Only two teams in the NFL go to the Superbowl each year. Of those remaining 30 teams that are not going to the Superbowl, the smartest ones are working on their business resilience planning. They are preparing for the biggest events of the upcoming season.
Small businesses do not have a Superbowl or a World Series—our wins come all year, each day, each week, each month, each quarter (if we’re prepared to make them happen). Financial stewardship, sustainability, continuous improvement, skilled labor planning, scalability, have all become woven into most operations to the point where “sustainable operations” are almost synonymous with operational excellence. However, challenges remain such as severe weather events, labor shortages, and market unrest (to name a few).
The volatility of the marketplace, the increasing number of technological challenges, and the increased frequency of severe weather events requires us to be nimbler and more agile. It requires our businesses to respond and recover more quickly, linking long term sustainability and operational excellence to business resilience planning. How do we stay ahead of this coming out of the gates in 2020? We do what my former football coach used to say, “we stay away from, and we do not join in the shoulda, woulda, coulda club.”
5 Things to Know About Resilience
#1 What business resilience means to your organization
The opposite of the shoulda, woulda, coulda club is preparing for sound business resilience. What is business resilience? Business resilience is the ability to rapidly adapt and respond to business disruptions and safeguard people and assets, while maintaining continuous business operations. Just like in the game of football, a business (small or large) needs to know how to prepare for the unknown.
Business resilience planning provides guidance for ensuring the ability of personnel to respond, resume, and restore to a pre-determined level of operation following a disruption. The bottom line is to enable your team to continue their mission for success. The key to resilience is flexibility and/or the ability to adapt.
Start with what business resilience means to your organization. What is the mission and vision of your organization? Just as it is important to know which functions, resources, and personnel are needed to keep you in business, it is important to know what you need to address in your business, as well. A critical step in becoming a resilient organization is understanding what your vulnerabilities are so that you can prepare to stay in business. This can include the way in which you manage your lead generation to the end of the process, even after your project is installed and paid for. Every step within this process needs to be understood by your whole team.
#2 Front line leaders play a critical role in business resilience
In my early football days, one of my coaches got us all matching shirts. They all were the same color, and they all said the same thing: FOOL. When he handed them out to us, he told us to put them on and we looked at each other like, is this guy crazy? “What do these shirts mean?” one of us asked. He explained to us that FOOL stands for the Fraternal Order of Offensive Lineman. We were all stunned, but we were all smiling from ear to ear. He told us then that we were the leaders in the trenches, the front-line leaders. Front-line leaders, as you all know, are trying to keep up with competing priorities, evolving technology, and the drive for corporate social responsibility. So, what is your purpose as a leader in your organization? Is it creating and maintaining an environment that will enable your organization to fulfill its mission? Resilience may not be written in your job description, but it is likely to be a big skill that benefits you as a leader, in the long run, making you a true front-line leader instead of a foolish (in the traditional sense) one.
There is a lot at risk without business resilience planning. People’s livelihood, careers, and safety are at stake. The upside is that it gives everyone a reason to get involved and play their part in business resilience. Everyone from every corner of the organization plays a role in business resilience and has something to benefit from the continuity of business-as-usual. Leaders play a part at every stage of business resilience in creating and maintaining operational plans, budgets, trainings, drills, etc. When you enable your team to continue their mission, you ultimately enable your customer to continue their mission too.
The front-line leadership team can become champions of the business resilience process by preparing the facilities and the workforce with the right amount of preparation, resources and processes to re-establish business-as-usual as quickly and safely as possible. Inspire your workforce not to spend 80% of the day looking in the rearview mirror and 20% of their day looking forward. Instead, reverse this common misstep and have them spend 80% of their day looking forward, and only 20% examining the past. This concept alone will help change your business for the better.
#3 Major disasters are not the only cause of business disruption
Let’s talk about the weather. Back in the day, we played football in all kinds of weather, we did it because our team required it. We were there as a team and we were going to win or learn as a team, no matter what harsh midwestern weather we had to endure. A lot of preparation goes into preparing for inclement weather and natural disasters, and for good reason. What is less understood and often overlooked are other events that threaten to disrupt our everyday business operations. Natural disasters often don’t even make the top 5 most concerning threats to business operations according to most building/property owners, risk managers, and building operators. To know best which threats your organization is most susceptible to, it is important to understand the criticality of individual operations in your organization. Prioritizing business functions through a formal risk assessment can lead to a smooth understanding of risk at large and paints a better picture of what it will take to become more resilient.
