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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Executive Insider

Top 5 Ways a Small Business Can Prepare for a Crisis (and possibly prevent it altogether)

How exactly would you define a crisis in your business?  A key employee quits? An employee becomes ill? A team member has something happen at home that keeps them away?  What happens when an employee cries out that they cannot handle their workload? What is it exactly that keeps you up at night when you think about what would not only cause a wrinkle in your business but will cost you more money in the long run?

Personally, in decades of working with businesses, I’ve seen situations that could have, if allowed to continue, would have caused companies to buckle or cause so much damage and heartache to the team that it would take months or years to recover.  A key employee falls terminally ill, someone you never thought would leave gets an opportunity they can’t pass up and you invested soooo much energy into them and put all of your trust in them, or just the employee that has so much going on at home that it slowly but surely takes its toll on the business.    How do you make sure that regardless of what crisis hits your business, you are able to not only survive, but THRIVE.

  1. Develop a Transparent Plan – In order to know how to quickly address problems when they arise, you must first have a map of your organization.   Creating a plan for your business isn’t about keeping all of the information to yourself or just within upper management.  It’s important to have all team members involved in the process and providing input. This plan should consist of who does what, how do they do it, and who is the backup for these tasks. It should be available electronically and easy to keep updated.  There are several software programs that you can use to house the information
  2. Understand What Your Team Members Do On a Daily Basis – In the event that you had to replace an employee or temporarily transfer duties, how in the world would you transfer tasks or projects if you have no idea what they do?  Every employee should write out their duties; what they do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. As management, you should be able to see a snapshot of each and every one of your team members in order to quickly analyze what needs to be completed and when.  This job description should be included in the transparent plan above.
  3. Develop Written Procedures – Once a company starts on this path, they will quickly realize that written procedures become the lifeblood of the organization.  When looking at each team member’s job description, they should create a procedure for every task listed. It’s best for the team member to create their procedure and then give it to another person in the company to review and try to complete the task as outlined.  When you create a procedure yourself, you find out quickly that you left information in your head and if someone else tries to follow the steps, they will be able to identify the “holes” that need to be filled in. The procedures work wonders when training or cross-training employees. We have all had a time where we know we “told” someone how to do something. If you tell someone how to complete a task and they do it incorrectly, there is always the chance that they can say they were never told that particular part of the task. This also can lead to great inconsistency.  If the procedure is provided, if the team member doesn’t follow the instructions, there is an employee problem, not a process problem.
    Common things that are included in the procedure:
    – What programs are used to complete the task.
    – What are the steps (clicks) used to complete the tasks – use pictures/screenshots.
    – Frequently asked questions and the answers to them.
  4. Keep Information Updated – The job descriptions and process designs are meant to be liquid.  If there are changes that have to be made, the procedures should be updated. If tasks or projects are moved to another team member, the move should always be accompanied by the process design.  The new owner of the task should review and notate any questions that they have about the process and add as frequently asked questions or updates. It’s very important that they are not used as a history book, but as a living document.
  5. Don’t Assume Your Business is Bulletproof – Many business owners and their managers assume they know exactly what is going on in their business. Reality is, once you create this map for your business you will realize that you really had no idea what went on behind the scenes. Once complete, you will have a new control over your business that should provide you with a sigh of relief.

It’s important to realize that these items don’t just exist for crisis situations, but also in order to scale your business now. If you have situations in your business that are liabilities, you need consistency to weed it out quickly and have a predictable outcome, that’s what will put your business in a place where it’s easy to scale.

Salinda Howell
Salinda Howell is a writer and business operations consultant. She focuses on re-building teams from the top down. Making her way from the receptionist to the Vice President of a nationwide company, she learned how maximize the strengths of her team and go on to bring these skills to other multi-million dollar organizations. She is a firm believer in “Most problems in business can be fixed one of three ways: Technology, Education of Consumer, Education of Staff.” Salinda Howell is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.