Small businesses have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. Industry experts have predicted a future market downturn which is set to add further strain to consumer behaviour, labour markets and supply chains, launching us further into the era of uncertainty.
With my background firmly rooted in supporting small businesses, I have learnt that preparedness is the best protection against increased turbulence and volatility. Organisations must be able to rest on a solid foundation to bolster them against any unforeseen disruption.
Undoubtedly businesses can navigate difficult times – whether a pandemic, economic crisis, or social crisis; there are actions businesses – large, medium and small – can take today to not only navigate through a volatile market but thrive through uncertain times. Transforming uncertainty into opportunity could present endless prospects for your business.
While this sounds like common sense, many organisations are simply unsure of their first steps towards generating resiliency and mitigating risks.
Step 1. Making connections essential
The possibility of another recession can and will affect everyone. Consumers are anxious about the economic forecast as many remember and powered through the significant side effects of 2008’s Great Recession.
Transparent and timely communication will help build their trust and position you as a valuable partner through turbulent times. Whether it’s ensuring a customer on hold is being reassured that their call matters or hosting regular webinars to provide updates to the community you serve, develop a regular cadence of communication and touch points with those you work closest with. It’s true – customer experience is the new battlefield. Recent research from HubSpot found that 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service. Now is not the time to cut budgets on customer experience strategies.
Step 2. Consolidate your tech stack
Go after the low-hanging, cost-saving fruit. Businesses (especially small businesses) can save much money with just a little vendor management of their current technology stack. A software license that is critical for one month may not be required a month later. Employees in a business come and go – so a system widely used and understood a year ago may not resonate with staff a year later.
The only way to decipher this is to step back, evaluate the use – and usefulness – of all technology applications and ensure that the essential connections are in place for employees, customers and partners.
Ask the question to your employees – make them feel part of the process as you review IT needs. Have you considered outsourcing the management of IT? Don’t assume this could always be an additional cost. It could be a sensible investment resulting in time savings and happier employees.
Step 3. Discover online events
We all love an excellent in-person event or connection, but – as we have discovered in recent years, it’s not always the safest or cheapest. In today’s flexible world, just because physical events can’t go ahead because of health risks, the need to reduce costs, and in more recent times, train strikes – a virtual event can still be advantageous. Yes, traditional webinars have been somewhat overdone since the pandemic but there are ways to make this format of events more engaging by leveraging features such as polling and webcasting.
Communication through uncertain times is also one of the most critical aspects of navigating your business through change. If you aren’t doing it already, start hosting regular (monthly, quarterly) exciting and engaging webinars for your current and future customers. Remind your ecosystem that – as cheesy as it might sound, “we’re all in this together”. Use it as a platform to share knowledge and insights that will be of value to others also weathering the storm.
Step 4. Bolstering worker welfare
People are already feeling the strain, and employees will be even more likely to feel financial stress if we enter a recession. Living through the great resignation, we know how difficult it is to retain talent and how expensive it is to hire new talent in this market.
Richard Branson was onto something when he said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”. Companies seeing the most success are putting their employees’ satisfaction high on the list of focus areas. Now is the time to listen to your employees, show your support and remind them they are valued.
Step 5. Improvise, adapt, overcome
In uncertain times, flexibility is crucial. Businesses and professionals must react urgently to the ever-changing market and customer demands. Stay close to market trends and your business performance so that you can adapt quickly. A business plan can always be changed – it isn’t set in stone.
We can’t control the fear of the unknown and uncertainty. As humans, we are wired to feel these emotions. But I do know it’s never too early to future-proof your business – but it can be too late.