Leadership, Is Your Business Ready for What Lies Ahead?

By Kathleen Steffey

Prepare your business for the future, avoid business failure, national preparedness monthSeptember is National Preparedness Month.  On government websites such as http://www.ready.gov, the focus is on preparation for natural disasters.  As a business located in the hurricane-prone state of Florida, I highly encourage everyone to check out the site for tips on preparing your business and your family for potentially devastating events.

However, the Preparedness actions outlined on the site are applicable not just to natural disasters, but could prevent a business disaster or failure as well.  The actions they outline include:

  1. Be Informed
  2. Make a Plan
  3. Build a Kit
  4. Get Involved

Be Informed

For businesses, being informed is critical.  Are you sufficiently monitoring the horizon to see what might impact your business?  I read an article recently about the reason Apple developed the iPhone.  It wasn’t because they wanted to be in the phone market, but that they were confident the phone market would cannibalize their big profit item – the iPod.  Business Leaders need to be reviewing direct competitors’ actions, industry trends, and supply chain developments in their direct industry.  However, leaders must be follow parallel industries, general population trends, global markets and other areas that impact their business over the longer term to prevent business disaster.

Make a Plan

Obviously, awareness is not sufficient to prevent disaster.  You have to take action.  Planning is critical.  Take the opportunity while you are not in distress to think clearly about what you would do under different types of circumstances.  Would you enter a new market through product development or acquisition if the current trends continue? Would you change your talent mix to meet the needs of a more diverse buying population?  Based on the information you monitor, make sure you have a plan for the high likelihood scenarios that will affect your business over the next 5 years.

Build a Kit

For businesses, building the kit refers to taking measurable action steps to implement your plan.  To use the Apple analogy again, they were building prototypes of the iPad more than 5 years before the product was ever introduced.  Without a defined launch date, or a full understanding of how the market would adapt to a tablet-type computer, there were teams of people working on products to protect their business future.  In the early days, it may just be brainstorming sessions of what your business would look like with a few people once per month.  But, as the market dynamics shift in the direction of your scenario, more resources and effort can be applied without the panic of impending disaster.

Get Involved

As leaders, it is critical to share your vision broadly, engage your team in anticipating coming up with solutions to future problems, and personally get involved in  planning and building your future.  Collaboration between leadership and the entire employee population is crucial to ensuring buy-in and success.   By being visible and a champion for preparing the business for the future, you will improve your standing and increase your chances of success.

So, check out the tools on the National Preparedness website.  Prepare yourself and your business for the natural disasters that could strike at any time.  However, more importantly, start now on preparing for the changes that most certainly will affect your business over the intermediate to long-term.