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How to Prepare Your Business for the Unexpected

Our business and personal lives are intrinsically linked. We can learn a lot from recognising the events in our personal lives that have a bearing on the way we do business. 


On my ‘Business owners and Entrepreneurs podcast’ I spoke to Helen Yu, the best selling author of ‘Ascend your startup: Conquer the 5 disconnects to accelerate growth.’ She explained how a promise to her dying grandmother has shaped her both personally and in the way she approaches business. Her grandmother said: Stay special, make the world proud and spread my ashes on a tall mountain. Helen decided to climb Mount Everest to scatter the ashes and during that time she conquered fears, realised her strengths and qualities and was able to apply them all to her business strategies. She says they have helped her personal growth and the ability to scale successful companies. 


Losing a loved one, a global pandemic and many other things are out of our control. How we deal with those unexpected life changing events can teach us a lot about ourselves. We also have to deal with unexpected changes in business and how we deal with those can be the difference between our business surviving or folding. Helen Yu could have taken an easier option to fulfil one of her grandmother’s wishes. A family member suggested she drop the ashes from a helicopter over the highest mountain in the world. That would have taken little effort on her part and she may not have learnt what she subsequently did about herself during the  gruelling training regime she undertook to complete the climb. She says she learnt four salient personal lessons that can be applied to our business lives. 


Prepare emotionally and physically for the unexpected:

Do your research and ensure that you are prepared. When an event hits you and changes the course of your business, research the cause and effect. Research what people have done before in similar situations. Research what you might need to change or acquire to ensure your business can move forward. Get yourself ready to face any issues. Preparation and research will give you and your business the strength to survive. Ensure you consistently approach your preparation. Consistency is a strong basis and gives a solid grounding for moving forward. Don’t forget that your personal life can often mirror your business life so consistency in the way you approach your health and mental wellbeing is also paramount and can affect your business. If those around you, like staff or co-founders have doubts about your plan, find a way to allay their fears, yet still continue with the path you know is the right one because you have researched it and have the confidence in it.


Adapt to your surroundings:

Whatever is going on around you will affect the way you do business. Events out of your control will affect the way you carry out your plans and preparation. Learn to think in solutions rather than problems. There will be solutions within your control to the problem. They may not be in line with your original plan but they will enable you to move forward with your end goal still in sight. Consider who the solutions matter to? This can also be applied to your personal life. Events will happen beyond our control but it is key that we focus our attitude, mindset and effort on what we can control in those situations. Don’t give up at the first sign of trouble. It may be that you need to join forces with someone else to achieve your aim or It may be that you have to adapt to dealing with a situation alone. Whilst pre-empting problems is not always a healthy way of doing business, it is wise to be aware of what could go wrong and to have a plan to circumvent those problems and still reach your goals. No one could have foreseen or prepared for a global pandemic but as business leaders, we all knew a business downturn was on the cards at some point. Historically, that is how business works and we should always have a plan of what to do in a downturn. Any market shift will also be a catalyst for change, so ensure that you are open and ready to adapt and look at your business model. Be flexible.



Unexpected events will change the way you do business so you have to acclimatise.  Sometimes just like climbing a mountain, you have to get used to the change in altitude or you will not succeed. As humans we need oxygen to survive, our businesses also need a type of oxygen. Conditions change without warning. You might have to take a step back to take a step forward if things do not work the first time around. In a new market you will have to get used to dealing with different ways of doing things. Listen to people around you. It is not always the strongest people physically who get to the top of the mountain, often it is those who have listened to experience, applied it to their situation and are disciplined. Sometimes as  leaders knowing what not to do is just as critical as learning what to do. Make sure you listen to the voice of your customers. Consider how they are dealing with the changes you are implementing. Ultimately they will drive demand for your product or service, so as business leaders we must ensure that the solution we are providing matters and works for them too. 


Celebrate your wins:

Getting to the summit of a mountain is the aim but it is not the end goal. It is the same in business, we must recognise and celebrate the decisions and people who got us there. We must celebrate our achievements and have fun. Life is short. Being positive will shine through in the service or product you provide and more people will gravitate to doing business with you. Gratitude is important. Be thankful for the wins. Celebrate them and plan for moving forward.


Going forward and growing your business after an unexpected event:

Add value to your business by reaffirming your brand’s core values and beliefs. Take another look at your marketing. Consider your customer experience. Think about how to drive your business forward sustainably. Helen Yu talks about the 5 business growth disconnects in her book. There are different stages of business growth to consider: Idea to product. Product to market. Market to scale. The disconnects are: Product market fit disconnect, defined minimum disconnect, voice and customer disconnect, process disconnect and measurement disconnect. She says that uncovering them at the right time is critical to the growth of your business. You can only do that by asking the right questions as you go through each stage. If you do not ask yourself the right questions at the right time you could find your business out of control and accelerating too quickly. Think about your framework to accelerate sustainably.


If anything has resonated with you and you would like to discuss growing your business further, please do get in touch with me via the contact page.

Remember, failing to learn is learning to fail

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