A crisis management team is often an unaffordable luxury for a small business. However, some situations might demand the assistance of a public relations firm to mitigate bad publicity your business could receive, once a crisis arises. Develop a plan for avoiding and managing crisis situations; it could help your business avoid a catastrophic setback.
Any Bit of Bad News Can Bring Big Problems
An unfortunate event can attract a surprising amount of attention. Whether your business faces a customer complaint or an employment-related claim, such as discrimination or workplace sexual harassment, it demands a well-reasoned, effective response. For many situations, simply following tips for managing a small business crisis can be all that is necessary to work through the problem. Be alert for potentially troublesome events and get control over those situations as quickly as possible.
Avoiding Crisis Situations
Your crisis management plan should begin by establishing guidelines for avoiding crisis situations. Identify the likely crises that could impact your particular business and determine the best ways to avoid those circumstances.
Identify one or two staff members who should handle inquiries from news outlets. Provide those employees with information and training on how to communicate with reporters, allowing them to emphasize that your business is serious about customer satisfaction and safety.
Instruct your staff on how to be polite with customers and vendors. Provide your employees with a mandatory video or webinar concerning sexual harassment and appropriate workplace conduct. Provide a confidential way for employees to report potentially fraudulent conduct, such as an anonymous email address they can access for such purposes.
Be aware of the extent of your company’s insurance coverage, and consult an insurance broker. Do you have business interruption coverage for emergency situations, such as fires and weather-related events? Does your company have coverage for trade libel in the event that a staff member makes a disparaging statement about a competitor? What are the limits of your liability coverage for lawsuits brought by customers?
Guidelines for Handling Crisis Situations
Your plan should delineate specific steps for responding to crisis situations. Prepare a telephone contact list for situations when the office may be closed due an emergency. As an alternative to distributing a list of employee phone numbers, address privacy concerns by designating team leaders for employee contact in emergency situations.
Designate trusted individuals to handle inquiries about any specific problems that may arise. For example, if your business faces a supply interruption that stalls your output, identify a specific staff member to handle resulting inquiries and complaints. Assigning those communications to one team member who is fully cognizant of all the details is more advisable than allowing less-informed employees to offer speculative responses to customers. Make sure you have a lawyer available when legal questions arise.
Trouble at Tax Time
Have a line of credit or other funds available in case your need to pay taxes causes a cash flow crisis.
Avoid situations where you cannot pay employees on a timely basis. This can undermine morale and motivate disgruntled employees to discuss their job dissatisfaction with other team members.