What would you do if there was a major economic crisis in your market niche? We’re talking a major downturn. A recession. Are you recession-proof? Could you do what had to be done to ensure your company survived? And if you did manage to hold onto your business without claiming bankruptcy or selling out, would you then be able to pivot it so it not only survived but thrived in the rebuilding economy?
We’re not saying you need to know how to do this today. But we are suggesting you may want to do this sooner than later because changes happen quickly. If you’re not prepared, you may be surprised just how hard it is to turn your business around.
This is your opportunity to take a critical look at your business which delineates the areas you need to work on right away and decide the measures you’re willing to take to keep your company should something go awry. Learn about your industry so you can better pivot or grow your company to better service its niche. Learn about employee engagement and satisfaction so your people are as productive and loyal as possible.
There are many things about your business you don’t know well enough to survive a major change in operations. While you can’t know everything, you should know a bit about everything. It’s really hard to make a growth plan when you don’t know what a CFO does or how your marketing manager helps you increase sales. Learn enough that you can understand their needs and results; you don’t have to run their department — unless you’re interested in that kind of thing.
One of the best ways to learn about your company is by doing due diligence. Through the information finding alone you’ll get the chance to check in with multiple departments and people, thereby figuring out a little more about the inner-workings of your company. Take the opportunity to learn more about their roles and how each functions within the greater picture. Listen to their complaints and invite feedback — if you’re not going through a stressful time or crisis already, now’s the time to dive into these concerns and grow your company.
Straight on the heels of learning is planning. Not a surprise, right? But don’t forget: We’re not just talking about business planning; we’re talking about contingency planning. All those “What happens if…” questions. What happens if you got violently ill and needed to stop working immediately? What if everyone stopped using your services or products all at once? What if a material you need to construct your products suddenly became unavailable?
Plans should be based around the needs of the company and your needs. The stronger your business becomes by having its needs serviced in this way, the greater the likelihood your quality of life will increase as well. If, for example, your company needs to decrease its customer concentration and you successfully satisfy this need, you no longer have to worry about being an ongoing concern because you know you have these new contracts. Further to that, you’re a more attractive acquisition or a more stable business to pass onto your protégé.
After you’ve dealt with those immediate concerns, you really need to focus on those more theoretical issues that could cripple your business if they occurred. You know your market, you know where you want to take your business roughly and you’ve even done a risk assessment and are working towards resolving some of those concerns already. You are in a great position to play that ‘what if’ game we were talking about earlier. This time, you’re going to hypothesize as many potential resolutions as possible as well as their pros and cons. Keep this document and alter it when you review your business (whenever it is you’ve set that time aside to do this… and if you haven’t, you should start today and revisit it at least every year, though ideally you’d do it every quarter).
Now that you’ve done your research, learned more about your company and market, and gone through significant business planning — risk analysis, exit planning, etc. — it might be a good idea to take a step back to reflect on everything you’ve learned and done. Many entrepreneurs go on retreats centered around reflection and meditation, others simply take a few weeks off to go camping with the family. Whatever situation works best for you to think things through, take the time to do that.
You’ll re-align your business’ goals with your own, or you’ll discover they are now separate paths and it’s time for you to consider that exit plan you only just came up with. Perhaps you’ll decide your business needs to go in another path and, instead of selling, you’ll re-brand your business as something else entirely. Or maybe it’s time to expand the services you offer.
Whatever you discover when you reflect on your original intentions in opening the business, what you’ve discovered from this process and then also how your needs have changed will impact what you decide to do with your business now. The important thing is to stay abreast of changes in your business and yourself so you stay ahead of the curve and are never caught in a disadvantageous position in the sale of your business.
With all this in mind, what do you already know you’d do if a major crisis occurred? How would you soften the impact on your business and your employees?