‘We always overestimate the changes that will occur in the next two years and always underestimate the changes that will happen in the next ten years’ Bill Gates 1996
We live in ever more uncertain times where horizon scanning and situational awareness are now more essential than ever. Thorough planning and preparation for a range of adverse events and eventualities, even if they might seem a long way off or most unlikely to happen at all, is the only way to protect against future risks. Too many SME owners find it hard to devote time to the kind of blue-sky thinking that crisis response planning requires and instead they default to an approach that is more akin to burying their heads in the sand.
What actually do we mean by disruption? In this case, it is an external influence which will fundamentally alter the operations or profitability of a business, industry or group of businesses. Examples range from government regulatory reform to an unforeseen event such as flooding, a power failure or the knock-on effect of an asymmetric attack.
According to a recent survey by chartered accountants Haines Watts, a staggering 93% of SME’s in the south-west of England do not have any type of plan to help them cope with disruption. Notwithstanding the reality, worries around disruption are almost universal with approximately 98% expressing fears but very few directly addressing the issues. Well over half of those surveyed admitted they have thought about disruption but not done anything about it.
Amongst the SME’s surveyed, the most common concern was Government-related disruption and regulatory changes that will impact on the way they do business. Also rated highly in their list of concerns is competition from larger businesses entering the market, measured at 45%.
Fail to Prepare – Prepare to Fail!
All business should have some type of crisis management and business continuity management plan, which has been shared with the local authorities and their employees. SME businesses may not have the resources to take all the necessary steps against disruption, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t start that journey. This where risk management enters the equation, identifying the key assets to be protected against the threats considered most likely to occur.
A major obstacle seems to be that the time needed to plan and prepare for future disruption is taken up by business owners being managers – working ‘in’ their business rather than ‘on’ it and elevating themselves away from the day to day challenges of trading.
Taking the time to build a resilient management plan that can take care of the business with only light-touch guidance is a crucial step on the path to growth, but it also frees owners up to devote real time to future-proofing their business. Owners may well find that they have neither the skills nor the knowledge to write, implement and test such a plan. This may be the opportunity to take advice from specialist consultants such as nStratagem in order to fast track the process and oversee the implementation of a robust plan to protect their stakeholders’ interests.
The future holds so many unknowns be they related to extreme weather events, storms, fire, politics or pandemics. Frequently owners simply resign themselves to living with these uncertainties and deal with disruption if and when it arrives. In reality, planning is not simply a forecast. Rather it is a series of steps taken to ensure the future success of a business by stress testing its systems and processes against different eventualities.
There are many hugely creative and innovative people in businesses who have great ideas and experience, but without a plan to deal with disaster then they risk failing to unlock the true potential wrapped up within their management team or making their business truly resilient. Without a smart, varied and creative sounding board, it is unlikely that the ambitions and boundaries of the business can be fully tested and explored.
Are the timelines shorter now than when Bill Gates made his statement 11 years ago? Government and regulatory change, even ‘Brexit’ will still take many years to come to fruition. The real threat now is from the unexpected, and those times have certainly moved much closer to all of us.
nStratagem are ideally placed to help your business to start their journey to becoming more resilient. Whatever your objective, whatever your scope, we have a wealth of experience in delivering this type of work across the business spectrum. Do get in touch via our ‘Contact us’ tab and we can begin your journey towards a safer and more resilient future.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments on this article.
Gilly Crichton is an Associate of nStratagem. We have a great deal of experience in helping organizations and leaders through these issues and challenges. Contact us for a discreet discussion on your crisis preparedness and resilience strategies.
** The views, information, words, concepts or opinions expressed in our blogs, articles and blog articles are solely the opinions of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of nStratagem, its employees or its affiliated companies.
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