Crisis Management: Plan Ahead
Stuff happens, as the saying goes. Make sure you have a plan in place if stuff should happen to you
Crises come in a wide variety: A sudden supply interruption that prevents you from making sales, an irate customer on Facebook causes a communal uproar or even the sudden destruction of your inventory in a structure fire. Each of these events represents a crisis to your business, and each needs a management plan.
“Something will happen. That is a fact of life,” say the experts at SmallBusinessNotes.com. “It is how you handle it when it happens that is your test. Having systems in place that provide clear instructions to all concerned and a way to provide continuity of business operations during and immediately after the crisis is critical.”
This is the essence of crisis management; knowing that something is going to happen and knowing just what you’re going to do to come through it.
It’s true that there is no way to prepare for absolutely everything that might occur, but preparation for any crisis will make you better prepared for every crisis. Know who you’ll need to communicate with for crises in each area of your business, and make sure your staff is prepared as well.
“A pragmatic way for small businesses to prepare a crisis management plan is to, first, scope the five worst case scenarios you could face; those which would have the most significant financial impact on the business and/or which are most likely to happen,” says PR and management consultant Craig Pearce. “Then it’s about doing everything you can to prepare for these crises… Consider how your response will impact on your reputation and the achievement of your business objectives long-term.”
Crisis management can also involve making some very tough decisions. Often, a business cannot emerge from a crisis the same as it was before and still hope to thrive. Changing relationships and changing directions can be hard, and many small businesses find this hard to do on their own.
“Sometimes the owner can’t do this. It’s triage, and they’re not built to do it,” crisis manager Nat Wasserstein says. “They’re not going to fire friends and family. They’re not going to have conversations with customers and vendors. Sometimes they need a professional to ‘block’ for them and have the confidence that they don’t have.”
Pearce agrees, noting that attitude is important. When it comes to the public relations angle, he recommends exploring “strategic approaches you could apply including asking trusted, credible and influential stakeholders to speak out on your behalf.”
So be sure you have an effective crisis management plan in place. Know what you would do if your business was suddenly disrupted by consumer relations issues, supply issues and other key problems you might face. Write your plan down and review it several times a year, updating as necessary.
When the crisis comes, the time you invest will have a major payoff.