Clare Scott: When the buck stops with you

Clare Scott
Clare Scott

Ah, life as a small business owner. Exciting. Empowering. Stimulating. But also frustrating, overwhelming and downright terrifying.

Here’s the thing: Being the boss is the best feeling ever when life is going well. But when things go wrong? No prizes for guessing who’s responsible.

My own little business doesn’t have employees but in twelve years of running it, there have still been a few hurdles to straddle. One of the most recent relates to technological problems.

Unbeknown to me, my correspondence hadn’t been reaching its intended recipients.

No big deal, I hear you say. We all have issues with our service providers or broadband connectivity from time to time. That’s true, but when you are in the business of communication – and fail to effectively communicate – it’s akin to having a café that’s run out of coffee beans. The deadline-driven nature of my work also means there’s not much wriggle room if you don’t do things on time, every time.

Q: So what to do when your business hits a crisis and the buck stops with you?

A: Resist the temptation to smack your head off the desk and take a deep breath.

Regardless of the problem, here are some general guiding principles to follow:

1. Assess the damage

Who’s been affected – and how badly? Form a clear picture of what you’re dealing with before you do anything else.

2. Explore the options

Can any of the damage be limited or resolved? If not, how can you make it up to clients who are affected?

3. Take responsibility

Swallow the fear and let any affected clients know as soon as possible. Be honest, clear and apologetic – and explain how you intend to compensate them.

4. Find a holding position

If the crisis is ongoing, try to sustain some level of activity, while making people aware of the situation if necessary. Don’t stop communicating – particularly when it comes to updating those who are affected.

5. Avoid a repeat

Resist the temptation to immediately re-immerse yourself in work as soon as the short-term crisis is over. Learn from the experience and take steps to minimise a repeat episode. Inform clients of any procedural changes you’ve made – this will help to restore their faith in you and your organisation.

As for me, guess who’s now signed up to a special alert service when there are local server
issues?

Clare Scott is a Communications Consultant and founder of CJS Communication & Marketing