It is a reality in business that things will eventually go wrong. The events, if serious, may seriously impact the day to operations and viability of the business. More often than not, these events are unplanned, often unnatural and external, and something that you have no control over as the business owner such as major power outages, weather damage, online security issues etc.
So what do you do?
Business continuity, or crisis management is often an overlooked process that business owners fail to consider until an actual crisis event occurs. It feels like that ‘unnecessary insurance policy’ that is worth the risk in not having, like the young worker who doesn’t feel they need life insurance because ‘it won’t happen to me’ is the approach. Unfortunately, thanks to our good friend Murphy and his Law, it usually does if you are not covered! And when it does, the business owner goes quickly into fire-fighting or survival mode to attempt to get through it. This is the classic response for those without a continuity strategy, and there businesses out there who can help develop such a plan for you to allow you to be proactive vs. reactive. they can also assist in managing the crisis during it as well, if you have no plan!
Whilst I a sure the business continuity experts would say ‘have a plan ready to go before the event’, sadly most don’t! If you are like the majority of businesses, this is one of those many areas you just don’t get around to doing- but as the year comes to an end, this could be a smart ‘to do’ to add to your list!
Assuming things go wrong and your business has a major incident which affects its ability to trade, to operate, to deliver, process etc and you know that this will not only impact your team but your brand, what are some of the key points you can do to manage (and there are many more as well, but talk to the continuity experts).
– If you are a highly engaged business who deals with many consumers, find a means to communicate to them and advise of the issue.
– If it is your website that is down, or you main portal, find other means such as Social Media channel, emergency radio adverts etc (if relevant).
– If a long-term issue arises, take a personal approach and snail mail a letter to them.
– The key point is keep the key stakeholders aware of the issue, and if suppliers, creditors, other businesses will be impacted advice them as well.
Appoint a Lead:
– Have someone assume control for the recovery plan, be it the Owner, CEO, External resource, just anyone!
– They will be the planner, co-ordinator, communicator, go to person etc for all decisions and actions, and communicate this person as the lead, especially if media engagement is required.
– Update progress on where you are at, provide estimates for return to normal, develop a strategy and advise end users if they are going to be majorly inconvenienced. (Think of this in regards to delayed/ cancelled flights when you travel. You see major variations in communication being well done and poorly done and from no advice to heaps. While you may be annoyed and inconvenienced, you appreciate open and honest updates as to what time you may depart). It is the same for your clients. If they are not going to receive something when promised – explain up front (you can always – and should – compensate or satisfy later in the process).
– If you don’t have the skill set to manage the sheer complexity of the issue (and often breakdowns are from equipment we have no idea how to fix), bring in the experts and urgently.
– Get an estimation as to how long it may take to fix or replace.
– Are there alternate solutions such as outsourcing etc?
– I’m going to keep saying it as you should keep doing it!
– Look at Twitter now and ho non traditional uses update on issues regularly. The @ACTPol_Traffic twitter feed provides great updates on road issues in Canberra.
Review your risk of exposure and build a plan:
– Once you have the crisis managed and are back to normal operations, have an expert work with you to develop your plan for any potential threats.
– Review your insurances and do you have Business Interruption Insurance in place that covers loss of income as well? Talk to a Broker.
And finally…..Communicate some more:
Once you are back on deck and all is well, consider the customers impact and what this had on them and develop an approach to manage this. You most definitely should communicate to them again stating what occurred and how the actions put in place will prevent it from occurring again, and “say sorry” for the frustrations, delays or whatever impact this had on them (and other interested parties for your business). Then consider a plan to compensate or make a gesture to show genuine concern for the issue and this needs to be on a business by business, and product by-product basis, as one size doesn’t fit all. A small client base can get a personalised offering, whereas larger need something automated and mass generated (example may be a Telco who has internet down not only doesn’t charge this to the regular bill, they offer a credit, but they may add bonus data as a way of compensating – as if!!).
Unfortunately, in today’s business and technological world things can, do and will go wrong. The sheer urgency and necessity of all businesses having a disaster plan to manage any risks is not to be underestimated. It will make the process of working through the crisis much easier if you have a clear and structured plan in place instead of the mad rush of panic if you don’t.If you wish to be put in touch with some experts in this field whom I know, please get in touch.
How does your business stand up for crisis planning?
Tony Ozanne – “more than a Business Coach”