Preparing for the challenges a business might come up against when times get tough can seem like a mammoth task. You want to protect your business and guarantee that it can survive the adversity. It can be helpful to think about why you’re making a plan to ensure business continuity. Once you have in mind exactly how it is going to benefit your business, it’s easier to make a strategy you feel confident in.
It’s hard to measure the full extent to which recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit have impacted upon businesses. Many have had to make changes and adaptations; many have had to fully revolutionise the way they operate in order to survive. More than anything, these events have demonstrated the need for strategic planning in the face of difficult circumstances, in particular contingency planning for business to help ensure continuity.
Not only does well-considered business process management help make things simpler and easier for you in the future, but it can also be the difference between a business continuing to run or shutting down their operations when a crisis hits.
Why is continuity so important for businesses?
As mentioned above, local, national, and global crises show us how much everything is connected and how vulnerable businesses can be to changes around us. They put pressure on specific (or occasionally all) areas of your business and can cause delays or difficulties in your processes and supply chain that have knock on effects on your staff, products, or services.
Of course, not all things that can make or break a business show up in the form of a major crisis – bad reviews, issues with the quality of your products, staff grievances, cybercrime, and legal problems can all have an impact on any business; and the smaller your business is, the larger this impact can be.
If you’re a small business, damage to your brand reputation brought about by negative testimonials from ex-staff, clients, and customers or by a scandal that implicates yourself, members of staff, or your brand itself can all be devastating to a business. It’s really important to have a plan in place to respond to this kind of crisis considerately, compassionately, honestly, and in a timely manner in order to avoid irreparable damage to your brand. If left too long, or if your response inadequately mitigates the damage, then this can lead to considerable loss of income to your business and, in the worst of cases, mean you have to close your business.
Along similar lines – if staff grievances are handled poorly, they can lead to resignations. These can impact small businesses (where staff cohorts are smaller anyway) far more than larger ones. Not only will it require more resources to rehire new staff and redistribute workload in the interim, but the resignation will also likely be felt on a personal level by the rest of your team. Creating a positive working environment – complete with fair, legal, and compassionate processes to handle difficult circumstances – is so important to prevent a high level of staff turnover.
Perhaps the most serious part of strategic planning is ensuring your business complies with any and all relevant legal requirements to help protect yourself, your staff, your customers/clients, and your business. Legal penalties can be costly both to your brand reputation and your finances, so it’s far better to put the work in to ensure you’re following the letter of the law rather than having to pay the price for breaking the rules.
So, to protect your business from crisis situations, legal penalties, setbacks to your brand reputation, staff resignations, loss of income, and having to shut up shop altogether – you need to have a plan in place to help you know how you’re going to approach problems when they arise. Of course, you can’t prepare for every eventuality, but there are some bases you can cover that can really help protect your business from the most common issues you might face…
What can I do to ensure continuity in my business?
Managing money can be tricky, especially when you’re experiencing a business crisis. Get the financial support you’re entitled to and learn more about financial options out there for your business. From guidance on your options after furlough to tips on bank loans and investment, there are guides out there designed to give small businesses the financial tools to grow (even in hard times). You can also incorporate waste-reducing, cost-saving tips into your business plan to make every penny count when it matters most!
You can access a great deal of excellent free resources and support services designed to assist small businesses with IT Support, HR Support, and mentorship schemes. You can also futureproof and upskill your business through digitalisation with the Made Smarter programme. Designed specifically for manufacturing businesses, the programme helps provide advice, support, and funding to allow you to innovate your business.
Cybercrime is a growing threat to businesses and keeping your business secure online is really important for protecting your staff, customers, and brand. A great place to start would be staying up to date on the latest tips to help reduce the threat of cybercrime so you can share these with your team.
Cut down on the things that don’t matter – such as saving time on business admin – this will help you reduce waste and save costs but most importantly free up time for the things that matter most – and good time management is crucial when times are tough in business. Similarly, good team management achieves the same thing – developing leadership skills within your team is invaluable in a crisis as it allows for seamless delegation when you really need people to take the initiative and get things done. Leading well through change and adversity will allow you to lead your business into recovery.
Keeping your clients and customers up to date is such an important way of managing expectations and keeping people on side when you really need them. Not only can this potentially protect your brand reputation against consumer criticism, it’s also great practice in terms of customer relationship management. Honest social media posts can really endear people to your small business – and don’t forget that a well-considered, timely press release also goes a long way if you’ve got big announcements (whether its good news or bad).
There’s only so much you can do to prepare for a crisis but if one catches you off guard, there is help out there – so don’t panic. Disaster recovery advice can help set your business back on track. If you need specific support regarding Brexit or COVID-19, there are specialist resources out there. York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub have more business continuity advice as well as a friendly team of people who want to help you see your business grow (even through adversity) so please contact us if you need any advice. Another great way to futureproof your business and help you avoid a crisis is to integrate sustainability practices into your business model now. You can reduce waste within your supply chain and reduce energy costs and cut emissions. Sustainability is a key part of future business growth, and there are free sustainability resources out there to help you.
Preparing for the challenges a business might come up against when times get tough can seem like a mammoth task. You want to protect your business and guarantee that it can survive the adversity. It can be helpful to think about why you’re making a plan to ensure business continuity. Once you have in mind