Whether your business has been significantly affected by an external crisis (a global pandemic, for instance) or an internal crisis (employee misbehavior), the truth is that overcoming hardships can pose many challenges, particularly due to a lack of preparedness and frantically grasping for any solutions within reach.
In spite of a solid business model, the way you and your team react to any unforeseen circumstances could ultimately be your company’s undoing. Because ‘knowledge is key’, it is important that you, as an entrepreneur, are aware of the many different steps you can undertake in order to strengthen and equip your company in order to effectively navigate a potential crisis.
1) Stay calm
Perhaps one of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make amid or after a crisis is spiraling down into a full-on panic mode and adopting a negative mindset. Not only does this hinder any kind of progress that could otherwise be achieved on the spot, but it is also likely to become detrimental in the long run.
By acting out of fear and anxiety, you risk losing the trust of your company’s stakeholders as well as your employees by not allowing yourself enough time to discuss and implement sound strategies.
2) Gather your team
When a crisis hits, it’s all-hands-on-deck and not a one-man’s job. First, mobilizing forces enables a more efficient assessment of the situation. And second, raising awareness all-around is much more likely to benefit your company’s recovery time – allowing everyone to pitch in ideas on what the most practical and feasible options are.
Therefore, teamwork should be at the forefront of every crisis, especially if the company’s leadership is under extreme duress. By delegating tasks and fostering group discussions, CEOs demonstrate that they value their employees and the potential solutions they might bring to the table, as well as prove that they are, in fact, approachable.
Accordingly, employees are more likely to come forward and volunteer for certain tasks (if the situation calls for it) or brainstorm with you if they think you’re “open to new, potentially disruptive ideas.”
Navigating difficult times certainly calls for effective leadership. And, as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern so eloquently put it, “leadership is not about necessarily being the loudest in the room.” In fact, a leader’s job goes far beyond being the face of a company or country and giving orders. While it is important to ensure a functioning work system, a true leader lends an ear to whoever may need it and shows signs of empathy. Leadership is thus about meeting others halfway, providing support in a time of need, and paving the way for strategic planning and creative expression.
3) Communicate with customers
While it is of paramount importance to alert your team the moment a crisis ensues, it’s worth keeping in mind that any setbacks or struggles your company encounters will also affect your customers – so you must find adequate solutions that take into consideration external actors’ needs.
An article published by Inc. lists three simple steps entrepreneurs can follow when notifying a client:
- First, don’t try to sugarcoat it. If you tell your clients a shortened version of the story and they discover the gravity of the situation from a different source (for instance, in the press), your company will pile on more problems than at the start of the crisis.
- Second, provide an in-depth explanation of the ways you plan to address the issue. Full disclosure is crucial when breaking bad news to customers, as they not only expect companies to be upfront about their mistakes but also want to be reassured that the situation is under control.
- Third, be sure to keep your customers updated. This does not necessarily mean that you have to send clients follow-up emails every other day. However, it is imperative you let the people affected know that progress is being made. For instance, say your company suffered a significant data breach and all sensitive information that was once stored in your system is now out in the open. After notifying customers and providing a detailed action plan, the next step is to ensure they are also up-to-date with the latest developments – primarily, disclosing the root cause of the problem and the subsequent efforts to control it. Hence, if you discovered that the breach was the direct result of a flawed security system and have enforced new cybersecurity practices to prevent another crisis from occurring, spread the word! After all, the way you respond to a crisis can make a significant difference in existing and future client relations.
4) Hire a Reputation Management Company
Coming up with an imminent solution to a crisis is one thing, but building your reputation back up is another. Most companies find it difficult to recover after a crisis, partly due to a lack of knowledge and limited access to effective crisis management tools. If this is something your company is currently dealing with, then it might be wise to seek external help – and hiring a reputation management company is the answer you are looking for.
