Five ways to increase your business resilience

sand“A good half of the art of living is resilience.”

Alain de Botton

A good half of the art of business is resilience, as well.

Here’s how the need for it shows up, typically:

– All signs are that things are going pretty well.

– Oh, maybe the data show that one small thing is not quite right, but it shouldn’t turn out to be a big deal, after a few process tweaks and tucks. It’s really nothing to worry about.

– Suddenly, out of the clear blue, you’re facing potential disaster.

That little problem you weren’t worried about?

It blew up, and now you’re sunk.

Or are you?

This is when resilience is a potentially business-saving asset, if you have it.  But for those who struggle with resilience, what causes it?

It’s fear.

And it’s human nature, in many ways.

No one wants to think about what might go wrong.

But putting your head in the sand is not a winning strategy in any business or profession, and it only increases stress, instead of burying it.

Manage your stress by reducing your stress, rather than by trying to ignore it.

If you’d like to grow or improve your resilience, start with the following five ideas.

They can soften the blow or save your business during unexpected and challenging times:

1. Stretch your thinking.

You’ll be more prepared to respond to any unexpected situation if you consider what might go wrong well before something happens. dog

Just by considering a wide range of possibilities, and mentally rehearsing what you and the people you work with would do to address them improves your ability to respond effectively in any circumstance that occurs.

One way to do this is scenario analysis. In a simple, structured format, you consider the best case, worst case, and most likely circumstances.

Then you stretch even further in each direction, and consider EVEN worse, and EVEN better things that could be ahead. Having done that, your “most likely” scenario is likely to be different and more accurate, than it previously was.

And however it works out, you are likely to have previewed and rehearsed, even in cursory fashion, what you might do and how you would approach previously unexpected situations.

Here’s a link to a post I wrote about it, Strategic planning: Mine your imagination with scenario planning.

2. Pay attention to critical details.

Track key indicators of possible change to improve your ability to predict what might happen, before it does.

Look at it this way: you’re improving the crystal ball you use to predict what will happen in the future.

To use examples in nature, animals, who are tuned in to very subtle signs in their environment, are far better than humans are at predicting and being ready for some natural disasters when they occur.

Dogs and cats, for example, can often tell when an earthquake is going to happen.

A recent New York Times article addressed birds’ ability to anticipate and prepare for dangerous storms. That article is here, Birds Have Natural Ability to Survive Storms.

Similarly, you can discover and track early warning signs of possible change in business.

To do so, start by identifying the highest risk aspects of your business.

Then brainstorm details or related trends that you could track to give you early warning about the very changes you worry about now…but could take action to prevent or minimize if you knew they were beginning to occur.

3. Figure out what processes and systems must work if only part of the company can work.

Change those core and key processes and systems now if they’re the ones your business must stand on to ride out an emergency for a while.

And if that emergency never occurs…and hopefully it won’t…you will benefit from faster, easier, more cost-effective processes and ways of getting work done.

That’s almost guaranteed to lower your costs and improve your profits.

4. Create an emergency plan and resources for your business.

This one is easy to wave off, but it could save your business, and it could save lives, too.

Encourage your employees and friends of the business, such as your customers, suppliers, and colleagues to do so, too.

Here are links to pages on the FEMA website that tell you how to create business preparedness plans and create emergency kits:

Business Preparedness

Build an Emergency Kit

disaster5. Practice.

Find small ways to try resiliency out.

Be creative. Be positive, even if it’s not pleasant to think about.

Treat resiliency-building like a game, if you can. It’s a game with high stakes, if you have to exercise it.

But your business…and your life…could depend upon it.

And the odds are it will have beneficial effects far beyond what you might expect, even if that rainy day never comes.' About Jan Richards

Principal of J. G. Richards Consulting, Jan helps companies improve profitability and revenue as they decrease business complexity and costs. This occurs in many ways, including: streamlining business operations; project management for major change and process improvement teams; coaching leaders of major change programs; creating long-range visions and strategic plans. A WIC Board member, Jan oversees WIC's strategic initiatives and mentoring programs.

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