On the surface it seems impossible. How can we expect what we can’t anticipate? How do we plan for something completely out of our control?
In life, we’re always advised not to dwell on the what-ifs and what could-be’s. We’re encouraged to be present no matter how out of control or stressful the day is.
But when it comes to business, it’s wise to think a while on the what-ifs.
That’s not to say “go ahead and dwell on the doom and gloom”. On the contrary, it can be a positive stress-reliever to prepare for any changes that we know will challenge us mentally and financially – a health change, economy changes, environmental change. Even a global pandemic.
Let’s learn from the things we didn’t see coming, and try to make our businesses as bulletproof as possible so that whatever comes our way, we’re as prepared as we can be for the effects.
Steps to take in your business to be prepared for anything:
1. Get a daily view of your numbers
Many of the planning tips on this list are only possible if you know your business numbers. To be able to make predictions about your cash flow situation, and know how much money your business needs to stay afloat, you need a real time view of what comes into your business and what goes out. This is important when it’s business as usual, because knowing your key numbers helps you to make strategic decisions, and even more important in times of crisis because you can take informed steps forward.
2. Begin an emergency fund
Have an emergency fund you can fall back on when your income takes a hit. Look at your monthly business expenses, and how much you’d need to have aside to cover those if (worst case scenario) you’re not able to bring in any business at all. Different businesses may need to save different amounts for their emergency fund – for example, if you run a seasonal business and you experience extreme weather conditions, you’ll want to have enough saved to make it through the period. Think about how long it’ll take you to replace the income when business comes back.
3. Build and nurture your network
Protecting your business doesn’t only revolve around finances. If there are people in your business, it can be helpful for them to know about some of the decisions you’re making in preparation for change. Train them in how to adapt when the going gets tough. Make sure they all know how to continue working from home, or communicating effectively with the team when things are hard. Build relationships and networks outside of your business too. Find like-minded business owners and create a support network of shared experience.
4. Have a back up budget in your back pocket
This is a budget for the business that is completely stripped back. Any spending that can be cut, is cut. Much like in your personal life, there will be expenses in your business that you could survive without when it really comes to crunch time. Create the stripped back budget now, and keep it in your back pocket, so that it’s one less thing to worry about when cash flow takes a hit.
5. Get a remote working strategy ready
For some businesses, remote working will be more achievable than it will be for others. If you work in an office, look at the systems you’ll need to make operations work from home. Learn about communication tools like Zoom for meetings with the clients and team. Compare cloud project management tools for team collaboration (Basecamp, Trello, Asana, just to name a few). Make sure everyone in your team will have access to a computer at home, and have a plan for adjusting the phone system. Even if it only affects your admin team, wherever you can make provisions for remote work, plan ahead.
6. Take out insurance for your business
Business insurance policies will vary considerably, and it’s likely there’ll be some unexpected circumstances you won’t be insured for. That being said, it’s still entirely worth taking out insurance to protect your business against theft and damage, sickness or injury in the workplace, and business interruption. Use a comparison tool to compare quotes from the major providers and see what’s best suited to your business.
7. Gradually try to remove the bottlenecks in your processes
To have a bulletproof business, you’ll need bullet proof processes. Now, this won’t happen overnight – but you can start to make small changes to your processes to make your business more efficient (and ultimately more profitable). How can you make each process within your business run a little smoother? What is creating a blockage in the workflow? It could be people who need more training, processes that need better tech, it could even be you! Your sign off on work may be causing work to slow. Start by making a list of areas that need improving. Pick up a book like Traction by Gino Wickman to help you create better systems.
8. Ensure you are making the most of tech
In a similar vein to point 7, look at the ways in which you can use tech to speed up areas of the business you’re manually operating. If you don’t use it already, get set up on Xero for your finances. Not only will you be able to see your numbers in real time, and collaborate easily with your team and your accountant from anywhere – you’ll also have access to a number of supporting apps. When your team needs to upload expenses, they can do so using an app. If you need a quick glance at your inventory, you can use an app. There is tech out there designed to help your business operate from anywhere – think smarter, not harder.
9. Practice self care
Whether you have a huge team, or you’re working alone – your business is made up of people, and naturally people don’t do well with change. So dealing with sudden unexpected change is inevitably going to be hard on everyone. It’s during those tough times that we need to care for ourselves the most. Move our bodies, get enough sleep, eat a good meal. Do whatever brings us peace. Figure out what that is for you, and for your team and encourage everyone to meet those fundamental needs (even you!).
Finally, build all of this into a contingency plan
These are all the practical steps you can take to strengthen your business. Anything you decide here, or any preparations you begin to put in place, build them into a master contingency plan. Identify all the potential risks to your business – a fire, a virus, an earthquake, a break-in etc, and document your plan for minimising the effect.
Once you have the plan, share it! Share it with the team, so that everyone is on the same page if the situation should arise.
Look after yourselves, and your businesses – and if you need help with any of these steps, we’re here to support you.