I like to think of myself as a pretty positive person. Of course, as someone who runs a company, there’s bound to be times when everything is going smoothly and there’s going to be days where it feels like everything is going wrong. Here’s the thing: sometimes, there will be hiccups, there will be challenges and there will be times when you simply don’t know what to do! These situations can’t be avoided. If anything, with a startup, they must be anticipated. You have to have an action plan to ensure that when the time comes, you’re unafraid, you’re confident and you’re ready. Last week, it was our team that was met with a challenge, a ‘what do we do?’ kind of moment. How did we get through it? The credit goes to 4 key elements:
- Surround yourself with smart people and listen to them:
Sure, you can run your company thinking that you’ll always be the one to come up with ideas and, in this case, solutions. You can ask questions with an answer already in mind and shut down the opinions of those working on the front line or, in a time of crisis, you can sit down, open your mind and listen. It’s likely going to be the person who’s not in panic mode that will come up with a brilliant way out, and given what you have on the line, you’ll probably be the one panicking. Hiring smart people means that when something goes wrong, you’ve got some brilliant minds to help you work the problem.
- Surround yourself with people who have a ‘team’ mentality:
When you run into a difficult situation, wouldn’t it be nice to have people who say: What can I do to help? The key is to have a team that always comes together, that helps each other and that is always willing to go above and beyond. Of course, building this team can be a challenge. It takes time and a team mentality comes from the top down, which means your responsible for creating and maintaining that culture. If you understand the benefit of having people who want the company to succeed because you encourage them and they can see the bigger picture, the productivity in ideas, solutions and actual work, is inevitably going to blossom and improve. It also ensures that you can get out of sticky situations quickly when something unexpected pops up! Sounds like a win/win/win to me!
- Give credit where credit is due:
When someone comes up with a solution, you need to provide credit where credit is due. If you want your team to feel good about coming up with creative solutions and feel good about the outcome, celebrate that person’s victory. We never shy away from giving ‘kudos’ to the rightful person because a ‘win’ for that person is a ‘win’ for the entire team. I never expect to be praised but when I am, I know how great it feels. That good feeling is a natural reaction so don’t be afraid to spread the word when a team member is the one who came up with an idea, worked to get it resolved and/or encouraged a positive outcome.
- Be transparent:
I know that no one likes to deliver bad news. I get it. You feel the panic set in. Will my customers still buy from me? Will they trust that we deliver on our promise? Of course they will… provided you’ve taken the time to nurture your customer relationship and as long as you’re always honest. Lines like “under promise/ over deliver” are well known in the business world because they have a certain undertone; one that ensures that your customer feels they’re not being lied to. If you’re coming to a deadline and you know you can’t deliver, giving that customer a heads-up and letting them know that you and your team are doing everything you can to complete the task is better than letting that deadline come and go. If you’re experiencing a problem with your service, let your customers know ASAP! Ideally, provide them with a solution and an ETA on resolution. You would be surprised by the type of reaction you get from customers who are appreciative to be in the ‘know’, patient while you work everything out and congratulatory once everything has been solved.
All in all, a crisis can be many things but I like to look at them this way: It can break you or it can mold you. It can be destructive or it can be seen as an opportunity to learn and grow. I consider myself fortunate to be at the helm of a company that operates under the 4 principles listed above. It allows us to hit the ‘go’ button with a smart team and understanding customers whenever we’re in a pressure type situation. With that type of winning combination, you’re sure to get ahead of the problem and impress your customers when a problem arises and I wouldn’t want it any other way!