Was your business prepared for Sh*t to hit the fan?
Updated: Jul 2
I don’t think anyone will argue that this year is… bizarre. Who would have imagined the way 2020 has drunkenly strutted by, bumping into our businesses, clumsily knocking over any hopeful expectations we had back in December of 2019. When COVID got into full swing throughout March, we were all left with our jaws hanging open, just staring around at all the damage. We had no grasp of where this was headed, not even a loose timeline of how this would play out and certainly no solid concept of how long this was going to take. Now here we are halfway through the year, and although we are still kind of wearily slow-blinking at this “new normal” at least the dust has settled enough for us to realize that we can adapt to change, no matter how crazy they are. We have already learned many lessons - personally the two biggest have been that we are not in this alone (asking for help is the best thing you can do for your mental health), and that preparation is key moving forward.
Planning for the worst and hoping for the best is a cliche that never hit as close to home as it does now. Whether you are in a pandemic or whatever it was that we used to live in, having a contingency plan is just plain ole’ good sense- well, it’s crucial really. So how has your business done during this crisis? Did you already have an emergency plan? A natural disaster plan at least? It’s difficult to plan for something of this magnitude, but fortunately when these things happen it wakes us up and forces us to take a look at our strategy for all aspects of business. It causes us to reevaluate how existing processes are performing, and whether they are efficient or need tweaking (maybe even an entire overhaul). You may not be finding many silver linings lately, but this is definitely one. Depending on how your business fared through the initial blast, we can point you in the direction of the next steps.
Next Step for When You Failed on a Contingency Plan
Okay, so things didn’t quite run smoothly. It’s alright. Dab your eyes, blow your nose and throw that tissue in the trash. It’s time to get to work. You already took the first step, whether you realized it or not. You became aware of holes in your business plan. Now grab your team leaders and have a pow-wow. Start by pinpointing where and how your plan (or lack thereof) fell short and brainstorm how you will make sure that doesn’t happen again. So what are some aspects of your contingency plan to focus on?
They tell you in your personal finances that it is a best practice to have at least 3 months of expenses saved up for an emergency. What about a business? For a small business they advise 3-6 months of expenses. It’s a little difficult to have more than that saved (and depending on how new your business is, it may even be a struggle to get one additional month), but you should be factoring a savings plan into your financial strategy from the get-go. Even if it’s a little bit, you need to start somewhere. Whether you choose to save more, make more, stow away your tax returns, or all of the above, it’s all about reallocating excess expenditure that you can save for when you might really need it.
In addition, you should have a plan in place of financial institutions you should reach out to first in case of an emergency. As we have learned in this COVID situation, sometimes it is not possible to use the traditional banking system for loans. Sometimes you have to resort to out-of-the-box methods, whether it is crowd-sourcing, special promotional pricing or fundraisers, you need to check out all the options that are applicable to your industry and have it laid out in a form that is easy to get your hands on when you need it.
Communication to Team
When everyone’s heads are spinning, it’s important to have a process for reaching out to your team and keep them regularly informed. It’s scary when disasters happen, and while you can’t always give them all the answers they seek, you have to be present for them and consistently reassure your team that you are working on the situation to the best of your ability and passing along information to them as soon as you are able.
Decide beforehand what devices, apps or platforms you will be using to ensure you are reaching every team member. Have quarterly meetings with your staff to update and refresh them on procedures regarding disasters, and provide them with resources with information that outlines your procedures - communication methods, important contact numbers, etc.
Communication to Existing Client/Customers
Obviously your existing customer and clients are going to be banging your door down immediately, wanting to know what is going on, how your business is affected and what you plan to do. Just as you would with your team, choose a method that is best suited for communicating to all your existing clients/customers.
Email/text lists are fantastic for this purpose, along with a reliable email marketing platform. Make sure you have some templates that are easily customizable that you can send out immediately that lets your clients know that you have their best interest at heart and you will be keeping them updated continuously.
You can also utilize your social media platforms and website with emergency information, and be sure to point your customers and clients towards these sources.
Communication to Potential Clients/Customers
Businesses are judged by their responses to a crisis. That doesn’t mean that if you fail you will never receive another customer again, but it does mean that if you are successful in the way that you prepare and deal with a crisis it will speak volumes to potential customers.
Just as you are updating your customers with broad messages via website and social media, this messaging will be seen by your potential customers as well. It will serve to build your credibility and trustworthiness. Keep this in mind as you craft your messaging.
Worst Case Scenario: Scrapping the Business
So what happens if your business cannot survive the crisis or disaster, if there is no way to evolve to adapt to the circumstances? At that point you will have to make the difficult decision to close your business. As stressful and heartbreaking as that situation is, you need to be prepared for it as well. Create a plan of the steps you would need to take, including communicating with your team and customers, and how you would take care of both sets of people in the best way possible.
And finally, always be adding to your backup business concepts. Keep building your stockpile of next ventures in case your first one falls through. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, there is no end to the businesses you can start, so never lose your faith. As long as you keep dreaming, the adventure will never cease.
Summer Swinson Media & Design
Officially established in 2017, our agency has evolved over the past few years to bring a collective of creative skills to the table for the sake of developing a full service marketing & creative team that doesn’t just run your social media but consistently reaches outside the box to experiment and find the strategy that fits your business’ ever-evolving needs.
About the Owner
What happens when you spend 10 years in the wrong business and wake up at 30 years old with a dream - a real passion - for an entirely different industry? Well if you are Summer Swinson, you make the split second decision to leave your dead-end job, go back to school and find a job in your new field to work your bum off while studying your brain ragged. Then you start your own business.
When it comes down to it, passion is what really matters. When you are passionate, you will work all the hours you need to until the project is completed. And then probably more because you will never feel satisfied. That’s the great thing about this agency, you have people willing to work tirelessly to make sure you are reaching success. People who won’t sleep until you’re moving forward.