisis team and send clear and timely messages to your staff.
3. Always Test Your Plan
Once you’ve drawn up your business continuity plan, make sure that you test it on a regular basis. It can be easy to simply mark off as ‘something that had to be done’, but failing to actually see it in action can be as big a disaster as not having one.
Business environments also change fairly rapidly, so it is important to carry out regular reviews so that the plan is up to date and in sync with reality. Where possible, try and carry out drills from time to time and observe what went wrong and where.
Planning for the Future
From suppliers to sales to inventory and cash flow, each of these elements makes up a part of a solid chain that represents how you earn a living. A disruption in one or more of these areas could mean a ripple effect along the entire chain.
In the past, businesses have tried to maintain key relationships since those typically mean lower costs. This is especially so for small businesses who may already have problems generating volume as it is.
While diversification may be a difficult bullet to bite, it just might save your business in the long run. When I say diversification, it doesn’t mean just diversifying your product line, but in multiple areas.
1. The Supply Chain
How you source your goods is usually the first area that most businesses look at and this is the area most likely to create a pain point. Yet if you were to be overly reliant on a single or a select number of suppliers, you’re creating a fixed point of potential failure.
The focus on this area should not just be suppliers themselves, but everywhere along the line including transportation and even your own staff. For example, explore possibilities where staff can operate from various locations including alternative sites, or even work from home.
2. Diversifying Revenue Sources
No, this doesn’t mean you need to sell a wider range of products. Imagine if you were a mom and pop store that relied on walk-in customers for your revenue stream. If that pool of customers were to disappear it would be a disaster.
Whether you’re an entirely brick and mortar outlet or 100 percent digital, look towards establishing some sort of balance here. This way you can still have a fallback area if something were to happen.
Make sure you leverage on various means of reaching out to your customers. For example, digital can be a good alternative way of marketing your products or simply keeping customers updated on what your business is doing. It also isn’t overly complex to handle thanks to the ton of content marketing tools available today.
Caption: Estimated social media usage in the U.S. due to Coronavirus home isolation
During a crisis such as a Coronavirus outbreak, the last thing your business afford to overlook is social media appearance. A survey shows that the estimated usage of social media will increase during this period. Getting your message appeals to your targeted customers has never been that important before. Making use of visuals and these infographic templates can surely craft a better marketing message.
Conclusion: Build an Agile Business
Although I may be a strong proponent of digital, don’t be mistaken in thinking that is the direction I’m trying to push you in. My key highlight here is to plan for contingencies and manage them well.
The best way you can ensure business continuity through times of crisis is by not simply having a tried and tested plan, but also being agile enough to adopt new things on the fly when necessary.