You can only control so much when running your business. No matter how well you run your operations or how smooth things are going you should always have a plan ready for obstacles that can impact your business from the outside.
The best example of something that wasn’t in anyone’s business plan was the impact of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry. Despite years of trouble-free trading and a loyal customer base, the lockdown and its cliff-edge effect on business has left even the most successful restaurants facing financial difficulties.
And it’s not only major global events that can cause business-threatening disruption. A failure of a major supplier or customer can not only impact supply chains – sometimes with no easy or quick resolution – but can also leave a business with unpaid bills or excess stock on their books.
How can you prepare for these unpredictable events? The answer is to put together a resiliency plan detailing how your business will handle a sudden downturn or disruption.
Build downtime into your model
Many businesses have predictable seasonal variations in trade which they need to plan for. Landscapers, for example, will need to allow for peaks in spring and summer, with activity tailing off dramatically over winter.
Can you learn anything from the way these businesses build downtime into their plans? Storing up a reserve of cash to see you through lean times is one tactic, but whichever approach you take, accounting for variations in trade outside your control is sound business planning in any sector.
Develop a continuity plan
However, building resilience is about more than leaving a little breathing space in your finances. It’s also important to develop a continuity plan that will help you keep your business head above water in times of severe disruption. Much of this plan should focus on maintaining customer relationships, and here’s an outline to adapt to your own business.
- Build ways of staying engaged with your customer base, so that if the situation changes suddenly you retain a way of drumming up replacement business. Social media, an email newsletter, and offline mailshots are all great ways of doing this, building a marketing resource you can call on in times of need.
- When a crisis hits, use your contact methods to reach out to your customers, letting them know what plans you have in place to continue serving their needs under the new circumstances.
- But don’t just broadcast to your customers. If the situation is one that affects them too, ask how you can adapt your services to make life easier for them. Businesses that react quickly can find opportunities in even the worst crises.
- And when you implement new practices of any kind, follow up with customers to find out how the measures worked. If they ordered your products online for the first time, how did they find the experience? Could you improve it? Or for a restaurant, was the takeout meal good value and of high enough quality to make customers come back for more?
Major situations like a pandemic can throw even the best-laid business plans into a loop, but less dramatic events can also have a severe impact on an under-prepared company. Developing a resiliency plan in advance will help give you the means to be proactive, and to pivot your business quickly to ride out the storm.