Timing and Tips for Small-Business Recovery Planning

When you’re creating a turnaround plan for your business, time is critical — and not just because your money may be running out. When times get rough, employees grow restless, morale slides, and your company’s reputation — both inside and out — begins to suffer. Over time, your relationships with suppliers, distributors, bankers, and even clients can deteriorate.

The faster you turn things around, the smaller the impact this rocky period will have on your business and its future. As you draft your revised goals and objectives, keep one eye on the clock. Set precise deadlines by which to complete steps and make sure that everyone takes those deadlines to heart.

You want to set aggressive but not unreasonable time frames. Meet with the people who will actually be doing the work to discuss exactly what it’s going to take and to agree on the quickest deadlines that make sense. Get ironclad commitments. Your number-one goal must be to reassure everyone around you that your company can make good on its word — and that means making promises that you can keep.

Focus on what’s doable

When your company is in trouble, you’re looking for bare bones, no-nonsense planning. You have to focus on what you can do, not what you want to do. Don’t make the mistake of turning your goals and objectives into a wish list.

Sure, developing a new technology to streamline your manufacturing or expanding into international markets would be nice — and maybe someday you will — but, when times are tough, focus on what you can afford to undertake with your strained budgets and time frame.

Get the right people in the loop

If your business is in trouble, you’ll hear from plenty of unhappy people: unhappy investors, unhappy vendors, unhappy employees, and unhappy customers. You can’t order smiles back onto their faces (they will come when the company’s back in the black again), but you can follow this good advice: Whatever you do, keep on talking. Keep everybody continuously informed about exactly what’s going on.

Turnaround professionals advise that you

  • Meet with your management team

  • Meet with your senior advisors

  • Meet with your employees

  • Meet with your customers

  • Meet with your suppliers

  • Contact the tax authorities

  • Contact your bank

In other words, stay in close communication with everyone who has any stake in your company and the turnaround you’re working to accomplish. Don’t pretend that business is better than it is. Be honest about what people can expect and when they can expect it. The more straightforward you are, the better the odds are that you’ll keep people on your side.

Remember, people are often your biggest asset, especially when your company experiences hard times.

Use your plan to communicate

You won’t find a better way to convince people that you can change the fortunes of your company than by putting together a solid turnaround plan. In fact, make your revised plan the basis for communicating with all your stakeholders. Your investors and lenders will probably insist on seeing the plan. (In some cases, they may even play a role in shaping it.)

Your suppliers aren’t likely to clamor for it, but fill them in on the details anyway, especially if you can’t pay them on time. At least you can give them the confidence that your good intentions are supported by a solid plan.

Make sure that you also share your turnaround plan with all employees. Teamwork is always important, but never more so than when a company is in trouble. If your whole staff is in on the plan, you enlist everyone’s support along with their loyalty, plus you make it clear that everyone is on the same team. Sharing your plan boosts morale at a time when people must work harder.

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