By Adrian Johansen
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, businesses quickly realized how ill-prepared they were for a disruption of this magnitude. While a pandemic was inevitable at some point, most businesses did not take the time or the effort to plan out how they might respond to such an event. In many cases, little could be done anyway. In others, preparation might have helped save the estimated 100,000 business closures that resulted from pandemic problems.
But future-proofing a business takes more than pandemic preparation alone. A wide variety of factors can create challenges from both an economic and human approach. Organizing your business so that it is stable during likely disruptions is an element of a successful business.
So how does one go about planning for the unexpected? How do you future-proof your business’s finances to survive a disaster? How will you accommodate fluctuating workforce needs?
All these questions and more will have a direct effect on the survivability of your business when worst comes to worst. We explore some answers here.
Planning for the Unexpected
As fun as it is to imagine, no one can truly see the future. This puts businesses on shaky but even ground when facing industry disruptions. However, you can better maintain an edge over your competitors with an effective continuity plan.
A continuity plan is a document that can stand alone your essential business documents to provide a carefully laid-out plan to all current and future employees for how to manage various situations. While plans will no-doubt have to be adjusted to fit the specifics of any situation and time period, a continuity plan can lay down a road map built out of company culture and workplace values. It will offer tools and suggestions for how to handle all of the following situations and more:
- Natural disasters
- Utility outages
Writing out a plan for addressing any and all of these hypotheticals forces you to approach the possibility and consider potential solutions. The process of creating and writing this plan alone can help stabilize business processes for the future from the very foundation of your business model.
For instance, formulating a continuity plan can be an illustrative example of how necessary a flexible and innovative workplace truly is for keeping projects on track while facing uncertainty. You can then build flexibility and innovation opportunities into your business practices to better ensure that you and your employees are experienced problem solvers.
Next, solidify your finances as a buffer against the future.
Of course, no business future is ever genuinely secure without the financial resources with which to weather widespread change. For example, the coronavirus pandemic devastated the hospitality industry. People canceled their travel plans both because of government-mandated shutdowns and to protect themselves from exposure to the virus. This led to an estimated loss in the hospitality sector of $925 billion in U.S. revenue alone.
While the disaster itself was unpredictable, a wide variety of factors could have precipitated similar losses in revenue and business. The companies prepared with resources like investment capital and loan options fared much better than those without.
Your efforts to future-proof your finances—no matter your current financial situation—can be aided by the following two strategies:
- Maintain loan options and fallbacks
Fortunately, when the coronavirus pandemic struck, the federal government was fairly quick in passing the CARES Act. This legislative action provided small business loans for eligible businesses to help them mitigate pandemic-induced losses.
However, you don’t want to wait around on government assistance.
Future-proofing your finances means having small business loans and assistance resources in your back pocket. Whether you keep this information in an easily-referenced list or as part of your continuity plan, it will become useful when a problem arises.
- Adopt secure tech.
Technology is changing all the time. With the improvements, unfortunately, come new avenues of cybercrime. In 2019, a total of 1,473 data breaches were reported, exposing 164.68 million sensitive records. For the exposed companies, costs per record averaged around $150.
Securing your own finances means cybersecurity. An assessment of modern digital protections should take place consistently so that your system does not go out of date. Nowadays, decentralized databases like blockchains offer enhanced levels of security and automated performance in the financial technology (fintech) sector. Consider innovations like blockchain to secure your business data against attack.
Cultivating toolkits of resources to be used in a disaster and constantly update your cybersecurity solutions. As a result, you can better protect your business’s finances from many market dangers that may arise.
However, finances aren’t the only element to focus on for a secured business future.
Accommodating Workforce Fluctuations
For any business, your employees are your most valuable resource. These experts and innovators are the people making your revenues possible. They will also be instrumental in how your business fares during an industry disruption.
Pay attention to the changing expectations and needs of the modern workforce and be willing to be flexible enough to accommodate these changes. For example, the coronavirus pandemic created a huge demand for remote working policies. Businesses that adopted these policies where possible were able to keep their employees safe and employed, which in turn helped these businesses survive pandemic fluctuations.
When it comes to future-proofing your business through employee satisfaction, consider the following three strategies.
- Maintain clear standards of communication.
Clear communication is a must when it comes to future-preparedness plans. Write clear project objectives and maintain accessible communication models to better standardize quality communication.
- Ensure business processes are accessible.
Every employee faces different needs and challenges. Making your business accessible to all ensures greater employee success and opportunities for innovation.
- Invite and listen to feedback.
Welcome feedback and suggestions from all stakeholders in your business. In the event of a disaster, these insights will help maintain necessary systems and services.
Businesses that emphasize communication, accessibility, and transparency will stand a better chance of weathering any disruption. Communication is a key aspect of change management, while accessibility and transparency are empathetic bridges to greater employee satisfaction and engagement. By securing the well-being of employees alongside your finances, your business can be better protected against recession and disaster. Follow these tips and constantly innovate through feedback from employees and customers.