One of the most exciting things about building a successful business is that you never quite know what’s going to happen next, but this is also one of your biggest challenges. It could be anything from a sudden and unexpected opportunity, to a cyber attack, systems failure or natural disaster that hits your business hard. The good news is that there are certain things you can do to get your business in the best shape to embrace or absorb the unexpected when it comes along. Here are a few things to bear in mind to give your business resilience when you need it most…
- Establish a Solid Business Plan
This is the first rule of running a robust and resilient small business: sit down, think it all through, and outline your business plan. Of course you should do this when you first start out, but it is also something that you should regularly revisit so that it stays relevant and up to date. A solid business plan helps you to guard against getting caught out or overlooking something that might suddenly come back to bite you in the form of an unwelcome bill.
- Maintain a Healthy Diversity
Make sure that you have a certain diversity of income streams and suppliers so that if one of them takes a hit, it’s not crippling for your business – for example, relying heavily on just one or two clients puts your business in a precarious position, even if things are looking rosy right now. Similarly, if a major supplier suddenly goes out of business, what will it mean for you? Even if you have one or two main clients, partners or suppliers, make sure that you have a backup list and a plan to put in place if one of them suddenly lets you down.
- Equip Your Team
When you find that you’re onto a good thing with a certain employee or partner, it can be easy to get complacent, but what if that highly valued individual suddenly leaves you high and dry? They might be pursuing an opportunity elsewhere, or they might be incapacitated due to illness or family emergency, and suddenly you need to find a way to keep your operations running smoothly in their absence. It’s good business sense to make sure that your team is well trained and informed across the board, so that the unexpected loss of a single team member or partner doesn’t leave a gaping hole in the immediate aftermath.
- Save For a Rainy Day
This is good advice for all areas of life, but when it comes to running a small business this could be make or break: give yourself a buffer and don’t stretch yourself too thinly. Make sure that you have an emergency pool of money that will cover your key expenses, like payroll, for several months so that you’re not suddenly caught short. This gives you some breathing room to re-group and get things in order after disaster strikes.
- Stay One Step Ahead
It’s easy to get taken by surprise if you’re not in tune with the wants, needs and concerns of upcoming generations, as well as technological advances and marketing trends. Actively engaging with younger generations through your social media accounts will help you to keep one step ahead, and you should always be ready to adapt your sales and marketing approaches and messaging in order to stay relevant and effective.
- Take Advantage of the Right Financing
Taking out a loan can be an effective way of safeguarding and growing your business, but you need to be smart and savvy about it. Explore the many different financing options out there and choose the right loan structure, terms and repayment schedule for you and your business. It’s a good rule of thumb to always be sure that you’re borrowing money for a specific purpose, and that it’s going to directly sow into the development and growth of your business.
- Prepare for Natural Disasters
Natural disasters, like storms or extreme flooding for example, are one of the biggest challenges and disruptions for small businesses because there’s nothing you can do to stop them, and you get very little (if any) warning. Natural disasters can impact your buildings, infrastructure, operations and people, with potentially devastating consequences for your business. Even though you can’t know when disaster is going to strike, there are things you can do to make sure that your business gets back up and running as quickly as possible once the dust settles.
Firstly, every small business should have a disaster plan in place that outlines the policies and procedures to be followed in the wake of a natural disaster, so that you don’t suddenly have to make difficult strategic decisions at a highly stressful and emotional time. This should include a communications strategy that keeps employees, suppliers, lenders, customers, clients and all stakeholders informed and up to date. You should document all damage to buildings, equipment and infrastructure, and file the relevant insurance claims as soon as possible. It’s also worth looking into low interest disaster loans and applying for an extension to your tax filing deadlines, to ease the pressure.
As a small business owner it’s essential that you look after your employees in the aftermath of a natural disaster, from their immediate medical needs to ongoing support and counselling if necessary. Community partnerships with other local businesses, government agencies and charities also come into their own in this kind of situation. When a natural disaster hits, it’s going to affect all of you, so it makes sense to pull together and support each other to rebuild and move forwards.
All of this contingency planning is not about being negative or expecting the worst, but it’s about getting prepared now so that you don’t find yourself having to make quick and sudden decisions at a stressful time. A little bit of forward planning will shore up your business so that you can ride out the storms and emerge stronger in the long run.