Community//

How to Manage a Corporate Crisis: 4 Essentials for Business Leaders

Building a business is never a straightforward process. There will be resistance and complications from all sides. Here are my experiences and 4 lessons.

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1) WORK ON YOUR OWN RESILIENCE

This is something we’ve all heard often in one form or another, starting with our parents and grandparents and continuing in one form or another. But experience tells me it’s true, no doubt. The world of trading is exciting but volatile. It is easy to feel overcome in phases of ill fortune. 2019 was, for example, not our rosiest year in terms of business. I think many, faced with similar challenges, would have thrown in the towel and given themselves to something else. Being battered is however part of being in battle. We were determined to soldier on, however, and an upswing justified our not losing faith. The 100% guarantee will remain elusive, for the simple reason that it does not exist. If it did, everyone on the planet would put his or her entire wealth and energy, however large or small, into that venture. It cannot and never will be possible. What is possible, however, is to build up a personal resilience to adversity that you put on like a suit of armor.

2) DEVELOP A PLAN

Another chestnut, with good reason. I speak from very recent experience when I say that there is absolutely no other way forward. Invariably, an operations crisis will bring with it some employee and possibly even workspace losses. I have also been forced to make such decisions at times, quite against my own will, to be sure, but I have always kept one thing in mind: that there must be an immediate plan of action in place, ready for implementation if and when the time was right. An example of one such plan, one we and others have implemented: strike at other markets and market sectors more willing to see the particular product as attractive and viable. The vital element is making sure the plan covers new territory, figuratively or literally. Many leave themselves wandering in the woods, retreading ground that they might well have worn a little thin. Happily, with us, the plan bore fruit almost immediately, but had it not, there would have been another forward-looking scheme to take its place. A policy of ʺwait and seeʺ is the corporate equivalent of driving cross-country without a road map or GPS. 

3) BE HONEST AND OPEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES

This is a point that is so often ignored and simultaneously one that I cannot stress enough. I know what it is like to work in personal contact with our employees, especially due to our open office concept, and it is never taken badly when you share human concerns and even that you may be under a great deal of stress at a particular juncture in time. Clearly, people will want to work for people, rather than for success machines. This means that even when very difficult decisions have to be reached – as when we were forced to close five offices and let go of over half our employees – you can find understanding from the side of those most affected, which in turn alleviates what can be a severely stressful situation for you as an entrepreneur or CEO, and the one that has to lead the negative consequences for business, health and personal life – both yours and theirs.

4) ADAPT, IMPROVE, OVERCOME

This goes without saying in almost every industry today, and you will have heard this as well in various formulations. Other questions however remain open: How? When? After our downturn in turnover last year, we looked at our products and what we could do to rethink them. Often enough, as we ourselves found, the problem is having simply too many products for the average person, busy with their own life, to readily digest. The solution: many diverse products, or services, as the case may be, trimmed and brought into a single focused area. Not less, simply more streamlined and user-friendly, both an adaptation and improvement in one go. But apart from these possibly foreseeable crises, there are those completey unforeseeable ones that will nevertheless need to be dealt with – without a tried and tested roadmap. The coronavirus pandemic is of course by far the biggest current example, and one that will fill volumes of history books in the future. Confronted with an anomaly of this magnitude, the public will awake to new, hitherto ignored or neglected concerns (namely in the present case, untreatable health issues) and recognize new pitfalls (new market volatility) and pressing needs (financial stabiltiy in times of unexpected reduced employment or complete unemployment). Can your business cope with and possibly provide some solutions to these newfound challenges? Since they cannot be sidestepped, they have to become central to an ever-changing business juggernaut constructed to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably surface. 

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