By Rachel Hartman
WHILE YOUR BUSINESS may not face anything so serious it has to shut down, occasionally bad things do happen.
“The roof could collapse on your shop, or
you could take a serious social media hit,”
notes Brian S. Vinson, a Federal Emergency
Management Agency–certified professional
continuity practitioner with more than 20
years of disaster recovery and business management experience.
Add equipment breakdowns, employees
acting out of order, lawsuits and health scares:
All of these can turn into crises, and dealing
with them is not an easy task.
Getting through a tough stretch begins
with the right focus, advises Vinson. Follow
these strategies to handle the crisis and move
on to a better, more promising future.
Assess the situation
Start by taking a step back to absorb the
events. You may find an immediate fix can be
made, such as repairing key equipment or
calling a backup supplier.
If employees were affected, you might
need to address them as well.
“We had a fire in our warehouse, and the
timing couldn’t have been worse,” recalls
William Bauer, a Costco member and managing director at Royce Leather (royceleathergifts.
com), a high-end leather goods manufacturing
company based in New York and New Jersey.
The fire hit in November, shortly before
Black Friday, a day of huge promotions and
big sales for retailers that takes place the day
after Thanksgiving. About $10,000 of inventory was lost before the flames were put out.
“As soon as the firefighters left and it was
safe for us to go back to work, the most
important thing was to bring the entire team
together,” says Bauer. Everyone was informed
of the fire and assured that, by pulling
together, the company would be able to carry
Appoint a spokesperson
If you’ll need to address the media about
the situation, select one person to handle all
communication with the press, advises
Vinson. This will help keep messages clear
Also, “depending on the crisis, allowing
legal counsel to speak on behalf of the company may be the best route to take,” he says.
Let employees know who the appointed
spokesperson is. This way, they can guide any
media inquiries in the right direction.
To start an upswing for your company,
“make a plan and move forward,” suggests
Sherri French, Costco member and founder
of Spbang ( spbang.com), a company that produces reusable snack bags.
The Costco Connection
Costco offers a number of business services
to help small businesses survive and thrive.
Go to Costco.com and click “Services.”
TO DECREASE YOUR chances of a
future crisis, “be proactive,” says Jon
Zack, Costco member and founder of
1. Know your weakness. Start
with an internal audit, suggests Zack,
who is currently CEO of EggZack, an
automated sales and marketing system. For instance, if your business
depends heavily on technology, do you
have a backup system?
2. Bring in outside help. Hiring a
group to carry out a risk assessment
can help you identify vulnerabilities,
especially those that are hard to see
when you’re close to the business.
3. Evaluate preventive action.
Based on your internal and external
findings, decide what measures
should be implemented to reduce the
chances of future flaws.—RH
Three steps to
That’s what French did when an error
stalled production on a new bag design. The
company planned to showcase the design,
which had a back-to-school theme, at a key
upcoming trade show. In addition to causing
a $1,000 loss on production costs, the mistake
couldn’t be fixed before the show.
Instead, French opted to display a picture
of the new design at the trade show. In doing
so, the company was still able to take orders
from buyers interested in the bag once it
Keep a vision
One blunder won’t necessarily drive away
future sales, notes Bruce D. Sanders, a Costco
member and consumer psychologist. “If
you’ve treated your customers well in the past,
they’ll want to move beyond the crisis as
much as you do,” he says.
Furthermore, working through challenges can form resilience among workers,
adds Bauer. “[It] becomes part of the company culture that nothing is too daunting to
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer who
frequently covers small-business topics.
Bouncing back after a crisis
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