The commitment involved in starting a new business is phenomenal. Winning new contracts, wooing clients, honing your product and getting your name out there. Building a reputation demands time, attention to detail and preparation.
The 100% organic skincare line launched by one beauty innovator had been long in the planning. Products that were clean, kind and ethically sourced – all grounded in an “on-trend” concept, aimed at legions of health and wellbeing devotees. And as the range gained traction, tweets, likes and shares, everything seemed to be on track. But just as the business plan was exceeding year one expectations, a supplier down the chain was exposed for using non-organic base ingredients. The same ingredients now found in the 100% organic skincare line. One negative review became two. Malicious tweets followed and libellous Facebook posts began to unpick hard earned customer loyalty and reputation.
Big business invests in continuity plans, risk registers and tailored crisis management. Small business must do the same, while making the most of their size. The beauty of the small business lies in the agility and flexibility they can employ in preparing for and responding to a reputational threat.
So how do small businesses best prepare for a crisis? Walk through the possible risks to your reputation; listen to what is being said about you within and beyond the business; know who you need to be talking to during the good times and the bad; identify the face who will respond openly and honestly when needed. Failure to respond and respond quickly to one bad review could unravel every positive mention. Conversely, get it right and you can strengthen your reputation and following.
Crisis preparation requires the same energy and commitment as a launch and it is an investment which will propel you through the years ahead. For a small business with a handful of employees, pulling everyone together in one room, possibly your only room, is simple. The end result – crisis preparation and awareness – will give you the positive edge when it is needed most.