Disasters are a part of life [and certainly as a nation we’ve built some degree of resilience], but they’re particularly stressful for business owners due to the levels of uncertainty they bring with them. Approaching any potential crisis in a calm, rational and measured way is the best way to allay uncertainty and minimise the impacts on both your clients and your team environment.
With the current coronavirus outbreak likely to breach containment efforts overseas, we thought now would be as good a time as any to talk about getting some baseline preparations in place to protect your agency, your clients, and your team in the event of a prolonged event or disaster.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind:
- If you have employees, encourage them to work remotely. This might seem like a no-brainer, but social distancing is one of the better ways to prevent transmission of illness [even the common cold!], so protecting yourself and your employees by letting them work from home is a smart move. Digital businesses are uniquely well placed to take advantage of this as a viable option. For employees who have kids, offer flexibility to ensure they can care for their families whilst still doing their jobs. That might look like a reduction in hours, or allowing team members to work in the evenings while their kids are asleep where possible. Likewise, if employees prefer to be in the office? Provide some extras like single use paper towels for effective hand washing and drying, and insist that unwell employees take sick days.
- 2. Disasters affect your clients, too. This may impact their ability to retain you, [even if they’d really like to!]. Have a chat with your clients to formalise how best to preserve the relationship if elements of their business are disaster affected. This could mean putting retainers on hold, or running reduced activity while they recover. If retention is a priority, your clients will value clear, respectful and empathetic communication.
- 3. Prepare your community managers. If you’re managing communities on behalf of your clients, level up your client response matrices. The questions that people will ask small businesses in a crisis may well differ from the usual, so make sure your community management team is as well-equipped as possible to support your clients through change.
- 4.Business interruption insurance. Protect your bottom line if essential services [like power or internet] are interrupted and you’re not able to do your job. Now’s a great time to review your insurance policy and make sure you’re covered if you’re unable to do the job your clients pay you to do.
- Cover the home front, too. While it’s important as a small business owner to make sure everyone else is taken care of, don’t forget about number one- you’re a person too, so please make sure you afford yourself whatever preparation you need personally- from buying chickpeas to stocking up on trashy magazines.
Above all, prioritise honesty, empathy and flexibility with both your clients and your team. Disasters are likely to be a time where people feel vulnerable, so cementing the value of the people in your business with empathy-driven leadership will stand you in good stead for a strong recovery.