THE country seems to have just about recovered following the pre-Christmas snow which brought trains and airports to a standstill. But with more snow certain this winter, it’s time to ask just how prepared your own business is for the next “snow down”.
Staff stuck at the airport, kids at home from school, customers unable to reach you, supplier lorries stranded, promised deliveries made impossible, and the office boiler on shutdown, are all in themselves manageable issues. It’s when they come all at once and in volume that your management and leadership credentials are put fully to the test.
Here are five tips to help you get through the snow blues:
1. Be clear with your team
Make sure staff know they are expected to get to work and that all absences will need a face-to-face follow-up discussion. If you don’t look like you care, why should they? Make sure everyone realises that in their absence their colleagues will have to do their work, just as life is already getting very difficult for them. By the same token, don’t demonise those who genuinely can’t make it because of gridlock or serious risk, and use the moment to say “thanks” to the troopers who might easily have taken a duvet day.
2. Be open, honest, and early with your customers
Over-resource your customer contact so clients understand what is going on. It’s the frustration of the unknown and the complete lack of information that drives most of us wild when caught up in a crisis. If you only tell your customers the hard truth as you get to hear it, they will appreciate you for your honesty, and most will be understanding of the inevitable service hiccups. Why not start by switching from non-traceable delivery services like the first class mail so you can be sure when your parcels have been lost, mis-sorted, or trapped in a snowdrift?
3. Don’t rise to the bait
Some customers are bound to become irate and troublesome as their patience gets tested beyond breaking point, so make sure your whole team displays the best of manners at all times.
Keep a close eye on your frontline troops in particular and give them short breaks from the onslaught of complaints and concerns. It’s too easy to carry feelings from the last conversation into the next one.
4. Don’t assume the basics will work
If the water or drains freeze over, or the power cuts off, your whole operation will grind to a halt pretty quickly. Have you got a plan to outsource basic phone cover if this occurs?
Most UK heating boilers use condenser systems not designed for long periods of sub-zero temperatures – check the exhaust pipe is well insulated. If the basics do fail, accept the inevitable and close down quickly.
5. Don’t forget the donuts
These are special moments that call for some Dunkirk spirit of camaraderie and mucking in for the good of all. They are the moments when the team gets to know who their friends are, and who can be relied upon when the chips are down. You get to uncover the self-focussed energy-sappers and are offered the rare chance for a few belly laughs, so often the missing ingredient at work. Grab the permission to have a good laugh with both lungs.
Whatever happens, remember the moment will pass and it won’t be long until the next crisis offers you a different set of opportunities to do the right thing.
Alex Pratt OBE is founder of seriousreaders.com and author of Austerity Business: 39 Tips for Doing More with Less