Is your business vulnerable?

There are obvious times when a business is vulnerable, when it’s new or when there’s a catastrophic incident like a fire or a cyber attack.  Have you ever considered your business to be vulnerable when things are going really really well?  When sales are climbing through the roof, staff are all performing well and the bank manager is smiling?

Now I really don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, and most of time there is no need to get over anxious, but there are times, I like to call them hidden or concealed vulnerabilities, when it’s well worth checking and then checking again, why are sales are doing so well, and why is that previously troublesome employee suddenly calming down and performing out of their skin?

Of course you do need to protect yourself from the very real threat of cyber attack, have a look at the Welsh Government’s advice on avoiding cyber attack. http://businesswales.gov.wales/blog/news/information-communication-technology-ict/your-business-vulnerable-cyber-attack  there’s also some excellent advice available of the risks of fire, have a look at this risk assessment document provided by the London Fire Brigade, http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/FireRiskAssessment.asp

Getting back to the problem of hidden vulnerability, let’s take one scenario, your monthly sales have tripled over the last 12 months, you’ve noticed that several clients have started to use you a lot more than previously, of course you’ve been out and talked to the clients, all good there no problems, you’ve asked your Ops team, they’re very pleased with the new marketing campaign that’s obviously paying dividends, so you relax and enjoy the increased turnover!

It slowly becomes apparent that one of your competitors has made a strategic decision not to supply certain companies due to their poor payment record, they’ve played you along for a few months with regular payments, but one of them has placed a large order and they’re paying scant regard to your payment terms.

You may have taken on extra staff to deal with the increased business, or leased expensive machinery to cope with the demand, now you have to go to your bank manager and explain why you need to extend your overdraft, not a conversation anyone really wants to have. CiMA is the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, they have some excellent advice on surviving a cash flow crisis, check it out here http://www.cimaglobal.com/Thought-leadership/Newsletters/Insight-e-magazine/Insight-Archive/Surviving-the-liquidity-crisis—managing-your-cash/

Then there’s the situation when one of the senior team leaves unexpectedly, or worse case, scenario passes away suddenly.  It’s only at this point that you realise the amount of knowledge they carried around with them in their head!  No amount of ‘key man/woman insurance is going to be able to replace that!

Two things are vitally important in both of the scenarios mentioned above, firstly don’t panic, panic is a result of fear, and fear paralyses you, so try to stay calm throughout these situations, nothing lasts forever, it’s the sign of a healthy growing business that new problems will be encountered at regular intervals.

The second thing is to immediately take stock of the situation, write a situation report, this basically details everything that’s happening at that very moment, you need to make a list of the problems, the issues, the people involved and the potential solutions, basically ask yourself, who what when where and how am I going to get my business back on track, from this document you can form a recovery plan

You should also remember that this document will need to be flexible, the situation, no matter what’s caused your problem, it will change and your plan needs to be able to change with it.

Finally, it’s worth repeating, don’t panic, with some careful thought and planning there’s always a solution!


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About Me

Small businesses make up the vast majority of the UK economy, we employ more people, generate more tax revenues and create more wealth than the rest of the UK economy put together.

All businesses need a little help from time to time, that maybe the oversight of a Non Executive Director, or an interim manager who offers help and support at a time of need or crisis or simply an outside eye to offer support and pracical advice at regular intervals.

I've been involved in small and medium-sized businesses for over 30 years. My first career was in the Hospitality sector, I then moved into temporary healthcare staffing, healthcare provision and finally international recruitment.

I've been involved in businesses that experienced extraordinary growth, and stagnation. Both can be problematic and need management, different styles of management, but management none the less.

Many issues draw a business owner away from their primary role; to strategise, to ensure success and make sure the business is still trading a year from now. Often, that re-focusing requires an outside eye, that's where a good business adviser is invaluable.

I offer practical no-nonsense advice and support. I can't honestly say I've seen every eventuality that a business may encounter, I don't believe anyone can, however when times get difficult, as they do in all businesses, it's good to have someone you can call on who's prepared to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.