Dealing with uncertainty – how to plan for the unknown

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It’s an unnerving time for businesses; most are experiencing unprecedented disruption and change due to the global pandemic of COVID-19. Much is up in the air in terms of what the coming weeks and months will look like for both the business world and wider communities. During such uncertain times, it’s incredibly important for companies to stay grounded and plan as much as they can for the unknown. Here are our key tips for business owners to do so effectively:


1. Keep up to date with developments without losing perspective
In today’s digital world there is an onslaught of easily accessible information. During times of global crisis especially, it can be difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the volume of news. Whilst it’s important to be aware of what’s going on and how it may affect you and/or your business, don’t go down a rabbit hole of constant updates and ever-changing advice. Balance and perspective will help keep your head above water.


2. Stick to the facts
Speculation can be a useful tool to help predict and plan for the future. However, it needs to be based on hard facts in order to be productive. Only pay attention to reliable sources, consolidate what you do know for definite, and go from there.


3. Prepare for multiple outcomes
Unless you have a crystal ball, it’s impossible to ever know exactly what’s going to happen in the future. There will always be external factors that are out of your control. Instead of hedging bets on what’s going to happen next, create a Plan B (and even a Plan C) that focuses on multiple outcomes within your control. This can be anything from your brand perception, client and customer messaging, employee engagement, or even expanding into previously untapped markets. Take some time to consider how you intend to react to different “what if” scenarios – even if they don’t happen, you’ll have the momentum to respond and adapt as best you can.


4. Be flexible and open to opportunity
Uncertainty and disruption can be extremely challenging, but they can also bring new business opportunities to light. Be proactive in diversifying your offering in response to external developments and be open to opportunities you might not have previously considered, whilst staying true to your brand and its mission.


5. Know your numbers
When planning for the unknown, it’s critical to have a firm grasp of your key financial numbers and KPIs. You want maximum clarity about what’s happening in the business so you can efficiently make appropriate changes as and when you need to. Keep tabs and clear limits on spending, cash flow projections, tax estimates, and margins so you’re not confronted with any surprise costs further down the road. If contracts or services can be renegotiated, then have the conversations.


6. Build on your relationships
In times of trouble, meaningful business relationships can help you weather the storm. Reach out to your valued clients and customers to assure them; connect with your peers who may be going through a similar experience; drive employee engagement by fostering a strong community and support system.

The only certainty in life is change and that is particularly true in business. While you can’t predict the future, you can make smart choices to prepare and respond well to it.