From the trivial to the serious, problems arise in business almost every day. They’re part of the reality of managing a business, working with customers and handling staff. But with planning, problems can be anticipated, with strategies in place to remedy any issues that may arise. Here’s how to get ahead of the problem-solving game, with a little pre-planning.
Arguably the business plan is one of the most useful tools available for problem solving. It allows you to take a look at your business, evaluate any weak spots, hone any strengths and forecast where you want to go and how to get there.
As this is a document that looks at your business now, five years in the future and even beyond, it lets you map out the path ahead, predicting any problems that may arise. It will tell you, for example, that you may be cash strapped in two years time when you invest in new technology to take a growth leap, or that you will need additional staff, an injection of capital or larger premises.
This document allows you to foresee issues, and take action in advance.
Policies and Procedures
Having documented policies and procedures is all about anticipating problems and mitigating risk. They not only inform staff about what is expected, but provide a course of action to take when things go to plan or they fail to.
They’re like the operating manual of your business, providing a clear communication tool of what is expected to occur and who to talk to when things go wrong. This allows any problems to be dealt with quickly and effectively before they have the chance to escalate.
Your Workplace Health and Safety plan is probably the best example of risk assessment at play. It requires you to evaluate the safety of all aspects of your business and identify potential problems before they occur.
But such plans need not just be limited to safety. Business operators should also be risk assessing themselves financially and operationally, with plans for what will occur should something go wrong.
This involves considering worst case scenarios like what happens if you, the owner, get sick? What happens if there is a fire? What happens if your supplier goes out of business or a major customer goes bankrupt?
With the worst case scenario in mind you can create plans and paths to work round it, whether that’s training a second in charge, having comprehensive insurance, evaluating other suppliers or ensuring invoices are paid promptly.
Part of great planning and problem solving is re-evaluation on a regular basis. This allows you to chart your progress and identify new threats or weaknesses. Any plans should be looked at regularly to ensure they remain current and effective, or are altered if required.
Like most things in life, the business journey is about hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. A little planning goes a long way to ensure the worst case scenario has a lot less impact than it could.