How to make your business more resilient

Wherever you are in the world, this isn’t an easy time for businesses. From wars and political turmoil to inflation and supply chain issues, consumers are feeling the pinch, and companies in all industries are having to scale back their ambitions. With a recession potentially looming, worse may yet be to come - but it isn’t all bad news.

With many businesses still coming to terms with the changes driven by the pandemic, now may not seem like the time to rock the boat. But building resilience is necessary before things get worse - and there are some easy and sensible ways to achieve it. Here are just a few pointers on how to make your business more resilient in this time of crisis, and position yourself to emerge stronger than ever.

Put a spin on old ideas

New ideas don’t always represent risks, but there’s a security in the tried and tested. While now may not be the time to reheat and rehash products or services that have proved successful in the past, it is worth exploring how you can put a new spin on existing or past offerings.

Things that have already been successful represent a safe bet for a number of reasons. Depending on the product or service, people may be more willing to rely upon and pay for them, as they are familiar with them, and certain about their quality. In some areas, people also have significant nostalgia for old products, and an active desire to see them remade, reworked or re-released.

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Re-releasing old products can also expose them to an entirely new audience that may have missed them the first time around, and may appreciate their retro charm in a different way to the people who had them the first time around. It’s worth doing the groundwork and researching the appeal old products still have, but in an uncertain world, many people are seeking out things that are familiar and comfortable, and your product could fill that niche.

Iterating on old ideas also doesn’t have to be the death of new ones, either. Making money from old products is a great opportunity to reinvest it in new ones, and take advantage of tax breaks and other funding for research and development. Again, this will heavily depend on the industry you’re in, but a stormy period could give you the time to plan for the future, and prepare a new product launch in a more stable period.

Invest in training

Whatever you put it down to, there can be no doubt that businesses are facing a labor crisis. Employee turnover is higher than ever, and the end result is that many new hires are less experienced than before, putting additional pressure on businesses. Small businesses in particular are feeling the pinch, as they struggle to stay afloat while conducting interviews and helping out new hires.

Formal skills training can help to smooth the transition for new employees, helping them to feel more confident and capable. Crucially, it also relieves staff of the burden of training them up themselves, something that can be inhibited by absences or other distractions. Training can also be useful for existing employees, helping them to develop and adopt different roles and responsibilities - not to mention demonstrating the business’ commitment to career development and self-improvement.

Provide benefits to employees

In a competitive marketplace, you need a competitive edge. This is true even with less experienced employees, with many Gen Z recruits now expecting more from employers than their forebears. Flexible working is one example of a perk that younger employees increasingly expect and demand, and should be facilitated where possible, not least because requests for it must legally be considered in many countries.

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As with many of these perks, there are positive outcomes for businesses. Remote working has proven benefits in terms of the freedom, flexibility and free time it affords employees, as well as the access it gives you to a broader pool of employees. While things such as cycle to work schemes or office arcade machines are a great idea, perks should generally be focused on adding value for all employees, and not just enriching the people who are interested.

Expand without over-reaching

Expanding may seem like the exact wrong thing to do in a looming crisis. While it won’t work for everyone, successfully broadening your customer base now will help to insure the business against further disruption. If you are in the United States or United Kingdom, for instance, creating a European base will immediately give you access to a wide range of markets that you can experiment in at your leisure. (For more information on expanding to the UK and EU countries, here’s a free downloadable guide to starting a business in Europe.)

Wherever you opt to set up, you should test the waters first, and find an approach that works for you in terms of logistics and marketing. Expanding doesn’t have to be done at scale or all at once, but exploring different options and doing the research may uncover new opportunities. When everyone else is looking to play it safe, you could end up being the only game in town.

Work with what you have

That new warehouse for your ecommerce business might be on the backburner, particularly with sky-high warehouse prices. But that doesn’t mean you have to put a lid on your ambitions. In many cases, existing spaces have the potential to be expanded using clever, space-saving tricks - whether that’s adding new desks to an office, or adding entirely new office and storage space.

High density pallet racking can increase storage space by making aisles smaller, or racks more condensed, while mezzanine floors can create entirely new floorspace in a tall area. Remote working and hotdesking can allow you to fit more people into an office, or scale down to a cheaper one. And new cloud software can help replace old methodologies and physical storage, making your business leaner and more efficient. Find efficiencies by embracing new ways of working, and you’ll give yourself a buffer against unstable markets.

Seek diverse opinions

A breadth of talent and perspectives brings with it a breadth of ideas and experiences, both of which can be crucial during a crisis. Diverse hiring not only helps to highlight new opportunities, but can also prevent critical mistakes at times of great instability - whether these are day-to-day errors new eyes might spot, or the kind of cultural faux pas committed by many businesses that attempt to court new audiences.

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Representation is also important, both in terms of your public perception and that of prospective employees. As astronaut Sally Ride once put it, you can’t be what you can’t see, and people from minority backgrounds may be less likely to apply if your company looks like a monoculture. This doesn’t mean affirmative action, but it should mean taking a hard look at your hiring processes and your own biases, and approaching every interview with an open mind.

Resilience isn’t something you stumble into, but something you seed and nurture. Beyond simply managing your finances well, making your business more resilient comes from improving your processes, bolstering your talent, and strengthening your market position through calculated decision making. Achieve this balance, and you can continue to fly where others fail.

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