Entrepreneurs, big or small, all have to deal with an unplanned crisis at some point. When everything is going well, it can seem like it’s going to last forever, but you can’t be short-sighted. A PwC report found that nearly 7 in 10 company leaders have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the past five years.
The good news is that there are measures which make these situations easier to tackle. With the proper strategy and positioning, scenarios that might be disasters for other businesses might only be minor blips for your company. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two.
Expect the best, prepare for the worst
The single most important piece of advice to survive a crisis relatively unscathed is to plan for it. Normally in these situations you have to make major decisions under strict deadlines. If you’re one of the 51% of businesses that don’t have a crisis plan, things can deteriorate quicker than you think. This is a crucial step to mitigate uncertainty in the event of a crisis.
Anything from a natural disaster to a data breach needs, or even the death of a senior employee, could be considered as part of your plan. This might seem pessimistic, but if the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything it’s that there’s no such thing as being too prepared.
Start your plan by conducting a risk analysis. If your corner of the market is at higher risk of one type of crisis, then allocate more resources to plan for it. For example, if you are near a river or the sea, you may want to invest more money into flood planning. Likewise, an online only business may want to put some serious thought into their social media strategy in case something goes wrong.
How we communicate with stakeholders during a crisis is essential to limiting the damage done. You must make sure you are getting the right message out to customers, investors, and employees. This isn’t easy, which is why many businesses hire external agencies for crisis communications. This can free up resources to tackle the problem head on.
Prepare messages in advance for different scenarios, know which members of the media to contact and ensure all employees are kept in the loop when things go wrong. You will garner respect if you are honest in your messaging and it can help soothe the issues that arise from crises. Know your audience and how to reach them in advance.
It’s vital, no matter the crisis, to always be on the front foot. Don’t wait for questions to start pouring in from upset customers or the media. Explain the situation and what you are doing to rectify any problems before you are even asked.
Hire the right people
Not everyone is cut out to work through a crisis. When it can seem like the whole business is coming down around your ears, you need to make sure you can rely on your employees to get the job done under intense pressure. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
It can be a hard thing to do. In interviews, no one is going to say they balk at the first sign of trouble. However, if you ask what environment they thrive in you have more success. Likewise, ask them how they deal with deadlines or being handed work to do in a short time period.
Everyone’s personality is different, and while you need a good mix in the office, it will always be useful to have a group of employees capable of dealing stress while getting the job done.
Learn from your mistakes
In business and in life, you should always ask yourself what went wrong, why and how you can improve for the future. Not everything will be smooth the first time your business experiences a crisis. That’s why it’s a crisis and not just a minor incident.
It’s key when you’re on the other side of a crisis to learn from what went wrong. This isn’t to ensure that nothing ever goes wrong – that is unavoidable – but rather to enable you to deal with these circumstances as and when they arise.
Start by listing all of your mistakes. This will lay out where your weaknesses lie. Once you’ve done that, update your crisis plans to reflect what you learn. Knowing your faults is a key step toward improving and will leave you ready to act in the event of the next emergency.
With the right team executing a proper plan and communicating what you do in the optimal way, your company will be in the best position to weather any storm.