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Weathering the storm in times of uncertainty

If there’s one thing the past few years have taught us, it’s the truth of the old adage, “the only constant in life is change”. In times of uncertainty, when there are so many factors in the wider business environment outside of your control, the only thing you can do is focus on what you can control.

Amid reports of firms losing contracts, facing delays and putting plans for recruitment and expansion on hold, and still no clear Brexit deadline, we’re looking at some of the ways that businesses can be better prepared for dealing with the unknown.

Review past performance

Whilst no one can predict the future, you can always look back. Doing so is important for learning lessons and may help you understand how your business adapted to difficult times previously, and identify any missed or possible future opportunities.  

When you’re dealing with or preparing for the unknown, it’s useful to maintain a framework that supports ongoing analysis and helps monitor new trends and changing business or market conditions. The better informed you are, the greater your ability to adjust and cope with change; after all, forewarned is forearmed.

Focus on your strengths

Despite looming uncertainty in the wider environment, give yourself some credit and remind yourself what your business has or does that is different to those around you. Focus on those strengths and key differentiators and make sure you are communicating your USPs clearly. Ensure your messaging is strong and that you present yourself with confidence; potential customers operating in an unstable business environment will feel more secure dealing with you and receptive to a ‘business as usual’ approach.

Underpin your strategies with research

If you’ve been considering a new direction, campaign or perhaps expanding into a new area and holding onto the decision until you can expect a clearer outlook, first consult the people that matter: your customers. Even during positive economic times, making bold strategic decisions without concrete market research or insight from rigorous campaign testing can be incredibly risky for your financial investment, time and resources.

Conducting market research is an effective way of validating your hunches, testing assumptions and developing a deeper understanding of your customers’ (and potential customers’) needs. This insight can then be used to strengthen and shape your strategies and devise new campaigns with messaging that resonates, so that you can target the right people with the right message - those most likely to have a need for your products or services.

Spread your risk

Right now, businesses can’t afford to keep all their eggs in one basket and an overreliance on a small number of key customers or suppliers can be short-sighted in the event of sudden change or economic downturn.

Understanding your supply chain as well as your target markets will help you identify areas of potential risk in light of current priorities, so you can put contingency plans in place, such as drawing up a list of alternative suppliers.

Use all resources available to you

Take hold of networking opportunities for the chance to speak to similar businesses and people like yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Similarly, you might find networking groups on LinkedIn suited to your industry, locality or size, where you can share knowledge and learn from others’ experiences.

Additionally, if you’re looking for greater clarity or support on specific topics, you might want to approach relevant UK trade associations and professional bodies. These organisations specialise in translating wider political and economic issues into what they mean for your business and industry and they can often facilitate networking opportunities with likeminded professionals in your business community. GOV.UK also provides guidance for businesses in different sectors and has produced an interactive guide for things you need to do to ensure you’re prepared for Brexit.

Consider all of your options

Measure twice, cut once. Before making any significant business decisions, make sure you have considered all eventualities and seek input from as wide an audience as possible. Asking others for opinions or advice may unearth possibilities you hadn’t considered, so keep an open mind at all times.

Whilst many of these factors are outside of your control, consider what you can control and put contingency plans in place for eventualities that may occur due to uncertainty in the market such as:

  • Low staff morale

  • Strains on management bandwidth

  • Fluctuating demand

  • Unpredictable resourcing requirements

When you’re sitting on the edge of uncertainty, you don’t know what will be on the other side so, before making any major changes of tack with new services, products or teams – or, during signs of downturn, cutting services entirely – consider an outsourced solution. This can help cover short-term resourcing needs or allow you to explore new models and approaches without adding to existing overheads or a making long-term commitment, should results fall short of expectations.

We have worked with hundreds of businesses across most sectors for almost 30 years, providing a flexible resource strategically targeted to accommodate fluctuating requirements and changing business priorities. If you would like to understand more about the potential benefits of an outsource option, and how we might be able to help with your requirements, please get in touch.

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