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April 30, 2024

Building Strong Foundations: Resilience for a Small Business


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Small business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs face numerous challenges on their journey to building a thriving business. Resilience will help your company better withstand the challenges and crises that will come your way. Join us as we look at some key elements, such as financial management and building strong relationships, that will help fortify your business and make it a resilient one.

Business resilience refers to the ability of a business or company to withstand adversity, recover quickly, adapt to changes and continue moving forward. It’s about being able to withstand and overcome disruptions while maintaining business continuity.

In the past few years, the world has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other disruptions that caused major challenges for governments, businesses and individuals alike. There have been supply chain disruptions, cybersecurity threats, mass employee resignations, increasing geopolitical conflict and more. We used to think that these crises and disruptions were too infrequent to warrant our time or investment. However, it’s probably safe to say that crisis preparedness and organisational resilience must be part and parcel of running a successful business in today’s volatile, unpredictable world.

Overcoming challenges and adversity

The significance of resilience is immense for small businesses and start-ups. It is already challenging enough to keep a business going in “normal” times, and more in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. Even large enterprises are not spared, having to deal with complex and shifting market dynamics, regulatory changes and global economic downturns. 

Developing resilience is essential for weathering these storms and coming out unscathed. Businesses that prioritise building resilience are better equipped to handle crises, mitigate risks and adapt to change. Better yet, resilient organisations may create opportunities out of disruptions, beat their competition and emerge stronger from the crisis.

Developing resilience is essential for weathering the many storms your business will face.
Developing resilience is essential for weathering the many storms your business will face.

If you’re aiming to develop a plan for resilience for your business, here are some ideas to consider. 

1. Have a strong business plan

The Australian Centre for Business Growth spoke with hundreds of CEOs about why companies fail. A failure to plan or poor planning was one of the top five reasons. “Few had developed a well-articulated mission, a defined set of values or a three-year vision.” The few who did have a plan often did not follow it.

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A well-thought-out business plan serves as a roadmap for your company and helps you anticipate potential challenges. Take the time to develop a clear business plan that outlines your goals, target market and competitive advantage. Conduct thorough market research to understand industry trends and customer needs, and identify potential risks and challenges that may arise. These risks may include market fluctuations, supply chain breakdowns, talent shortages and other challenges that may be unique to your industry or business. Having identified the risks, develop a comprehensive risk management plan. Assess the likelihood and impact of each risk and implement strategies to mitigate or minimise their effects. Consider various scenarios and develop strategies to address them proactively. Be flexible enough to adjust your plan as you learn.

A strong business plan serves as a roadmap and keeps you on a steady course. Follow your plan but be flexible enough to tweak it from lessons you have learned.
A strong business plan serves as a roadmap and keeps you on a steady course. Follow your plan but be flexible enough to tweak it from lessons you have learned.

2. Maintain financial stability

Financial stability is, of course, directly linked to your business’ resilience and continuity. Focus on managing cash flow effectively, controlling expenses and building up reserves to weather downturns or unexpected expenses. Develop financial projections and contingency plans to anticipate and address potential cash flow challenges or downturns in revenue.

Cash flow management is critical for small businesses. Keep a close eye on your finances, monitor cash flow regularly and implement strategies to improve cash flow, such as offering discounts for early payments or negotiating extended payment terms with suppliers. To develop a financial safety net, explore alternative financing options, and insurance coverage and establish relationships with lenders to secure funding when needed. Look for ways to reduce overhead costs, optimise processes and maximise productivity without sacrificing quality.

Starting and running a business can be risky. Make sure you have a financial safety net in place and practice sound financial management.
Starting and running a business can be risky. Make sure you have a financial safety net in place and practice sound financial management.

It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs and business owners to lack the necessary financial knowledge and skills to run a business. Increase your financial literacy by learning or taking courses about financial principles. You may also wish to talk to financial planners or accountants.

3. Utilise technology wisely

Adopting new technologies can help your business adapt more quickly to market changes and disruptions. Business owners can use technology to streamline operations, improve efficiency and enhance customer experiences. Digital transformation initiatives, such as e-commerce platforms, online marketing and cloud-based tools can save you time, protect your data and help you reach a wider range of customers.

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Moreover, in an increasingly digital and data-driven landscape, businesses that fail to integrate technology into their operations will fall behind the competition. Avoid getting bogged down with tasks that could easily be automated; you could be spending that time and effort in growing the business and exploring new opportunities.

Technology, automation and digitalisation can make work more efficient and help your business adapt more quickly to changes.
Technology, automation and digitalisation can make work more efficient and help your business adapt more quickly to changes.

But be wise when investing in technology, especially considering the limited resources of small businesses. You don’t need the latest and fanciest gizmos. Explore cost-effective software solutions for tasks like accounting, marketing and customer relationship management. Even a relatively straightforward, inexpensive email marketing tool can help you connect with customers and stay relevant. 

4. Nurture customer and community relationships 

Small businesses thrive on strong customer relationships. Focus on providing exceptional customer service, personalised experiences and building rapport. Ensure you are always delivering value to your customers and meeting their evolving needs. Build strong relationships with your customers based on trust, communication and responsiveness to ensure customer retention. Loyal customers can be your biggest advocates during tough times. By staying customer-centric, you can build loyalty, attract new customers and create a more resilient business.

Additionally, small businesses often have strong ties to their local communities. Build relationships with other small businesses, community organisations, industry associations and local influencers to create a support network. You might want to consider collaborating on initiatives that benefit the community. After all, your business does not exist in a vacuum. You want to be surrounded by a resilient community as well because your business will not succeed if your customers and community fall apart. Seek to serve your community in ways that are linked to your business, with initiatives such as apprenticeships for youths, book clubs, mental wellness, environmental sustainability and so on.

Besides maintaining good relationships with your customers, seek also to serve the community where your business is located. A prosperous, resilient community is better for business!
Besides maintaining good relationships with your customers, seek also to serve the community where your business is located. A prosperous, resilient community is better for business!

5. Build resilience into your organisation’s culture

Resilience doesn’t just happen by itself; it has to be planned and cultivated. This may require a shift in mindset from reactively dealing with challenges and crises, and scraping through them, to being prepared for any eventuality and seeking out ways to turn every crisis to your advantage. It also means ensuring your employees have the same vision. 

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Invest in training and development for your employees, especially key members of your staff. Equip them with new or additional skills that will be beneficial for them and your business. When you hire, hire for the potential so that employees can grow into the roles as needed. (Read our article on hiring for potential [here].) Empower your people to act and make decisions after putting guidelines in place. It may sound risky, but allows room for failure. It is from failures and mistakes that we learn important lessons and get better. Empowering your staff also speeds up processes by reducing bureaucracy and engenders creativity because team members are not afraid of testing new solutions and ideas. All these practices will be necessary when things get rough. Decisions need to be made quickly and unorthodox solutions are called for.

Develop resilience for long-term success

Being resilient enables businesses to bounce back from setbacks, re-strategise and adapt to new circumstances. It empowers organisations to proactively manage risks, innovate and find opportunities amid adversity. As an entrepreneur or business owner, you can build resilience by developing a resilient mindset, fostering a supportive work environment and establishing robust strategies for continuity and adaptability. Remember that in every failure, there is a lesson. 

Coaching can help you develop personal resilience which will spill over into your business and professional life. Let us help steer you toward a more resilient mindset so that you can better navigate the challenges of life and business. Talk to us today.

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