The #coronavirus caught up not only on many people worldwide but it has also affected many businesses who have not yet implemented remote working structures.
In fact, local businesses such as restaurants, small shops, and shops that offer things not needed on a daily basis such as handmade fashion, have experienced the hardest hit so far as well as the tourism industry. For these businesses, it seems especially hard to transition into a remote / online-based business model either as an alternative or add-on model or as a full replacement.
Sure, so far we don’t yet have an AI-piloted plane to fly us around (you slackin’ Elon?) but who knows how long this is going to take us to implement just as much as full-body disinfection stations alongside the security checks in airports? Well, we can only guess.
But instead of waiting around helpless, let’s work together in hope! This is why, as promised on my Facebook Profile, I start this series of articles, which I will publish over the next couple of weeks to help you set your business up #crisisproof so it can weather all the hurricanes, pandemics & shit storms.
WHAT DOES #CRISISPROOF MEAN?
Crisis-Proof means that in times of crisis you are able to act upon (instead of re-act), lead through & manage the crisis without a big loss on the business, team or client-side, as well as being able to flexibly moving the business through it and adapting to new circumstances.
It’s like standing in a big storm: The more you resist, the faster you’ll be uprooted, hit in the face and you will lose control over the situation.
If you learn to move with the storm, adapting to its direction and strength and moving strategically below the impact of it, you will probably get away with some bad hair days. (Love my weird analogies already? Ha, great!)
SO HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE WORST IF YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A STORM?
Let’s face it, the #coronavirus has shown many businesses out there how unprepared for a crisis they really are. But it is not yet too late if you act fast!
So to help you do so, I got the following checklist with questions & guiding steps for you, to help you take all the necessary action in order to crisis-proof your business before it’s too late.
- Is your team prepared to work remotely (eg. from home)?
Communication is key here (see step 4 below). Make sure to have your team prepared for a possible crisis, what to do and how things will move forward. Share expectations with them, have all of their devices always updated and ready to go remote as well as offering resources and consistent training (before the crisis) on productivity and time management, communication and other skills that are especially important for remote teams. Make sure they know what to prioritize in the face of a crisis and what type of reports are expected on top of the normal ones, what type of meetings will be held (or paused) and whom to contact in an emergency case.
- Do you take care of your team, especially in times of crisis?
Besides their salary/wages, do you have any other benefits in place for your team that will keep them safe, stable and secure? One great thing to consider is to arrange “crisis-packages”. For example, there are specific travel/medical insurances for remote team members, that are affordable yet in times like these can be extremely helpful for them to support there existing (or maybe even non-existing) health insurance, depending on their situation. Another great idea is to have a special “crisis care fund” set up, for times when sh*t hits the fan. Here in Asia one of the big airlines has announced to cut executive salaries, not pay their staff for 10–30 days and take several services off their ‘menu’ for now until the airline recovers from the big income loss. While I understand that for such an incredible big corporation it can be hard to set up something like a “crisis care fund” but to not pay their staff at all while still asking them to continue to work is not acceptable in my eyes, and shows that there was absolutely no preparation for a crisis per se.
The biggest lesson you can learn here is this: A happy & safe team member is your biggest raving fan & ambassador. They will go above and beyond to do whatever it takes to help you get the business through the storm.
2| SYSTEMS & PROCESSES
- Are there gaps in workflows or processes?
Gaps can show up in a different way such as human bottlenecks, flaws of systems, no back-up systems, no proper communication flow, no proper responsibility plan, lack of speed in the face of a crisis, etc. One common gap is the documentation of workflows & processes that is either not available at all or lacking in consistency, access or simplicity. That can result in your business running into a wall while trying to act on a crisis because the documentation is not being able to be used by *any* person on the team, hence it’s useless (harsh, but the truth).
A great way to test whether your systems are #crisisproof is to create a test crisis scenario. that means for a specific day a team designated as the crisis project team, will run the test crisis scenario and practice all workflows & processes, will run all systems, tools, software, tech and other possible touchpoints through the test scenario. That’s a surefire way to find gaps and a great opportunity to close them before the storm really hits hard.
- Are your systems crisis-proof, for example for extensive customer service requests?
This is similar to the one above but rather deals with the tech- & server capacity side of things. That means if you have an online helpdesk, will their servers be holding a hit of hundreds if not thousands of customer service requests per hour? Will your systems keep holding up to the amount of work that could come in on a structural level? Do you have FAQs, first-auto responders, self-help assessment centers, etc. set up for people to take work off your hands in case your team gets to full capacity soon.
- Is your supply chain backed up?
If you run a product-based service I assume that you have sourced your products from ethical suppliers. But in a global crisis like this, it can easily hit your supplier before it hits you, so you will need to have a back-up ready to go (or with a little delay ready to put in place). Here is the most important thing: Sometimes centralizing our supply chain will not be the best choice for a crisis management plan, so I recommend to consider having a back-up plan B and C. Plan B is another ethical supplier whom you can source big orders from, without any differences in time, quality or delivery of your product. Plan C will be to diversify the order of your product from many smaller suppliers which can mean that it will reduce your profit margin in the short-term but will save you business in the long-run since you are able to deliver on existing / new orders (taking in account that the products can potentially be of different quality and could have a delay in delivery — so communication with your customers here is key, too. See below for more information on that)
- What type of bottlenecks have you created?
The most common bottleneck that business owners and CEOs create is: themselves. That is the first bottleneck you want to resolve asap. Why? Because in case of a crisis, everyone needs to be able to be replaceable by nature. It’s time for you to let go of control and empower team members to take over responsibility (I promise, this is also your team’s time to thrive!). On another note, you want to check who has serious expert status in your company and must share/spread knowledge and access to their workflows in order to be able to be replaced (in case of a crisis!) — now one thing that is E X T R E M L Y important here is to make very clear that they will not be replaced (unless that is your intention, then you will need to share this with them) but instead that you empower them to thrive in their position and accept support which will strengthen the team bond massively if done right.
