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Risk and your business

Planning for the marketing impact of risk (Image avinashkunnath via Flickr)

I had a first hand experience of business risks being realised last week.

A local air conditioning company rang to cancel my annual maintenance job and inspection because their technician had injured himself the day before. He hurt his neck but the company is sharing his pain.

The irony was that I had only been reviewing their reminder letter a few moments before the call and had made a mental note about how solid and professional their logo looked.

It appears logos (and brand perception) are as solid as your last interaction with them.

This company has one other person who could do our job but in the height of air conditioner maintenance season, he was already over booked.

And, hence, today’s thoughts are about your business.

How exposed would your business be if a key person got injured, fell ill, or left at short notice?

The other question is, how would this impact your clients?

And a related question is, are you reliant upon a one-person operation for critical business or personal needs?

Here are some thoughts on the matter.

Plan now

In my current series of NBN workshops, we have a section on online security and backups.

To help participants visualise and feel the importance of the topic, I ask them to imagine that at that moment their main computers were being stolen.

You see, one of the things about us humans is that we don’t tend to think about risk until something bad happens.

In the case of my air conditioning company, I am surprised there are no back up people on hand and wonder whether the notion had ever been thought about.

My question for you is who do you have available to step up in an emergency?

The urgency around this question does vary in magnitude for you and your clients, depending on the role you have in each other’s lives.

If you run a one person doctor’s surgery or chiropractic clinic, patients in a critical condition will bear the brunt of your absence a lot more than if you ran a sunglasses and accessories stall in a local shopping mall. In the latter example, you would feel the loss more than your clients.

Apart from the immediate experience of inconvenience, there is a more troubling aspect to business risks being realised; loss of trust.

The trickling loss of trust

In a mild example, on a recent late afternoon at one of Adelaide’s northern beaches, I trod half a mile to the kiosk for a treat for the kids of dinner on the beach, only to find the kiosk shut at 6pm.

In daylight savings, on a warm to hot day, it seemed unheard of that a beachside kiosk would shut so early.

The erosion of trust here is that we will now build plans around that kiosk in future visits, and remove the risk ourselves by going to different beaches or choosing other suppliers who were open down the main street.

For all I know, the early closure may well have been a one-off incident due to circumstances beyond the operator’s control.

Nevertheless, the human brain moves quickly to learn from the experience and plan a better, safer action next time.

Perhaps the gift of today’s blog is to be a gentle reminder to think through the exposure to risk that we all face in all business activities and plot out some contingencies.

These could include contracting or training of other staff, reviewing services on offer, and even auditing risk exposure in current projects and plans.

At the very least, you might want to think through a marketing communication plan for when risks are realised, so that you or your team can communicate clearly with clients and maintain your relationship through the incident.

Better yet, I hope today’s reflection was redundant because you already have excellent contingencies in place for the summer and beyond.

PS I have decided to wait until my early January booking with the same air-conditioning┬ácompany. They communicated quickly, it is not a critical job and I don’t have time to invest in trying to get someone else in peak season. Next year? Let’s just say the door is open to assess offers, but they still have ‘goodwill credit’.

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