There’s an old adage that recommends that people hope for the best and plan for the worst. The saying is particularly salient for entrepreneurs and is in and of itself a good piece of advice for managing your small business. After all, crisis situations of all kinds can arrive at any time. Small businesses in particular don’t have the economies of scale to weather external shocks or internal drama. Having a plan in place to handle crisis situations before they crop up could mean a great deal to your small business’ success. Here are some tips on how to handle crisis situations.
Gather the team and maintain perspective
Anytime a crisis occurs, an inevitable consequence is the finger pointing that goes on immediately afterwards. While finding the source of the crisis is important to forestall future problems of this magnitude from occurring, assigning blame is often simply an excuse to relieve the pressure from yourself. Strong leadership during crisis situations requires the maintenance of continuity and unity among your team members. Pointing fingers is ultimately a fruitless exercise that will only cause chaos and open hostility among your employees.
Tell the whole truth
Denials or disingenuous attempts at hiding the truth will only make you and your company look that much more guilty. Sometimes, it is better simply to confess to the crisis and your company’s culpability. Being the first one to admit the truth about the situation will empower you and your company to take control of the crisis situation by controlling the spin. Of course, unfavorable facts that have nothing to do with the crisis are better avoided. However, don’t get yourself in more trouble by lying about one thing that eventually leads to a whole web of lies.
Too many cooks spoil the broth
When a crisis situation erupts, the local media will undoubtedly attempt to get to the bottom and uncover as much dirt as they can. Assign one person at your company to be the spokesperson and implement a strict gag order on the rest of your employees. Too many people speaking publicly could complicate the situation. Additionally, your other employees might not have the full picture of what is going on and say something erroneous.
When faced with a crisis that could ruin their business, many owners go through some version of the psychological stages of grief, this is understandable but ultimately counterproductive: People almost never make good decisions when they’re angry or depressed. Once they’ve regained their objectivity, they can take action to save or reinvent their business. Do away with emotions.
Implement the plan
A strong plan lays out the critical objectives for turning around the business, the paths and timelines to reaching those goals, and the people who are responsible for executing them.
The ability to set aside ego and other considerations to find outside help can be crucial for business owners who lack the right skill set for managing a crisis. Sometimes the owner can’t do this [alone]. It’s triage, and they’re not built to do it. They’re not going to fire friends and family. They’re not going to have[difficult] conversations with customers and vendors. Sometimes they need a professional to ‘block’ for them and have the confidence that they don’t have.
How has your small business handled crisis situations in the past?