However time marches on and before you know it, the snow, ice, rain, floods cold and slush could affect your business. Change Makers plan ahead which is why they are winners. Below you’ll find my 7 part Change Maker check list to help you spread the risk of winter hurting your business.
Watching the TV news of the floods in many parts of the UK (my home city of Carlisle has suffered badly over the last years and my mother has now been flooded 3 times) just think of the disruption to local businesses. And then think of the knock-on effect with power outages, road and rail lines blocked, staff unable to get to work, customers that can’t be contacted.
Now think of the impact of winter on your business -it’s enough to make you shudder with the cold of it!
It needn’t be a disaster for your business.
Work through the winter 7 check list and you should be able to effectively plan to minimise risk by anticipating how bad weather could impact the various areas of your business and its activity.
To-day customers are also asking their suppliers what they are doing about planning for bad weather to ensure continuity of supply and service. This check-list exercise could help you both win and keep and customers – especially if your competitors have taken no action, made no changes!
The Change Maker “watch phrases” that come from the check-list are:
- Increase your resilience
- Plan for continuity
- Make it a team effort
The 7 part Change Makers check list
- Don’t wait –plan now
Depending when and where you are reading this, it may already be too late! The TV weather-lady may already be giving you a weather warning! But doing something is better than doing nothing so get on with determining a strategy that will help you protect your business and make it resilient.
Here are your prompts to consider:
What do we do that is essential to keeping our business going? Is there any of that activity we could time-shift or postpone in the vent of bad weather?
What do we need to think about regarding our people? Who are the most vulnerable to weather because of their location, health or other factor? What’s the least amount of people we need to provide our essential services and keep us going?
- Are we capable of remote working?
Is there the possibility that, if weather is really bad, your people could work from home or even another base? This doesn’t mean you are going to encourage staff to stay at home but it does mean that you understand and have considered the resources and processes needed for remote working and how it can be both managed and controlled.
Your prompts to consider are:
Are our people equipped to work from home, both in access to technology and also in knowing how to do it and what they will do? Where are our concerns?
What work could our people do from home or take home to do it? Are we putting ourselves at any risk here with documentation leaving the office?
How can we turn working from home into an advantage for us and get good productivity from say them having “away time for planning? Where is our upside?
Are our I.T. systems and processes truly in place so that people can get access to information and also share and work collaboratively?
- Customers are key
The way you care for customers and maintain service to them in times of bad weather will form their opinion of you for years to come. Look after them well and they will be loyal – forget about them and they’ll soon forget about you!
This part of the check-list is all about communication with customer s- talking to them in advance about any adverse weather preparations that may be necessary.
Your prompts to consider are:
With which of our customers do we have strict service level agreements (SLA’s) where we could experience severe penalties if we don’t meet standards. What do we need to discuss with them?
How can we use technology to maintain customer service? Have we considered:
A web portal with updated information and also with the ability for customer service calls to be logged and responded to by staff working remotely
Do our key customers have the mobile and home numbers of their key account managers?
How will our customers judge us during this bad weather? How tolerant will they be and how can we WOW them?
- Our people are important
It goes without saying that the health and safety of staff should be a prime consideration. But it is essential to set down some ground rules, not because staff may abuse the “bad weather opportunity” but because they may be too diligent and put themselves at unnecessary risk.
Here are some prompts:
Have we communicated to our people what we expect from them during bad weather? Are they clear about our expectations from them? Have we written it down for them?
Have we set up systems so they can sensibly judge if travel is necessary and know how to re-schedule any visit?
Do our people know and have easy access to other members of the team who may be able to make a visit in place of the existing contact?
If they can’t reach a customer, do staff have other work they can do that is productive for the company?
If staff have to travel in bad weather, have we given them guidance on aspects such as adequate winter clothing and back-up elements such as blankets and drinks. Are we truly showing we care?
Have we instructed staff in how to plan changes to routes and allow for longer time. Do they know how to access up to date information such as using the AA site at www.theaa.com
Have we communicated our policy on absence “due to circumstances beyond our control” to our staff so that they know exactly our policy of pay in times of bad weather. Have we considered all aspects of the impact of employment legislation?
- Our equipment and premises are fundamental
In tougher times with tighter budgets, it can be easy to overlook essential things such as vehicle or plant servicing. And so just when you need it most comes the let down!
Here are some prompts:
Have all our vehicles had full winter servicing including any necessary changes such as winter tyres?
Have we got adequate power back-up for our systems and places? What will happen if we have a long-term power loss? Have we had our stand-by generators serviced?
Are we happy with our IT back-up systems? Are we making good use of “the cloud” back up which can also help with remote working?
Have we looked at possible winter weather damage to our premises, including flooding and even tree damage?
Have we discussed with our IT team what contingencies may be necessary and ensured that any vital equipment or paperwork is not exposed to risk?
- Our suppliers
You only have to consider the impact of the tsunami in Japan in 2011, to realise the impact on a business of a key supplier being unable to deliver. It is therefore sensible to consider your suppliers in your winter planning.
Here are your prompts:
Which of our suppliers are essential to our continuity? What would happen if they were unable to deliver?
Have we got a list of alternative suppliers if our prime suppliers let us down? If we need them in an emergency, how are they likely to deal with us on pricing?
Are we happy with our stock control and that we have sufficient levels of stock to see us through any adverse weather period? How will we monitor those stock levels so that we are not over-buying but also not running out?
- Have we protected ourselves
Insurance can often be seen as a grudge purchase and it can be tempting to under-insure. Other governance aspects can also leave the business open to risk.
Have we recently examined our insurance policies and checked the small print to see that we are adequately covered? Are there any areas where we are exposed?
Have we considered how we will meet all governance and compliance issues in the event of bad weather? Statutory bills still need to be paid (e.g. HMRC) along with staff wages.
The way a business responds to bad weather can often be a good indicator as to how well it is managed and how well it is led.
The Winter 7 Check-List is not meant to be comprehensive but instead to prompt your thinking in key areas helping you be a more professional supplier and a resilient business.