As the eagle-eyed among you might know, Crown and Glory HQ was brought to a pretty tumultuous standstill last month when, travelling back from teaching a spin class at the gym one evening, our Gareth was involved in a nasty road traffic accident. I'd had a pretty lazy day that day, actually spending most of it in bed trying to fight off tonsillitis and fitting in some admin tasks in between napping. When the police turned up at the house after Gareth was 2 hours late returning and told me he was being airlifted to the hospital with possibly 'life-altering' injuries, I'm sure none of you will think bad of me for the business being the last thing on my mind.
Thankfully, for an accident so severe, his injuries were pretty minimal - well if broken vertebrae, ribs and sternum can be classed as minimal - but he will heal back to full health in the long term and is already almost back to normal day-to-day life. He was very, very lucky.
Once the drama died down and life started getting back to normal, it became evident to me that in a short-term scenario like this, I actually had a crisis plan in place, even if it wasn’t written down on paper as such. Here’s some of the things we did to manage the damage that this could do to our business.
- Let your existing customers know as soon as possible if there’s going to be a delay to their orders. As long as they’re given notice, most will be absolutely fine. There might be some that need to cancel the order or service, and try not to panic about this - remember their priorities are completely different to yours, and that’s totally understandable. Just because you’ve let them down on this one occasion doesn’t mean that they’re going to vilify your business forever. For those that are happy to wait, include a little sweetener (free gift or discount code) to say thank you for being understanding once you do get their order out. Little things like this go a long way.
- Prioritise your work. I often use the Covey Time Management Matrix without even really thinking about it, but physically making a grid on a big bit of paper and putting your tasks/projects/orders on post-it notes to organise into the different quadrants can help to stop it all feeling overwhelming and give you a clear agenda for the foreseeable future. Also make note of tasks that could sit in the different quadrants depending on who is considering it. For example, I had to choose between completing a last-minute bridal party order on time or preparing press samples for a big photo shoot. One had to give; the bridal party order was obviously incredibly 'Urgent and Important' for the client, but for us, could be considered 'Urgent and Not Important' if I was thinking in terms of exposure and the future of the business. However, as I have a soul and a conscience behind all business decisions, without a heartbeat I chose to complete the bridal order. There’ll be other photo shoots. There won’t be another wedding day.
- Use social media to reach out to your customers and fans - I suggest this with caution; for me, there’s nothing more off-putting than a small business that is always having some sort of drama. It’s really not going to make me trust them to fulfil my order if there’s some sort of excuse for being behind on their work every week. BUT if this is a real once in a blue moon, actually affecting business emergency, social media is one of your fastest ways to spread the word. How much personal information you give is up to you, really, it depends on the sort of business you have. Keep it concise and clear and give us much practical information as you can. Get a friend to read through it if you’re a bit worried about it verging into X-Factor sob story territory.
- Carefully consider how much new work you can take on. ASOS recently closed down their whole site for 48 hours when there was a fire at one of their main warehouses. We removed fast - track shipping options for a few days to give us a bit of breathing space with receiving new orders. Now’s probably not the time to post that website-crashing social media promotion you had planned - hold off on business-growth until you’re back on track.
- Remember there are some things more important in life than your business. It’s hard, when your business is your lifeblood, to not panic that it’s all going to come crashing down around you. But sometimes you’ve just got to take a deep breath and get on with it.
Like I said though, we were really lucky. I was able to implement these things pretty easily and quickly, and after a few short weeks Gareth was able to return back to work. But realistically, and without wanting to be too maudlin, it is important to sit down and consider some worst-case scenario solutions should you not be in a position to take things in hand yourself. For example, I’ll be enlisting a trusted business friend with our social media and email login details should we ever be in a position to not be able to make announcements ourselves. I’ll be showing Gareth how to use more of the back-office management systems like downloading and shipping orders should the tables ever be turned. We’re making sure our insurance details are bang up to date should there ever be a fire or theft of our precious equipment or stock.
Do you have any crisis management protocol in place in your business?