By APRIL BROWN
In January 2020, the world was gripped by the COVID-19 virus and have been dealing with the consequences ever since. All levels of government around the world have been trying to figure out the best way of dealing with things (and it seems New Zealand has figured it out), but no matter what country you’re in, as a business owner, there’s no doubt you’ll have found it hard.
When lockdowns and quarantines came into effect, many businesses came into crisis mode. Still, since nobody was prepared for what was coming, and everything happened so quickly, it was difficult for most businesses to even have a clue on what to do.
If you’re reading this, then I’m assumed you made the right decisions, and you’ve survived, which is something you should be hugely proud of. In the UK, over 100,000 businesses shut their doors for good because they weren’t able to keep going and was not prepared in the slightest for this kind of crisis.
That being said, if this kind of thing, or another kind of crisis, was to happen again, how prepared are you? Who’s to say something isn’t going to happen tomorrow, or in a few months, or in a few years’ time?
Using the pandemic crisis we’re in now, I’ve taken the time to look at the lessons that you can learn right now to prevent your business from suffering again in the future, should something like this ever happening again. With strategies and protections in place, with the ability to manage a crisis, you can ensure the survival of your business, and ultimately your livelihood.
Here are the five lessons you need to know about.
- Develop, Create, and Maintain a Crisis Strategy
When a crisis comes, you need to make sure you know what you’re doing. Not just you, this means everyone within your business, including your staff, managers, suppliers, and more. This means understanding how certain processes within the business are going to be carried out, and what kind of media needs to be created.
For example, how are people going to work? Are you going to implement a remote working system, or will you require people to come into work on a shift pattern? You also need to nominate and select people who will be in charge of certain aspects of the strategy being implemented.
You need to think about what you’re going to tell your customers and how you’re going to communicate with them. This means selecting a customer response team when a crisis occurs and making sure your social media pages are updated as soon as possible.
If a meeting is going to be held when a crisis takes place, how is everyone going to be informed when and how this is happening, so you’re not wasting time trying to fill everyone in, thus creating the opportunity for human error to occur and mistakes to be made.
- Testing Your Crisis Management Strategy
Each business will have its own strategy, and what works for one business won’t necessarily work for another, so you need to devise your own plan and figure out what works for. However, the most important aspect of this is that you stress test your strategy to ensure it works.
We may never be subject to another crisis for a good few years, at least not on the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s clear that things will always change within your business, so you need to make sure your crisis strategy is always up to date and will reflect the needs of your business.
If you already have a crisis response strategy, perhaps COVID-19 has highlighted some flaws in your strategy that you now need to address, flaws you may never have believed existed, so what are you going to do about them, and how will you make sure problems like this never occur again?
Just some things to think about.
- Take Control of the Situation
It doesn’t matter if things are going wrong and becoming a crisis within the walls of your business or on a global scale, as it is with this pandemic, strong leadership is necessary to guide a business through the storm and out the other side. As a leader yourself, this means getting up in front of everyone, both metaphorically and literally, and taking control.
Start by offering your employees and customers reassurance that you have everything under control, and if you’re following all these points and developing your own crisis management strategy, you will have.
“You need to address the problem head-on, describing what it is in your own words that show you have an understanding of the matter, and what ideas you have to find a solution, or that a solution is being developed. Crisis for many people will mean a stressful and anxious time ahead. This will always, always be your first step,” explains Sarah Coombes, a business analyst at Australia2Write and Britstudent.
It’s always a good idea to try and do more than you need when it comes to addressing and reassuring during a crisis, rather than doing too little and ultimately leaving it too late. Reassurance that everything is under control will stop people from panicking and becoming overwhelmed, helping to instill focus and the drive to move forward.
- See the Future and Take Steps
When a crisis is taking place, it’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and not have the ability to see past what is in front of your face. For example, if a hurricane hits and wipes out a street when walking down the street, it’s so easy to get caught up in the destruction and the sadness of what has happened.
Everything can seem so chaotic, and it’s difficult for many people to see past the mess and see that things will be okay one day in the future.
It’s the same with COVID but in sometimes different ways. For example, some people may not be able to work now due to the self-isolation rules or quarantine periods, which can leave them financially stuck. That might not be a problem now, but months of this can get very serious indeed.
Addressing these present and future concerns is essential for any leader, and while reassurance is important like we said above, it’s important to be honest. In any crisis situation, you need to say that yes, there are going to be problems and setbacks, delays, and unforeseen circumstances which could cause a heap of problems.
These are going to cost your business working days and productivity, and it’s going to hit your bottom line. However, while addressing and highlighting present problems, you also need to share the bigger picture and the grand view for the future.
This means setting long-term goals in your business in crisis management strategy. This is so important for invoking hope for the future and giving everyone within your business something to look forward to and a common goal to work towards. This is essential if you want to make it out of the other side of a crisis.
“There’s no denying that any kind of crisis is scary and can strike fear into our minds and hearts. The COVID pandemic has been a prime example of this, and many people have lost their businesses and their loved ones, and it’s a horrible thing to have happened, especially in some of the ways that the government has been handling things,” shares Alexa Turner, a marketer at 1 Day 2 Write and Next Coursework.
“This is why it’s responsible for businesses to come up with their own strategies and do what they think is right. Sure, you need to make sure you’re following the rules, but it’s all about making sure you’re putting people first and trying your best to make the right decisions.”
- Focus on Safety as a Priority
As a responsible business, and as a responsible human being, it’s important to make sure you’re prioritizing the safety of the people that work for you, including your customers and your communities. Regardless of what the crisis is, you need to be thinking about the rules and regulations that are in place and how your business can implement them as soon as possible.
This needs to happen by carrying out effective communication policies, offering guidance to everyone interacting with your business, and offering consultations and training to staff where necessary.
You may also need to look into things like your first aid policies, your company’s travel plans, and rules for travel, in this case, with COVID-19, the two-week quarantine period after travel that most countries have implemented, and the sorts.
As you a see, a crisis doesn’t have to mean disaster, it’s just a case of making sure you’re looking after your business and everything that encompasses, building up your business’s immune system, and getting as organized and as prepared as possible, ultimately allowing your business to have a sustainable advantage in any situation.
April Brown is a freelance writer at Thesis Writing Service and Origin Writings, who is mostly specialized in marketing and helping businesses meet the needs and expectations of their customers. She loves hosting business consultancy meetings and networking. She also is an editor at Assignment Writing Services blog.