Crises are inevitable for any small business. There’s going to come a time where something will go wrong – whether because of you, an employee , or something completely out of your control. How you deal with that crisis can have a negative impact on your company. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen, so we spoke with Taylor Griffith, Owner of Alpha Art, to collect a few key pointers on how not to manage a crisis and how to help you get through one successfully.
1. Don’t Make Excuses
Some crises that hit your business will require you to explain yourself to your customers. In those times, you might be tempted to justify or excuse what went wrong. “This is the worst possible way to handle a problem,” says Griffith. “It can make you look like a rookie in the eyes of your customers and peers.” Instead, take ownership of the mistake that caused the problem. You will be respected for it. “Respect and perception,” explains Griffith, “are huge tools when it comes to growing your business.”
2. Don’t Overreact If Your Employee Created the Crisis
When an employee makes a serious mistake that creates a crisis, some managers will unleash their inner Gordon Ramsay and let them have it. That’s a terrible idea. Employees are human and they make mistakes. “Losing your cool on them does nothing to advance the business,” says Griffith. “A calm discussion about the problem is more effective 100% of the time.” If you’re not calm, you can cause long-term damage over an often short-term problem. “I like for my employees to feel like a part of the team. Overreacting can cause resentment that makes for a very tense work environment.”
3. Don’t Ignore Processes
“Call me a pessimist, but I always expect the worst, and try to have a plan in place to combat it,” says Alpha Art’s owner. If you aren’t on some level prepared for any kind of crisis, you will be ill-equipped to minimize any damage to your business it can cause. Don’t pretend nothing bad will happen. It eventually will. Anticipate what could go wrong and prepare for it. “There aren’t many things in business that can’t be taken care of with a well-thought-out system. If you create a proven way to handle all aspects of your business (and stick to it), the amount of headaches that arise will decrease significantly,” says Griffith.
4. Don’t Hide
Some crises will be customer-facing, and in those moments you might be scared to tell them or maybe just hope they don’t notice. That’s a bad way to handle a situation, says Griffith. “Be 99.9% honest with your customers. If you can tell that your issue is going to have a negative effect on them, and there is no way to avoid it, let them know. Nobody likes being blind-sided.” But Griffith does add a condition to that: inform, but don’t over explain. “Thoroughly explaining the problem can sometimes come across as making excuses. They don’t always need to know every detail of the problem.”
5. Don’t Settle For Offering an Apology, Fix the Problem
When things go wrong in a way that can affect your customers, it can be tempting to take the easy route of just preparing to offer an apology instead of looking for a way to fix the problem. Easier isn’t better. “Many times an apology after the fact is not enough,” Griffith says. “Not doing everything in your power to solve the problem before it reaches your customer,” he says, “is one of the worst ways to deal with a crisis.”
6. Don’t Focus on the Mistake, Focus on the Solution
When a mistake that leads to a crisis happens, you may want to immediately find out how and why things went wrong. Resist that temptation. “It is important to find out where and how the mistake occurred, but it does not take priority over solving it,” says Griffith, especially when the mistake can impact your customers. “Number 1 priority of anyone in business should be to take care of their customers.” That doesn’t mean you have to ignore how the error came about. Just tackle it later. “Once you have completed the task at hand, then go to work diagnosing the who’s and how’s and fix it in a professional manner.”