Unexpected changes happen to people and businesses all of the time. When faced with change, the quality of your response determines the future of your team and your business. When the unexpected happens, it is important that you be able to adapt and respond quickly.
Some of the sources of change are government regulations, market changes, both economic and from the consumer, changes in technology or with new competitors. Other unwelcome sources of unexpected changes are natural disasters and absences of employees.
New laws and regulations can mandate how you do business and can add expenses. Be sure to follow your local representatives for updates on legislation and regulations. Another source would be a trade organization. They often will keep members updated and will give you a community to help with how to respond.
When it comes to taxes, enlist the help of your CPA to be prepared and minimize the impact to your business and your income.
Changes in the marketplace are difficult to predict. Follow a reliable source for economic information. If you have not already done so, foster a relationship with your banker, not just your bank.
Talk to your customers and follow industry trends. Continually evaluate your current product and service offerings to make sure they meet your customers’ needs. Has there been a shift in demand? Encourage a flow of ideas for new products based on input from your customers, suppliers and what your competitors are doing.
Let’s talk about competitors. There may be a new competitor in the market with a large marketing budget, or an existing competitor who is expanding. Either of these can impact your sales and profits. You need to continually do market research – data is your friend. Enlist the help of a “Mystery Shopper” to snoop on the competition. They can learn not only about products and services, but also customer service and the buying experience.
Using technology can make your business more efficient and simplify many processes. However, changing or upgrading technology often causes a disruption. Having backups and backup plans can mitigate some of these disruptions. Build in time and money for training and support as part of your implementation plan.
Natural disasters can strike anywhere as we have seen in the past few weeks. Fires, floods, and storms impact our infrastructure as well as our businesses. Now is the time to create your emergency preparedness plan, not in the 24 hours before the blizzard or hurricane strikes.
Changes with your employees can also happen unexpectedly. When someone is unable to come to work, regardless of the reason, the work still needs to be done. Use cross-training and document processes so that others can perform the needed tasks.
Larger employee shortages can happen for unexpected reasons as well, as we saw with the pandemic. Have a plan to limit open hours or service lines to keep your remaining staff from being overwhelmed. Also have a plan to communicate with your customers about any reduction in service.
What’s a Business Owner to Do?
It is not possible to predict unexpected change, but being prepared can help your business to be more resilient when unexpected events happen. Having a plan in place for responding to natural disasters, changes in regulations, and other disruptions is not a someday to-do. Do it now.
When an unexpected change occurs, it is important to communicate with employees and customers as soon as possible to minimize uncertainty and confusion.
Be flexible and willing to adapt to change. You may need to change products or services, marketing strategies, operating procedures, or job duties. Be patient. It takes time to adjust to change.
Stay positive and be optimistic. Your team and customers will take their queue from how you react to unexpected change. Keep moving forward. Take time to celebrate your progress. This will also help you and your team stay motivated and focused on what needs to be done.
Unexpected changes can be challenging, and they are often not avoidable because they are beyond our control. What you can control is your response to the situation. These challenges can also be an opportunity for your businesses to grow and improve. By being prepared, communicating effectively, and being flexible and adaptable, your business can successfully navigate and flourish as a result of unexpected change.
Author: Sandy Merritt, Business Coach in Louisville, KY