Our world seems to be changing by the day and on some days, it seems like by the minute. In the chaos of everything going on around, it’s important to focus on a key lesson that has always applied to businesses but now more than ever. The adaptability of your business is a key survival and flourishing tool.
It is a requirement to be adaptable. Not all businesses have this internal adaptability and as such will be faced with some dire situations. Those that are already adapting on a regular basis are set up to weather any storm that comes their way. The beauty of adapting is that everyone naturally has a capacity for it. The question becomes how does one go about adapting in a roller coaster that now is moving twice as fast? Or maybe you realize your business is not currently set up to be adaptable. What can your business do to change that? We at SMB Compass, have had to ask ourselves these same questions and at times, these questions have required us to look internally for some real transparency.
When we started thinking of opportunities to tweak our business to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances we sought to understand what changes we could make that would have the most impact. Today we're seeing manufacturers that would focus on other products create hand sanitizer as both a way to help but as a way to produce when their typical customers aren't ordering.
We're personally seeing invoice financing and invoice factoring having to adapt as borrowers are tied up with little to no cash. We're having to adapt to new needs for our clients and prospects that hadn't existed in our entire time in business. There's no manual or a previously taken path that can provide guidance. The groups that will overcome any challenge are those that in their business model and nature allow for room to adapt and have the mentality for pivoting. Implementing or at least thinking about some of the below ideas will get your business focused on pivoting and adapting.
What procedures do I have in place for disruptions?
Contingency plans are usually put in place as a way to have preparedness in case of any sort of disruption. While these types of plans are great to have and generally large businesses tend to have these implemented, the reality is that it's impossible to predict all disruptions and challenges that a business will face.
The important procedures to have in place should include the ability to tweak business operations so that they can mold to what's necessary to keep producing. An example of this includes restaurants that have started to create new takeout procedures during a time where their regular way of providing this is essentially non-existent. Those restaurants that can act quickly and pivot to maintain normalcy or at the very least some sense of normalcy, will find ways to stay afloat under any distressed circumstance.
It's important, as a business owner, or key decision-maker, to constantly be thinking what other potential pivots or changes your business can make. It's never too late to start thinking of plans and paths your business can make. Even during a disruption, there are always opportunities, it's up to you and your team to spend time thinking where to find those opportunities.
How is your company structured?
All great plans only work with the proper structure. You can create the best building plan, but if the structure is made of cheap materials, the standing and strength of the building will be questioned. A business with the proper structure will be able to put into effect any plan or directive. The question really, is how and what is the best structure for your business?
While each business has particulars that we could write books about, let's focus on key aspects of how your company is structured. The larger your business the more thought you'll have to put into this but in its simplest form, structure is what allows for your business to stay upright. So to stay upright, your structure needs to have flexibility to include rapid changes and new business directions.
As an example, internally at SMB, we have cross-trained our invoice financing and invoice factoring teams on the operations of other departments. We have also made sure to create in as many places as possible, very similar and uniform structures on operational procedures and client management. Providing a similar structure and some cross-training gives us comfort that in scenarios where we have to move our business around, there’s a flexible structure that allows our employees the opportunity to still produce efficiently. Some of these structures could be as simple as having a "work from home" structure in place. Those businesses that already had employees work from home are seeing that their changes to full time from home had a smoother transition. This all comes from their flexible structure that included multiple ways of operating.
Are there opportunities for your key employees to make decisions?
In a fast-acting and reactive environment, any sort of bottleneck or hesitation will create pitfalls for businesses. We've touched on decision making before, but in adapting, there's an overarching theme of decision making. The very thought and plan to adapt requires a final decision. The decisions needed to be made to adapt will fall on all members of an organization.
It's crucial for all businesses, regardless of size, to be set up with key members that can make trusted decisions. In reactive and fast-moving environments, the delay in decision making, or the indecisiveness, only puts a business further back. All adaptable businesses have key decision-makers from the top down that are able to in the live moment make appropriately defined and "green-lit" moves that will keep a company progressing through any storm.
The reality for some companies may be that they've set themselves up for failure by not allowing for adaptability. While this may sound pessimistic, the current set of circumstances requires truth and realistic expectations. It's up to businesses that have pivoted and are naturally adapting to continue to set the standard during weird and dark times. Set your business for success by making it adaptable.
Your business may currently not be experiencing any sort of disruption. It may not feel any for some time if you're fortunate. Use this time to learn from other businesses that are currently adapting. Trying to learn from these businesses will help your business in the long run. It's historically been proven that with any disruption there are ripple effects and subsequent disruptions that have unforeseen effects. Don't wait until you have to make changes in order to be prepared to make those changes.
It's also important to remember again while looking at history that humans will always adapt no matter the circumstances. Some of the greatest human creations and innovations have come while in the dire need to adapt. From this current storm, there will be many great new innovations and ideas. This is a time where your business can take that next innovative step or it can find ways to prosper when it seems like everything is stacked against you succeeding. As Albert Einstein once said, "The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." Embrace the change and allow for these situations to help improve you and business.