Starting a business is a bit of a leap into the great unknown. You can estimate all you like, but in the vast majority of cases, there are no certainties. And, you will find that two years down the line you will be a much different business to the one you started.
So, being a reactive business is necessary for your early days. As time goes by, however, it’s not something you want to remain. You have to become more proactive. It’s hard to do, particularly when you are in a constant state of fire fighting. You will be struggling to react to risks, changes, and market fluctuations, amongst other things. But, let’s make one thing clear – it is not impossible.
In today’s guide, we’re going to reveal how you can make the switch from being a reactive business to a company that is proactive. It’s a change that will have a big impact on your stability, and help you provide a more solid foundation for moving forward. Let’s take a closer look at some of your options.
There are several major issues with being in a reactive state – in life, too; not just business. When firefighting is the norm, you will deliver work that is not of your highest quality. You won’t be able to successfully put out all those fires, either. Some of them can longer in the background, and spring up again, unannounced when you least expect them. And, being reactive is just plain inefficient, stressful, and puts you under more pressure than is necessary.
The biggest problem with being reactive is it is an enormous time drain. You can’t make any real plans because you won’t have the time or space in your working day to make more efficient plans. So, the first step is to put aside time to help you prioritize tasks. It can be as simple as a to-do list, or as complex as investing in something like project management software. It’s also important to put aside time to sit down and look at the state of your business. There should be daily checks, weekly updates, and monthly reports from your key employees and team leaders.
Reactive businesses often have poor quality processes in place. Your next job, then, is to look at your company and identify all the processes that are causing the reactive environment. There could be a range of issues at fault – perhaps you are ordering raw materials too late to produce enough product and meet demand. Or maybe one of your teams has an unusual working practice that is causing delays and overcomplicating things. However, one thing you should bear in mind is that making changes can cause even more problems. The people working for you will be busy, and too much disruption could cause your company damage. Your best bet is to focus on one – or maybe two – changes at a time.
Reactive businesses are often full of confused, miserable workers who are under a lot of pressure. It’s just not healthy, and working on improving morale should have a big impact. People like to know where they stand, what they are doing, and if they are on the right track. Constant firefighting will not deliver any of these positive feelings you need to have a great company culture. You can make a start by acknowledging the situation, and ask your teams what they think. They might even deliver you some excellent ideas for improving your processes, too. An open door policy is also a great idea, as it will encourage your employees to ask for help when needed, and also relay any frustrations. Don’t forget, your workers will often have a good idea about where your processes are going wrong. And many successful business leaders get a lot of good ideas from their employees. Give it a try, and you should see a significant improvement in your ability to be proactive.
Being reactive doesn’t just stop you from working more efficiently and being successful. It also opens you up to many different dangers, which will arrive before you realize. Fire and theft, loss of valuable employees, fraud – the list are endless. So, as soon as your processes are sorted out, it’s time to look at risk analysis, to ensure you can predict problems before they happen. Start by using a risk analytics service or program to find out where – and when – your biggest problems are most likely to arrive. Prioritize your risks in order of the impact they will have on the business. And, once you are done, work on plans to avoid or limit the damage they will cause. It’s this contingency planning that will help you reduce the effect of any significant issue. You will find you can get back on your feet far quicker than having no plan at all.
Once you have contingency plans in place for the major disasters all businesses face, don’t forget to look at the more minor details. Minor disruptions can have a significant impact on your output, too. A sick employee, for example, could put a lot of pressure on everyone else if there is a deadline coming up. Someone could make a mistake in your marketing materials, meaning the wrong email address is on a flyer or brochure. It’s vital that you have a plan in place for dealing with these issues, just as much as it is necessary for a major disaster. You might develop a relationship with a temp agency to cover your sick employees, for example.
Make sure your employees always have opportunities to learn new skills and develop their knowledge. Training can be expensive, sure – but it also gives you a lot of return on your investment. Not only will your teams be able to do their jobs much better than before, but they will also become better at spotting opportunities. It could be that they are more able to find a solution to one of your big problems, which you making you tear out your hair with frustration. As we mentioned earlier, employees are sometimes the best people to deliver the answers you need. Give them the tools to progress, and those answers could help your business start being a lot more proactive than you thought possible.
You should also train your employees, so they understand precisely what to do in an emergency. The most basic example of this is holding regular fire drills. Of course, people get irritated with having to leave their workstations and walk outside to the congregation point. But in the event of a real fire, all of them will have a better chance of making it out before any harm is done.
Finally, it’s vital for you to start introducing the concept of the ecosystem to your teams. It’s important for them to understand that everyone is in it together, and they are not independent groups. It’s a common factor that runs throughout many reactive businesses. It might be your sales team running up huge orders that your production team cannot physically cope with. Your marketing team might publish something that your legal team hasn’t cleared. Or you might make critical business decisions without informing the relevant team leaders. There is a whole host of things that can go wrong, as you can see. So, make sure that everyone understands that everything is linked, and that communication is critical.
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