When Covid-19 hit and the country, indeed most of the world went into lockdown, businesses were stunned. At risk of closure? Who would have predicted such a situation?
Suddenly, many people couldn’t go to work. Those that could work from home, set up makeshift spaces and started ascending the steep learning curve that is home office discipline. Many took on the role of teacher, as they met the challenge of home-schooling, or nurse, as they became a carer for elderly or vulnerable relatives, meaning that they couldn’t work full time as well. While others found themselves furloughed with nothing to do, or worse, unemployed with nothing to do and little chance of finding employment.
The hospitality industry came to a standstill with events cancelled across the world. Flights were cancelled and other non-essential travel stopped, with it many supply chains. Because customers were in an uncertain world, demand for many items slowed down, causing a backlog, while other products, such as toilet roll and pasta, were disappearing off the shelves as people panic bought to stockpile ‘essentials’.
A new world
Circumstances for many customers changed, almost overnight, with those now out of work cutting back on spending or wondering how they would afford to pay the bills.
It’s right that something like this is almost impossible to foresee but in business, planning is always a good thing. Those with a comprehensive risk plan we’re almost certainly in the best position to respond because knowing the options you have, should a problem arise, will mean you can react faster to turn things around.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
– Jimmy Dean
Risk management means identifying and evaluating potentially negative impacts and planning possible ways to minimise the impact. Put on the black hat for Dr Edward de Bono’s 6 hats design thinking method (http://www.debonogroup.com/six_thinking_hats.php) and take a moment to think negatively about what might happen. Once you have identified potential problems you can start to mitigate by putting plans in place to prevent the problems arising or have plan B contingency options to work around any issues.
For example, with the risk of not getting paid for a project, the impact can be minimised by having savings but if you take payment upfront you may be able to avoid the impact completely.
Reasons to plan
- To give confidence to you, your staff/associates and stakeholders
- To allow you to take action faster which could dramatically reduce the impact
- It could also help you to identify opportunities to grow. Plan for the risks, if the risk doesn’t happen you have room for growth
Consider different scenarios of what might happen. First, think about the likelihood of something happening, is it high, medium or low? Next decide if the impact of that thing will be high, medium or low. Obviously, things that are more likely and will have most impact ate the priority items to address and find mitigation options for. However, something that is not likely but will still have a high impact, needs to be seriously considered as well.
Identify possible situations and forecast impacts.
Natural events such as storms, extreme temperatures, floods, earthquakes etc. can have devastating impacts. Remember when the Iceland volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted in 2010 and flights were stopped? It had a huge effect on freight and passenger travel, even for people and businesses nowhere near the volcano itself.
Building accidents such as collapse or fire. On a Sunday night in 2005 there was a fire at Buncefield, an oil storage facility in Hertfordshire. It destroyed many buildings in the surrounding area, hundreds of homes were evacuated and the nearby motorway was closed because of the ongoing risk of explosion. Close by businesses struggled on Monday morning and for weeks and months to come.
Could you still run your business if you and your team weren’t able to get into the office? Are you now all set up to work from home? What if a key member of your team suddenly could not work, what about if it was you who suddenly could not work? Would your business still be able to function?
Use a risk matrix to identify the possible impacts. First, identify the impacts and rate them, then consider the actions you would need to take to decrease those impacts. What can you do to get back to business as usual, as quickly as possible?
You can download a free template at the bottom of this blog.
A contingency plan details the things you will put in place to avoid needing to take emergency actions. It is a list of mitigations that will minimise the impact entirely. This is your chance to think creatively (the yellow hat in the 6 hats design thinking). Capture all possible solutions and think imaginatively about how you can confront potential issues before they arise.
Look back at your list of risks and actions and contemplate the mitigation steps you can put in place.
How can you adapt? Are there new customers to approach? Can you package up special offers? Consider alternative ways of working, for example, delivering training via video conference calls, getting contracts signed electronically, restaurants becoming a takeaway or providing delivery and shops moving online. Do you only serve one customer base or industry? Could you pivot and widen your audience and diversify to be more resilient?
Your Risk Matrix should be reviewed regularly, this will help you to stay current and constantly look for new opportunities. You’ll also be able to revise the priorities as things change. Having listed your risks and ranked them, you’ll know what to tackle first.
Communication is probably key to everything. Keep your team, suppliers and stakeholders informed but most of all talk to your customers. Keep in touch and let people know what you are doing and why.
Focus on customer retention, keep customers happy and informed. If you can’t deliver, make them aware. Know your customers so you can help them; Who are their customers? What are their timescales? How might they be impacted by the current situation? Do your best and thank your customers for their loyalty, possibly by treating them, for example, I know of a hairdresser who sent DIY roots kits out when they had to cancel appointments because of the coronavirus.
Keep marketing. Reinforce your brand values. Especially consider your marketing and social media messages and be ready to bounce back from any negative situations by staying in people’s minds.
Always know your financial position and be aware of options to access additional funds if needed suddenly. It makes sense to know your most costly areas where you may be able to cut-back and your most profitable activities, so you know where to focus your attention.
Reduce costs and barriers to sales so that you can increase speed through the sales pipeline and potentially increase the number of transactions and clients you have.
Look to the future
If you are clever about planning, you can build contingency into each day. Work through the mitigation list in your Risk Matrix to put strategies in place and strengthen your position for when the next disaster strikes. Remember to review your Risk Matrix often to keep it relevant to your current situation. Protect yourself and Be prepared.
I have created a template for you to download. In the image below I have entered a few examples. Your list will be different because it will address the risks your business faces.
Contact me if you would like help with completing this template or in creating branded documents for your business.
Risk Matrix: Free Template Download
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