As local ‘stay in place’ orders are extended and everything feels uncertain, it’s hard to think that you could possibly plan for the future right now. But this may be the best time, Melissa Agnes illustrates in a recent webinar hosted by Chase. Ms. Agnes is a Crisis Management Advisor and Founder of the Crisis Ready Institute. She’s also the author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World.
The Goal: “to not feel blindsided and alone”.
The first step? Create a “Crisis Ready Culture” vs. writing a “Crisis Management Plan”. Having a plan means that you’ve created a static document. It has no real flexibility, and is often reactionary. Creating a culture of being crisis ready means that you are focusing on being action oriented.
It’s important to evaluate potential risks ahead of time, so you can better understand what impacts there could be to your operations, reputations and relationships. You can then use this time to explore potential needs and alternate resources for the short, medium, and long term. But it’s not just a once in a while thing. You should periodically check in with those short- and long-term plans, to make sure that your risks, needs, and resources haven’t changed. Having this knowledge in hand means that you can more confidently take action when the time comes.
Which brings us to the next important step: communication. Make sure that you are in regular, honest conversation – with yourself, your team, your supply chain, and your customers. You need to acknowledge where the real risks lie for your business. Your team should be educated so they feel empowered to help manage potential problems and trust that you’ll listen when they say they’ve spotted something. Your clients and customers want to know that you’re staying informed and can trust that you’ll act with integrity. “Successful business is built on strong relationships.”
Catherine Cole, CEO of MOTIF (Alvanon’s online education platform) agrees. “During good times, you have to establish trust…” quoting General Nadja West on how a good team can help you “see around corners” during a crisis. It’s important to establish a culture of listening and learning. “My father [the founder of Alvanon] would always say that it’s the workers on the ground who know how to solve their problems, because they have the most experience at it.” shared Janice Wang, the CEO of Alvanon, shared in their most recent ‘New Realities’ webinar.
She also pointed out that “future proofing” your business often involves improving efficiency. As a Designer Entrepreneur with small minimums, you’re not going to be able to meet the same level of efficiency if you’re not making 10,000 units of 1 item at a time. So where can you improve? Take a look at where your libraries are. Do you still have a lot of paper records and patterns? Digitizing your patterns means that you could make changes more quickly and in the hands of the people using them. It also saves on physical space, and if your files are stored in a cloud-based server could be accessible from the studio or a home office. Similarly, if you’re collaboratively working on a document, changes can be made in real time if it is a Google Doc, etc. instead of emailing it back and forth and confusing which updated edition is the most recent.
That may be harder in a larger company, but a time of immense disruption like this can be used to advantage to break through old patterns and processes that need to be updated. It’s certainly not the time to go into a “deep freeze” Ms Wang points out.
And if you’re already in the middle of a crisis, but don’t yet have a plan or "crisis ready culture"?
There often isn’t clear information on how to act right away, Ms Agnes points out. That can make it hard to decide when and how to act. Be okay with that. Just focus and work with what information you do have in the moment. “Feel confident in today, today... Feel confident that you CAN evolve to meet the situation.”