Business crisis management – how to steer your business through
Any business can run into problems which may negatively impact its normal course of operations. Crises such as a global pandemic, a fire, the death of a CEO, a faulty product or a social media gaff can all cost a business large. All these require Business crisis management.
If the last twelve months have taught us anything, we’ve all learnt the hard way that it’s not really IF you’ll suffer a business crisis but WHEN and what form it will take.
Out of the 120 UK organisations which took part in PwC’s Global Crisis Management Survey, 80% had experienced at least one crisis in the past five years.
What is business crisis management?
Crisis management is the identification of threats to your business and its stakeholders and the methods used to deal with these threats.
Owing to the unpredictability of a crisis, crisis management often means decisions need to be made quickly. If your business has a plan in place, then the response should be far easier.
Here are our top six tips to help guide you through a business crisis:-
1. Be prepared!
Do as the Scouts do and ‘always be prepared’.
Small businesses aren’t immune to setbacks, so having a crisis management plan in place will help you to respond more quickly and effectively.
Having a plan is step one but you need to make sure that people are trained to execute it should they need to.
Does everyone know what to do? Try running a simulation exercise with the relevant staff based on creative but realistic scenarios.
Often in businesses, staff work siloed in their teams and rarely collaborate as one department. Be clear about roles and responsibilities and make sure that teams are comfortable working together to achieve a common goal.
2. Respond quickly
With social media now commonplace, news travels fast. If something goes wrong, you’ll need to respond quickly and get your message out before someone else does. It’s totally understandable that your normal inclination will be to wait for all the facts to come to light but in doing so you’ll open yourself up for criticism and more damage.
Even if the statement you release is just acknowledging that there has been a problem and it’s being investigated, it will show you’re taking it seriously.
3. Accept responsibility
When a business crisis strikes, don’t try to blame other people.
Even if you feel it’s not your fault, it’s probably best to apologise. There’s nothing worse than a business holding out on a public apology and then because of pressure from the outside world, they send out a sorry, but all too late. The impact to your business’s reputation can be damaged beyond repair.
4. Be human
This is where good communication really comes into play.
If something goes wrong, people want to feel that their concerns have been heard and taken into account. Forget the business jargon and just imagine you’re speaking to a friend or family member.
Explain what happened, how it’s affected people and what you’re doing to try to put it right. Just use simple language that conveys empathy. Try not to react defensively or selfishly.
And don’t take a leaf out of ex-BP CEO, Tony Hayward’s, book.
Two months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — the worst oil spill in history, which killed 11 people and devastated the ecosystem — he gave an interview and said:
“There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”
Hardly the most sympathetic response given the circumstances.
5. Understand that communication is key
Regardless of the nature of the crisis, it’s important to set up a channel of communication which gives people information, allows them to ask questions and offers a place for them to vent their anger.
It could just be a hotline or your Twitter feed but something needs to be done from the outset. If people can see you’re being open and honest about what’s going on, it will help protect your brand in the future.
You’ll also need to know your customers.
If you usually use Instagram or Facebook, then use that, if your audience doesn’t really use mobile devices, then you’ll need to provide your telephone number and be prepared to manage multiple channels.
6. Learn from your mistakes
Success. Crisis over and your business is running as it was before.
But what you don’t want to do is sit back and think that it won’t ever happen again.
Set aside time to conduct vulnerability audits to see where problems could arise in the future.
- Are our IT systems strong enough to resist a cyber-attack?
- Do we fully understand our supply chain and any weak spots?
- Are we monitoring social media and Google for negative comments?
Also, if a crisis strikes again, how could your response be improved next time?
If senior leaders are willing to accept fault and learn lessons, then this tone will shape behaviours at all levels and your team will feel empowered to learn lessons as well.
And finally – don’t forget that at THP we have an experienced team to advise on how to refinance your business should you need extra support to get you back on your feet.
About Mark Boulter
Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.
Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”