With the bushfires, the drought and now the impact of the Coronavirus, it is essential to find ways to crisis proof your practice or business. In fact, one in four businesses that are forced to shut down due to a disaster never reopens.
Assess Your Vulnerabilities
I grew up in Lismore, New South Wales. Lismore sits in the centre of an old volcano and because of this topography, it frequently floods. In fact, I’ve been through seven floods in my lifetime, six in Lismore and one in Brisbane in 2011.
In 2005, the local council decided to build a flood levy. This was a huge $21 million concrete bank that was meant to hold the water back in the event of rising waters. But the next time the town knew a flood was coming, most seasoned business owners decided to move their products to higher ground, sandbag their buildings and do all the other things to prepare regardless of the levy. On the other hand, many of the newer business owners, who hadn’t lived through floods before, simply trusted the levy bank.
But the water came through. And many of those newer businesses lost everything.
For those who had been through the previous floods, they knew when the radio announcements were made that the river would peak at eight metres that the water would run down Magellan St. or Keen St. At nine metres you knew you couldn’t cross the Coleman’s Bridge or the Ballina St. bridge. Due to the frequency of these events the community has built a knowledge bank and record of what the impacts are at each milestone in the disaster and can prepare because they know what relevance that has to them and their business.
Young businesses are more vulnerable.
Early in your practice or business you are more vulnerable to crises of all types – disasters, economic recessions or product pipeline disruptions, for example. This is not because your business is badly run or you aren’t good at what you do. It’s because you may not have the history, may not know the patterns or may be optimistic enough to think it won’t affect you. Neither you nor your business has been tested and even your brain isn’t prepared (you haven’t developed the mindset neural pathways that allow you to better weather a crisis). And many small businesses are focused more on productivity and growth than risk management, leaving them in a vulnerable position when things go wrong.
Seasoned business owners are less vulnerable.
The seasoned business owners in Lismore are a good example of those businesses that are less vulnerable due to their history and experience. But when Brisbane experienced flooding in 2011 as well, there were many more business casualties. That’s because there hadn’t been a major flood in Brisbane since 1974 – there was no one left on the council to translate the impacts of the levels of the flood waters and very few business owners that had the personal knowledge or history to rely on.
However the good news is that regardless of whether you are a seasoned veteran or a new start up, you can survive a crisis. Here’s how.
Crisis Proof Your Practice by Getting Back to Basics
A crisis in your business is very much like coming down with the flu. You have to manage the immediate illness of course, get medicine, drink fluids and rest. And you have to strip back what you do to the bare minimum. But then, you need prevention – a flu shot.
In the same way, in a crisis you need to fix, to the extent you can, whatever is going wrong. You need to control the controllables. And then you need to pare back to what are the most essential aspects of your business. Finally, you have to future proof or crisis-proof your business in the long term.
This model shows us how to achieve business growth, but the same techniques apply to ensure that you are focused on the essentials in your practice. Look to each section of the model and ask yourself, ‘Am I doing what I need to be doing here?’
Focus on these areas.
1. Reach out.
‘Am I still contacting customers?’ If not, do it. Ask how they are going and find out if and how they’ve been affected. People trust those they’re familiar with in a crisis. See what you can do to assist, even to be a sounding board.
2. Add value.
We should all be educating our customers and clients through content marketing every day. During a crisis you have the opportunity to teach in the context of what is happening right now. Align your expertise with the crisis. So, if you’re a finance expert talk about how to manage cashflow at this time. And if you’re a creative, give tips on how to create under pressure. Now is not the time to market your fire sale because you need cashflow and you’ve realised you have no pipeline.
Make sure your team is alright. Talk to them about what is going on and offer help as needed. Provide access to any resources that might help your team manage the crisis better. Remember, everyone is different and will react to a crisis differently. Be flexible and remember that uncertainty affects everyone differently. Listen, connect and find collaborative ways to keep working well together.
Show your leadership by guiding the members of your team and your wider stakeholder circle. Give guidance about how to plan, act and react during the crisis as well. This should align with your content marketing.
Don’t lose time worrying about things that can’t be helped. Focus that energy on constructive strategies instead. Invest this time in creating content, designing programs, undertaking training and doing housework that you haven’t got to. Make the most of the time now. How you spend your time in the next 90 days will define your next 12 to 18 months.
Consider your strategies, and if necessary, go back to your plan. Cut out anything extraneous or unnecessary and focus on the basic elements of your plan.
As much as possible, keep your cashflow stable so that you aren’t struggling if things get worse. Reduce any unnecessary costs you can.
Continue working with the systems you have in place. If you can just keep doing the things that you are already doing, you’ll have a lot fewer worries.
‘You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.’
― James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
Future Proofing Your Practice
One day there will be another disruption after Coronavirus so to ensure you don’t succumb to the next disaster or tragedy, you need to future proof your practice. You do this by doing what you should be doing anyway. Focus on all the areas of business growth and understand your risks and vulnerabilities. And take the time to analyse what worked and what didn’t work in the past so your history can inform your decision making and ensure your practice is crisis-proof.
Love to know your thoughts.
Jane Anderson is a strategic communications expert, speaker and the author of seven books including the upcoming Catalyst Content. She has over 20 years of experience helping people to communicate confidently, and is obsessed with generating authentic influence and human connection to drive business growth in a world of disruption and automation. Jane delivers Content Creation Bootcamps (Virtual and Face to Face), coaching and keynotes. To inquire about working with Jane please contact us here.