When everything goes according to plan, there’s no reason to focus planning for change. During times like these when everything happening was once unforeseeable, you quickly wise up to the need to plan for worse case scenarios. What is that worst case scenario in your business? Does it manifest as empty shelves, a labor shortage, or perhaps increased prices?
Some unpredictable circumstances can be alleviated with planning. Having tools that keep your business organized, create transparency and improve communication between different departments, vendors and third parties can streamline processes, reduce costs and facilitate better planning, like inventory tracking software, and ERP management systems such as SOS Inventory.
If your business is operating on spreadsheets, you’ll face bigger challenges attempting to adapt to changes than if everyone is keyed into the same data, from a central database. When everyone is working with different numbers, they operate with different truths. The right software can get everyone on the same page and make implementing changes much easier. Operating with varying data sets makes life more difficult when everything is going as normal. What we’ve endured the past year was difficult enough for most businesses without an added handicap of inconsistent data.
Looking back over the past year, what have most industries faced?
- Huge tariffs placed on goods imported from China, forcing importers to look for alternative suppliers.
- Large increase on cost of shipping containers, quickly rising from $5,000 to $20,000 or more each.
- Complete stoppage of movement due to Covid restrictions in different regions.
- Imported goods waiting to be unloaded from ships unable to dock.
- Shortage of truck drivers
- Shortage of dock workers
- Shortage of labor
- Restricted movement and communication due to social distancing enforcement
- Staggered work schedules and reduced productivity due to shortages of materials and labor
- Unusual change in demand, depending on the industry
- Job losses
- Profit losses
- Most recently, Google rolled out a product update which has negatively impacted small business at a time when they receive more sales than the rest of the year combined.
- Government imposed mandates on federal workers, federal contractors and businesses employing more than one hundred people has triggered more layoffs.
And the list goes on. The American business owner has endured the biggest challenge in the shortest time period with no end in sight. Although some companies went out of business, i.e., restaurants, event providers, etc., others flourished, and they flourished because they were creative and stood their ground through the adversity. But now mandates are impacting far more industries, causing more shortages, and making normal business operations more difficult to conduct.
So, how can we be better prepared for more unrest in the future? None of us knows what that will look like. We have a better idea how we’d handle lockdowns again. Hopefully, you’ve researched alternative suppliers, found people willing to work and have a handle on scheduling changes and adapting your workspace to optimize productivity according to today’s social distancing standards.
These are some suggestions for future preparation:
- Upgrade existing systems to facilitate remote working and integrate workflows from different company departments.
- Ensure business continuity by backing up data in the cloud and arming your staff with software or accounts to meet, share information and perform all work tasks from anywhere.
- Research alternative suppliers. Take the time to ask for referrals, check references, compare costs and make sure the agreement works to your benefit. If you can find local suppliers, you can save on shipping costs which can help compensate for higher material costs.
- Improve your benefits package to lure quality staff.
- Network with professionals in your industry to learn what’s working or not working for them. You may be able to team up with another company to increase order volume to save on material costs.
- Test out new marketing channels. If customers can’t shop online now, get an ecommerce site setup. Marketing to new vertical markets could make the difference between eking it out through difficulties or growing in new markets.
- Consider whether marketing new/different products makes sense for your business.
- If your local government is mandating regulations that are hurting your business, consider the pros and cons of relocation.
- Don’t react too quickly. The courts have been handling many lawsuits related to Covid mandates, terminating the orders in many cases.
We are living in a dynamic situation where circumstances change so quickly that you need time to take step back and assess things logically, not react emotionally to changes that seem impossible to overcome. The more unreasonable demands are getting struck down by the courts before the deadlines; it’s probably a safe bet that companies in similar circumstances will be resistant to the demands, too.
And if you are facing something that threatens your livelihood, you may be able to fight back by teaming up with other businesses in your area to file a class action lawsuit. No one wants to go to court if it’s unnecessary but if you decide to take that path, there is power in numbers and you can draw media attention to the situation, which can get the public on your side.
People are fighting back all over the world. You may not see it on your favorite news station, but it’s evident across social media. There are protests across Europe, Turkey, Australia, and Canada, some with millions of people spilled out on the streets. Everyone has a right to earn a living and take care of their families. Fighting for your business and being ready to act in new and creative ways are the key to getting to the other side of Covid where, hopefully, we can return to our old normal, instead of accepting the tyrannical new normal we see spreading faster than the Covid infection worldwide.
Strong businesses become strong by overcoming battles one at a time. You may not win every battle, but there are many battles in every war and you get through them by not giving up.