Now, the most common questions entrepreneurs ask themselves fall somewhere along the lines of “What is Reputation Management” and “What can a Reputation Management Company do that I haven’t previously attempted?”
(Image from: adlift.com)
– What is Reputation Management?
First and foremost, the online website Business News Daily defines reputation management as “the strategic monitoring and implementation of tactics to promote positive online content and suppress negative online content.” In other words, reputation management companies provide a wide array of strategies, depending on your business’ needs.
From social media management to online monitoring and reporting, reputation management companies strengthen your relationship with the public by helping you put your best foot forward – especially after you’ve been hit by a crisis.
– What can a Reputation Management Company do for me?
Crisis control is in itself an intrinsically difficult task, so it can be helpful to hire professional crisis management services that are familiar with the challenges you face and have helped rebuild countless other brands.
In order to improve your reputation, crisis management firms will focus on three different aspects: press releases, positive content creation, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Much like keeping customers informed, companies should also be able to honestly and earnestly address a broader public. With the help of a reputation management company, you will be able to regain the narrative and counter any negative press by means of well-conceived and strategically delivered press releases.
Once your side of the story goes public, specialized firms will then turn to your company’s official website and social media accounts to look for any negative reviews or comments. Engaging in online conversations may not call for extra assistance, but it is significantly time-consuming and makes you lose track of your main focus: offering the best possible services.
To this end, reputation management companies take the lead by smartly turning any negative into a positive – the most frequent instance of this being responding to any concerns and criticisms on your behalf.
However, specialized firms are known for going one step further and boosting your online visibility through reverse SEO. This means that they will go above and beyond to showcase your business in a positive light, creating and promoting worthwhile content that would ultimately push “the negative back to the third page of Google.”
5) Take a break
(Image from Libelle)
It may be difficult to admit, but we all need to step away from our responsibilities from time to time, especially after stressful situations. Contrary to popular belief, allowing yourself some downtime is by no means counterproductive.
First, taking the time to recover will not only promote your overall well-being but will also improve the way you relate to the world – both personally and professionally, according to Entrepreneur Magazine. Whether it’s spending time with family and friends or simply exercising and taking on new hobbies, make sure you find ways to clear your head.
Not only will you realize that having a work-life balance is necessary to your mental and physical recovery, but also that spending long hours dwelling on the past will not get you anywhere.
Second, taking some time off may also help you strategize for the future. As insignificant as a change of scenery may be, the reality is you can only stay in one place for so long before it swallows you completely. Take, for example, medical personnel: after excruciatingly long surgeries and incorrectly diagnosing a patient, hospitals are the last place they want to be.
The same applies to entrepreneurs and other professionals who want to speed up their recovery process. Distancing yourself from your duties, even just for a few hours, can make a huge difference and positively impact your future endeavors.
Allowing your body and mind to detox will pave the way for better and bigger solutions that would have otherwise not come to fruition had you put substantial pressure on yourself and others.
6) Have a contingency plan
This is perhaps the most pressing issue on this list. Crises are inevitable, and one way or another, your company will have to be prepared to face the risks. Having this in mind, the best way to safeguard your company’s reputation is by devising a contingency plan.
- What is a contingency plan?
Essentially, a contingency plan is an outline of carefully crafted strategies that businesses use to respond to a negative event. Now, you might be inclined to think that risk management plans and contingency plannings are one and the same. Although the end goal for both is successfully averting a crisis, a clear distinction must be made between the two.
In the simplest of terms, contingency planning and risk management plans can be placed in a ‘before and after’ scenario. According to a blog post by the Project Manager, risk management is about assessing and mitigating risks, where you are essentially reacting to something. Whereas a contingency plan is about “developing steps to take when an actual issue occurs.”
Overall, an effective crisis management strategy should comprise a contingency plan – which professionals from varying sectors devise in advance so as to be prepared if and when an emergency erupts.
- What are the best practices to follow in contingency planning?