A risk assessment identifies and analyzes business risks and associated threats. The objective is to understand the effectiveness of existing risk controls and identify additional risk treatments to decrease the likelihood or severity of disruptions to the organization’s essential business functions. Going through a formal risk assessment or audit process can be a very demanding, yet effective way to prioritize your business resilience planning efforts. Examples are: What happens if your supplier goes out of business tomorrow? What would happen if your best installer or your best foreman left for another company tomorrow? And most importantly, how are you preparing for these possibilities?
#4 An emergency response plan is not enough
If you have been watching football lately, the last two minutes of the game usually seem to be the most critical and most action packed of all four quarters. So, like preparing for the two-minute drill, in business you need to have a plan that is bigger than just an emergency response plan. To be resilient for all four quarters, have a comprehensive playbook and be ready for the unknown. Most businesses are familiar with emergency preparedness and many probably have some documentation as far as what to do in case of an emergency. But, are you truly ready to efficiently resume business after an emergency or a major disruption (good or bad)? Do you have a plan in place to resume business quickly after a disruptive event occurs? It is times like these that your business resilience plan becomes a lifesaver.
An effective business resilience plan is critical for effective planning efforts and will frame your ability to respond, resume, and recover. A few examples to include in a business resilience plan include:
- Essential Functions (defined and prioritized)
- A Vital Records/Resources Plan
- Risk Assessment (RA)
- Risk Management Plan
- Readiness Handbook,
- Emergency Response Plan
- Communications Plan (Point of Contact Listing)
- Delegation of Authority
- Incident Command Structure
- Vendor Contact Listing (Includes other Providers)
- A Return-to-Normal Operations Plan.
Every organization has a different structure and a different culture. Individualized, innovative solutions should be utilized to meet the needs of both forecasted and unforeseen business disruptions.
#5 Resilience planning doesn’t have to break the bank
Leading up to my senior year, our football uniforms were in extremely bad shape. However, we knew that if we performed in the years leading up to that last year, that might finally be addressed. Our junior year we did well, but we heard that there was still an issue and that we still might not have the resources for new uniforms. So, we did what we always did, and we played like champions despite our old, ragged uniforms. They started to break down, one by one, helmet by helmet, until we were not sure if we could continue. We were worried and so were the coaches.
In business, how long can you afford to be down, or behind schedule? How long can you afford to not take on more business when the customers keep calling? Although the probability of a major disruption may be low, the impact of disruptions, even minor, can be significant to profit and productivity. Without business resilience planning, recovery will take longer and will be costlier. Think about what one hour or one day of downtime means for your organization. Think about the damage created if you are not able to get projects completed on time or add any additional contracts. An hour or two a day of downtime can be costly to an organization of any size, but the impact of the hour or day of downtime is extended into the future as it can take much more time to resume business-as-usual and to fully recover. Effective planning can decrease the risks of these casualties, and planning doesn’t have to break the bank. Few costs are typically needed to establish an effective business resilience plan. The costs of planning are typically measured in man-hours and are far outweighed by the opportunity costs of not planning at all.
Let’s reflect back on the story about the uniforms and how our team was not sure if we were going to make it through the season. Well, we made it through the season, and it ended well. The next season was rapidly approaching, and the administration found an account that had some money available. The account was called the rainy-day fund. Our senior year, we were blessed with new uniforms! Someone at the school had thought ahead, someone was planning for something that was unknown, someone was resilient. The team that once wore uniforms that were falling apart got new ones and went on to go further than any other team in the school’s history.
In conclusion, resilience planning can mitigate the impacts of a disruption and allow your business to continue to function at a higher clip or to return to normal operations more quickly. Additionally, effective business resilience planning has the potential to improve overall performance and minimize risk in general. Your business will improve just by going through this process. Perhaps the most important effect of good planning is the ability for the front-line leader to inspire their team to continue its mission to a successful end. On the flip side, consider the potential financial impact of damage to your reputation, the return on investment in business resilience planning is almost immediate — it’s a win-win.
So, plan now for your own business successes. Set your business up for its own “Superbowl win.” Be resilient and as always, trust the process.
To your success,