- Do you have a Crisis-Plan written out & immediately available to put into action?
If not, you know what to do first after having assessed and fixed the gaps in your business. But what’s a crisis-plan? Basically it is a summary of all the points in here, with a very clear quick run up on “If this then that” scenarios (as much as predictable), who is responsible for what tasks & reports, who makes decisions (and to which degrees?), who kicks off this crisis-plan, what crisis-only processes & workflows will it kick-off, etc.
This should be best written like a FAQ or simple process document and must be accessible from any device, at any time by any of your team members, without questioning where it is/can be found
- Are all of your roles & responsibilities 100% clear?
This is one of the most important things that can make or break a crisis: Responsibilities, roles and the clear communication and implementation of these, especially in a crisis. Imagine your team members must act extremely fast and need approval for a decision being made, but they end up not knowing whom to go to, asking around, being confused and maybe making things worse unintentionally because they were not clear on who was the final decision-maker in this case.
So be absolutely clear in who has what role, who takes on which responsibilities, who is a decision-maker and to which level, when can certain levels be skipped, are there different people taking on different roles as they usually do? And do these roles & responsibilities change based on day to day operations or if your business is in times of crisis? After all of this is clear, it should then be documented & included in your crisis-plan (see above)
- Will your business be able to back a crisis based on the financial structure?
That’s a critical one. As with the Asian airline mentioned above, clearly the financial planning is very strict/tight set, so now their staff has to bleed for up to 30 days without any salary while still working to support the company during this crisis. I am all for extra-effort from your team in the face of crisis — I do NOT whatsoever stand for unpaid work and don’t agree with this sentiment. What I do agree (and have myself had to apply as a crisis manager for Siemens Enterprise Networks during their worldwide OS migration in 2009) is for example over hours that either can be later exchanged in form of days off or extra pay and yes, sometimes these over hours are a voluntary extra-effort from the team as a short-term solution and may be unpaid, but this solution (in my personal opinion) is only to be applied if the team is still paid for their fulltime work and chooses to support (and also will not be judged, should some of them say no for whatever reason). I have mentioned the crisis care fund above in the team section and want to mention it here. This is something for established businesses rather than startups or small businesses that start out fresh but it can be amazing support in times of crisis. Let the team choose or/and decide how to use the “crisis care fund” and you help create even more trust and bond between the team and you. Another question to ask is: where is money falling through the cracks? Where are leaving money on the table or quite frankly just throwing it out of the window? Time to clean that up and close the money-cracks up.
- Single point of contacts (SPOC)
(=A Single Point Of Contact or SPOC refers to a single person or a team within a company that are responsible as the point of contact for all incoming communications)
Create a big picture map of SPOCs in your business, from the customer service, tech, management department, marketing, etc.
- Back-Up system for all SPOCs
Create a back-up system for all SPOCs above including an information system, where regular updates are shared, documents & files are stored, access to platforms
4| COMMUNICATION & TOOLS
- Transparency within the team
This is a given. If you want to lead from within then there is no other way than being transparent. But how? Well, be honest. Be open. Be clear. Be confident but vulnerable. Speak from a place of love and empowerment rather than fear. Ask questions. Answer questions. Be yourself. If you don’t know something (yet) say it, but promise to find it out for them — then go do find it out, and follow up on them with an answer that will help them. Care. Care a little more. This is not just your team. They are people who care about your baby, your biggest thing, that thing you lost sleep over, fell sick upon, screamed in joy and cried out of desperation — they help you raise it. That baby that is your business. So, in fact, that makes them your family. They deserve transparency, no matter how hard it will be to stand up and say it out loud in integrity and love.
- Transparency towards your clients
Well, I could repeat half of the things above, the difference though is that there are things that certainly are only business-internal knowledge (which should be identified & labeled for everyone in the team as such!) and then there is external information. But one thing is very clear: Your clients are the ones who made all of this possible, supporting you (hopefully, or else you may have to fire them 😉 ) and have financially invested in you because they believed in your mission, the business & trusted you with their heart. So make them part of the family, too as they deserve. Again: Be you. Drop the corporate speech. Be relatable. Be vulnerable. Watch & Read Brene Brown if you don’t know where to start with this, I promise she will teach you all that you need to know. But most of all: don’t be a robot. Or a dick. During a crisis, we don’t like to deal with either.
- Are devices, tech & software up-to-date?
This is (should be) an obvious one, but let me tell you how *often* tech is failing us in the midst of a storm. Actually, I believe they have a storm-sensor and when sh*t really hits the fan then the sensor goes off and tech goes home, too. Shuts down. Plays up. Or goes into a bluescreen. (I am sitting here laughing hard while writing this because you will not believe how often this has happened exactly at *those* moments where you surely did not need a tech meltdown… and although it’s not funny right in that moment, I am now almost falling off the chair remembering how my laptop learned to fly out of the window). So make sure all devices work, are up-to-date, cleaned (really! It helps.), the software is updated, paid for, you have access, a password vault installed & use it (and remember the main password for it, ha.), have a VPN installed, have back up devices, working chargers & adopters — you know… the full range!
IS YOUR BUSINESS #CRISISPROOF?
So why did I sit here literally all day and spill my knowledge into a massive article? Because I care. And I hope you do, too. With #covid19 hitting the world in the face I am hitting straight back with love & kindness. So I will keep sharing knowledge that will help you keep your business storm & crisis-proof so that we can thrive together through this crisis and come out stronger!
Questions? Message me on Facebook or leave a comment below.
I will leave you with this quote from my favorite author:
“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore