Having tackled end games in a previous post, we are now moving to another great topic and very crucial element of business strategy. This time we're going to look at that thing which allows you to move towards the end game after a crisis - Continuity...
For small companies - and especially one man bands - holiday and illness can be crippling, even for short periods. However sustained absence of key personnel can put the survival of the business on the line. Business consultants and coaches will suggest that you need to have a strategy in place if your business is going to survive.
Every business is different. You may run yours with a military precision, others might be system/procedures driven and still others may have a laissez-faire attitude. But however you run your business, whatever product or service you provide, the essence of continuity remains the same. You will still need to:
Maintain contact with your clients and suppliers
Whatever the crisis - whether it can be resolved in the long or short term - you will still need your phone, email and correspondence answering. You will need to let them know what has happened and what to expect in the coming days/weeks/months.
Access important documents
The VAT man will still want to see records of your purchase and sales ledgers when he comes to audit, whether you had a fire or not. Your client list/database is equally important.
Provide your product/service
Whether it is an issue with your supplier or simply your office building has burnt down, you need to find a way to fulfil those contracts that you have signed.
Get back on track
During a crisis, systems and procedures can go out the window whilst you exist in an "anything to keep going" mode. But at some point you have to call time on this and get back to doing things properly. It can be hard to find your rhythm again unless you have your systems and procedures written down. It is especially hard if you are replacing key personnel where you do not have the experience or understanding of their role.
Some of these things can be handled quickly when the crisis happens. Finding a Telephone Answering Service to divert your calls to and a Virtual PA Service to check on your emails can be done quite quickly. Tracking down alternative suppliers is not usually that tricky as you usually know who the competition is. So do you really need to have a continuity plan?
Well yes, if you haven't organised good back up systems that include your email, your sales and purchase ledgers and other important documents, it can be difficult to retrieve them if the building holding your computers and paper files is burnt down. And if you have only one person who handles the tricky client profiling in order to put the service together, then what happens if they suddenly take a leave of absence and you have no records of the processes involved?
Now we may not be able to help with all these things, but we probably know a man who can so it can be worth having our number somewhere safe just in case you need us. Our contract and ad hoc clients are lucky because they can access our full range of services quickly whether they are currently using them or not, as one of our clients found out last year when we kept his business ticking over whilst he was in hospital. We reorganised his diary and fielded all calls allowing his family to spend time with him rather than worrying about the business. We could even have replied to his email had he called us with the settings. For another client we were able to send them a back up of their database as we had recently done a mail shot for them.
But in both those cases our clients were lucky as neither of them actually had a continuity plan in place. Have you thought about your continuity plan? What would you do if the worst happens? We're here to help!
"I would like to thank you particularly for making an exceptional effort to put me in touch with a new client on the day I was busy doing fittings in my studio. Buy going the extra mile to reach me, I was able to get in touch with the new client, and myself and my fitter saw her the same day. She placed an order for over 3900. This would not have happened if I'd been relying on my answerphone!"
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