Sometimes when you’re running a business, obstacles and setbacks seem to appear out of nowhere. Certainly, a few years ago it’s unlikely anyone could have predicted the emergence and disruption of the Covid pandemic. However, through a combination of lived experience and study, leaders can anticipate and prepare for many common business roadblocks, making challenges much easier to overcome.
Since it’s inevitable that every business will face occasional setbacks of one kind or another, it’s wise to draw on the combined wisdom of seasoned industry leaders to prepare and plan. Here, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their tips to help fellow leaders anticipate roadblocks and overcome them.
1. Dig into your data and shared learnings.
For us, it is about using your data and shared learnings to truly understand. With better data insights you get to know your clients better, which helps you identify and fix issues before they become a problem, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Help them make better business decisions and you are doing the same — planning, predicting and supporting an agile and sustainable future. – Joanna Swash, Moneypenny
2. Use ‘what if’ scenario planning.
A strategy that I often use is scenario planning. We ask “what if” questions, document the responses, develop remediation strategies and assign an impact and probability score. Each answer will likely yield several follow-up questions. It is not necessary to go beyond three levels with this approach. Keep in mind that the goal is to create mini contingency plans. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC
3. Keep close tabs on your finances.
Know your financials. You should first look at the balance sheet, your liabilities and your assets. If your assets are greater than your liabilities, you’re in good shape, and if obstacles arise, you know you will have the cash flow to manage the situation. As it’s often said, “Cash is king.” – David Wescott, Transblue
4. Maintain working capital and tight procedures.
Roadblocks will always appear, and some will be out of nowhere. The best way to weather any storm or obstacle, especially in business, is to ensure you have enough working capital to get through any period. Also, ensure that your operating procedures are tight so you can pivot at any moment. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
5. Learn from past problems.
Learn from the past. Some have argued that we humans learn from positive experiences but not from past mistakes. This is not true in the business world. There is so much one can learn from how things went wrong before. As a leader, you are responsible for ensuring that lessons are learned and applied to not only prevent old problems from resurfacing but also to be better prepared to face new ones. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor
6. Closely watch your clients and competitors.
There’s a well-known saying: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In the corporate world, this translates to clients and competitors. Always watch the obstacles your clients and competitors face, and then formulate your strategies for overcoming roadblocks. Tap into what’s happening around you and anticipate roadblocks for smart preparation of further strategies. – Sanjay Jupudi, Qentelli
7. Listen to your intuition and to those you trust.
Listen to your gut, and do your best to “hear” the warning signs from those you trust. It’s been rare that something has gone wrong in my business where there wasn’t a red flag raised, either by my own intuition or by those I trust. My parents, my husband and my trusted employees all have great input that should not be discounted! – Shanna Tingom, Heritage Financial Strategies
8. Always have a backup plan.
Always have a plan B, and expect the unexpected. Now, that doesn’t mean living your life on pins and needles, but understand that you need to have backup plans. Losing a major client and having your team walk out are just two game-changing situations that you need to prepare for in advance in case they happen. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
9. Be prepared to pivot.
Be agile and prepared to pivot. Get creative and uncomfortable. Overthink and overplan. Covid was a game changer for us. We had to remain relevant to our clients when state and local governments were not meeting. We developed a report on what states were doing in response to Covid and brought in additional revenue by selling it to non-clients. It taught us to be responsive to the new landscape. – Stephanie Reich, Stateside Associates
10. Create space to think.
Read, slow down and create space for yourself to think. A lot of the execs I know are so busy that they just react to whatever the next crisis is. A problem happens, they act, solve it and then put their head back down to focus on what they were doing. The really good ones have a higher-level view of the playing field because they take time to noodle through the various scenarios and have a plan when issues arise. – Rob Erickson, Massive Mission