Part of planning in advance is so you find yourself deploying all available resources according to plan, rather than developing a playbook on the spot – as stated in this article. Without clear guidelines in place, the task at hand becomes increasingly harder to complete.
Therefore, do not leave contingency planning to the very last moment. Otherwise, you risk leading your team through unknown circumstances blindly.
- Identify your resources: From your employees to your latest software, be sure to list all of the things your company rates best at.
- Single out company flaws: Every business has its vulnerabilities, so take the time to sit down with your team and go over all of the resources that require further improvement. Moreover, you must also be willing to go to extreme lengths when outlining the steps to your plan. Some risks may not be as visible as others, so you have to think hypothetically – simply ask yourself, “What if…?” and the rest will follow.
- Write a contingency plan: Once you have identified all of the potential risks that could sideline your business, draft a plan for each of these – preferably by prioritizing the most urgent ones.
- Share the plan: Communication is key. If everyone involved with your company is aware of the existence of a contingency plan, then you can rest assured knowing that you have properly informed and prepared your team for the future.
- Revisit the plan: Because society is ever-evolving, it is vital for companies to be able to adapt to the new wave of technological advancements, as well as take into account new emerging threats. Contingency plans, much like electronic devices, become obsolete over time. Thus, embrace these changes and adapt your strategies to fit the current landscape.
7) Share and learn from others
Businesses around the world face a number of challenges. And while most entrepreneurs are eager to put negative experiences behind them, the reality is that a lot can be learned from them.
Instead of completely erasing any trace of your past, be open about the hardships you’ve endured, and you’ll be surprised with the outcomes. Not only will you come to terms with your past, but you might also help others in a similar position.
For young entrepreneurs who are just starting out, any insights or tips, no matter how big or small, will be extremely valuable. Similarly, take notes of everything that is being shared with you and your business, and you will be better equipped than before.
8) Build a support network
(Image from Suresnes)
Besides thinking ahead and learning from mistakes, “social support can also be a conduit for much-needed personal and professional connections.” Whether or not your business has been hard-hit by a crisis, having a support group to rely on in times of need will not only boost your morale but also strengthen your relationships inside and outside of work.
As such, emotional support can come from different sources and in many different ways. On the one hand, entrepreneurs can seek guidance from people within the community – who understand and can relate to the situation they are going through.
On the other hand, spending time with friends and family is another great way to tackle emotional distress. Opening up to the people you trust the most and indulging in your favorite activities are probably some of the best and easiest ways to lift your spirit.
Finally, consider providing emotional support to your team by setting up weekly meetings. This provides your employees with a platform to voice their emotional concerns and further encourages a sense of empathy and openness.
9) Adopt a different mindset
In the aftermath of a crisis, it is normal for your energy levels to reach an all-time low. However, caving into pessimistic thoughts will only slow you down. So, shifting your focus toward more positive outcomes should be one of your main priorities.
Although adopting a more positive mindset will help you and your company rebound faster and stronger after a crisis, you must also be willing to embrace new changes – other than the ones mentioned above.
For instance, try engaging with a younger generation. While sharing key insights into your company’s success will undoubtedly benefit those interested in venturing into the entrepreneurial sector, the truth is that you are most likely to learn as much from them as they do with you.
Keeping an open mind will unlock new possibilities for you and your business, so make sure to meet with people with seemingly differing perspectives and approaches and use the newly acquired knowledge to the fullest.
10) Take advantage of technology
The use of digital tools has grown exponentially in the last decade. From students to entrepreneurs, the majority of individuals nowadays have access to technology.
In the case of businesses, the use of technology is not only limited to data protection and online content creation. If you or an employee have trouble finding nearby resources, turning to computer-mediated communication can be very helpful given that it “transcends the typical constraints of geography and time.”
Whether you are in need of emotional support or require external assistance with a project, having access to online tools such as search engines, emails, and chat rooms will help you quickly overcome any obstacles and help your business thrive.