While a lot is said about business resilience and continuity planning, and the importance of a company being agile and responsive; in the end it all boils down to one simple goal – being able to continue to serve your customers even when times get tough. Business resilience is about rolling with the punches and learning from them rather than trying to avoid them altogether.
So, what does a resilient business look like – and how do you get your own company there?
Defining business resilience
Today, the resilience of a business is almost always related to the way it makes use of technology. However, there are common traits among resilient businesses including:
- A company culture which encourages continuous employee education
- A willingness to challenge assumptions
- Awareness and proactive response to cyber threats
- Strong leadership
- Due diligence around technological innovation
- Commitment to transparency, collaboration, shared knowledge and resources
- Monitoring and measurement of resiliency goals
So how can you steer your own small or medium enterprise in this direction?
Embrace change and adapt early
This lesson is best demonstrated with a striking example. In January of 2012, Kodak – who had been a leading player in the photography sector since 1888 and spawned the famous phrase ‘a Kodak moment’ – filed for bankruptcy. They were unable to adapt to the shifting marketplace and the rise of digital photography.
In contrast, their Japanese rival Fujifilm had been a lot more proactive – already broadening their product base to include medical imaging, optical technology, industrial products, graphical art supplies and equipment servicing. Realizing that their core market was changing forever, they embraced the shift and got ahead of it – which is why they're still around today.
The lesson? Make your own business a Fujifilm rather than a Kodak by closely monitoring changing trends in your industry – especially potentially disruptive technologies – and embracing them and using them to your advantage rather than trying to bury your head in the sand and keep doing business as usual.
Start with your most likely challenges
While there’s no harm in having a plan to cope with an unlikely natural disaster, it makes sense to address the more commonplace challenges first. Some of these seem so obvious that we actually overlook them – things like several members of staff catching a nasty bug doing the rounds and getting booked off work at the same time, or a key customer running into cashflow problems and being unable to pay you on time. Factor likelihood into your planning and spend the most time and energy planning around them.
Build a reliable, efficient network of partners and contacts
It’s pretty hard to open the door for collaboration and resource sharing if you haven’t taken the time to reach out and build relationships with key players in your industry. Dedicating time to networking, seeking out mentors, and getting to really know your suppliers –and even your competitors- can prove invaluable when the unexpected occurs. Whether it’s making contact with freelancers who could step in to help when you're understaffed or getting advice on future-proofing or scaling your company’s IT from a provider like Tech Brain, who you know is still vitally important to business. Basically – who you gonna call?
Focus early on establishing a financial safety net
No matter how good your planning and predictions are, factors entirely outside of your control can wreak havoc on your business model. When really tough times strike and you need to ride out the storm, having the financial reserves to do so may be the only thing that keeps you from sinking. A good target to aim for is having at least six months’ worth of operating expenses in the bank – and just as with your personal emergency fund, resisting the urge to dip into these savings except for the most dire of circumstances.
Build bulletproof relationships with your existing customers
Let’s be honest – the most interesting thing about customers is how much money they're willing to part with to purchase your products or services. But loyal customers are also a source of another valuable commodity – information and feedback. If their needs and desires are changing, you need to be the first to know about it so you can adapt accordingly. Rather than spending all your marketing budget on acquiring new customers, reaching out to your existing clients through online surveys, social media, or a courtesy email or phone call to make sure they're happy with the service they're getting is as important as it’s ever been.
Your employees can be another valuable source of feedback. Engaging and incentivizing them to make suggestions, keep their ears to the ground and come to you with concerns or new ideas will always be in your interest.