Being resilient means being able to cope with challenges. One of the best ways to build resilience is to know how to read the play. You can’t always know what’s ahead, but you can be proactive in understanding as much about your business environment as possible.
Knowing the lay of the land
On every level, a business faces challenges, from everyday pressures and the demands of growth to large, unforeseen events.
The resilience you can develop to meet these challenges also comes in all forms; in small ways like trying the next customer after the first one says ‘no,’ and in bigger ways, like having the strength and flexibility to respond to market disruption. It might mean knowing what to do if there’s a downturn in the economy, or how to replace a great staff member.
The more you know about your working environment – both inside and outside your business – the better equipped you will be to make the best decisions.
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Maintaining a good understanding of your market, your staff, your customers and your community is crucial. To develop awareness of the business environment you need to understand the elements and events around you, and watch for variables that change.
Tim Bednall, a senior lecturer in management at Swinburne University, says that in a business context, resilience really means the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, or to withstand ‘shocks’.
“Strategic scanning or being aware of one’s situation is very important,” he says, “but how to do it well is the million-dollar question.”
Identifying the best information
To be able to make the best possible decisions, you’ll first need to make sure you use the best, most truly useful information.
“There’s no shortage of information about the business world and the economy, but only a small amount of it is actually valuable,” Dr Bednall says.
He recommends developing a wide network with stakeholder groups – everyone from customers to employees, suppliers and the broader community. By developing strong channels of communication, a business leader can better understand the changing world and how the needs of these different groups can be met.
“Senior leaders within organisations should also strive to maintain a strong professional network, and attend industry events such as conferences and trade shows to keep up to date with the latest developments in their fields,” Dr Bednall says.
Create different channels of feedback, like annual employee climate surveys and follow-up focus groups. And examine your own sales data.
Making sense of it everything
It’s one thing to possess the right information. It’s another to interpret it and know how it might affect your business. Dr Bednall compares this to looking at a patient’s scan. A radiologist will see different things to the untrained eye. Only the person with specialist training will perceive certain pieces of information in the image.
One way to ensure you can see all the important details in your information is to get some specialist training yourself – an undergraduate business degree or even an MBA. Alternatively, Dr Bednall says you could ask someone more experienced to help, perhaps a business mentor or an external contractor like a market analyst, data scientist, social researcher or economist.
Resilient businesses are able to respond to changing variables, both internal and external. Those with high-quality information and a well-developed awareness are the best equipped to do this.
“Putting the information into action is the hardest part,” Dr Bednall says. “Ultimately, a leader has to make a decision as to whether a particular course of action is in the best interests of the organisation.”
Asked for an example of a business that has been able to respond well to situational awareness, he points to Virgin Australia, and the changes it made since it launched as Virgin Blue in 2000 with just one route and two aircraft.
“They were conceived as a budget airline that was aiming for an entirely different market to the one they occupy today. They have managed to capitalise on significant changes to the domestic and international aviation industry, and expanded from their core business considerably,” Dr Bednall says.
Test yourself and your business
Building resilience through a greater understanding of the business environment might also include testing the waters as you go. Dr Bednall says it’s wise to study the market, then test it to gain feedback from prospective and actual customers as soon as possible.
“That could involve developing a preliminary version of the product or service offering, or a minimum viable product,” he says.
This can provide invaluable insights about how to improve your offering. A resilient business is one that is flexible and able to adjust quickly, turning a threat into an opportunity. By developing an awareness of the business environment through reliable data and information, you’ll be better placed to meet challenges head on.
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