As a small business owner who decided to be your own boss, you probably think you’re prepared to handle practically anything the world of entrepreneurship could throw at you — client onboarding, filing taxes, and even tackling payroll for your staff. But how do you think you and your brand would fare in the face of controversy?
Just this week, nearly 10 well-known, established companies were found mired in controversy as each CEO made the decision to leave President Trump’s now disbanded business councils in the wake of the recent tragic and controversial happenings in Charlottesville, Virginia. As each CEO announced his or her departure, the decision to do so resonated among American citizens, stakeholders, politicians alike — placing these companies and their leaders at the forefront of domestic and international media.
Think you and your small business could handle such a week?
Working as your own boss these days requires you know a bit about crisis management for small businesses. Though you may be doing business on a smaller level, your emerging enterprise isn’t necessarily safe from controversy, protest, or worse. However, if you find yourself on the other side of your clients’ good graces, there are a few things you can do to deal effectively.
1. Develop a strategic plan — Before the controversy even starts, take the time to develop a “what if…?” plan to help you weather the potential firestorm. Consider seeking the counsel of a small business advisor or attorney who can work with you to craft an action plan (or at least a template statement) to address things like social media flubs, customer complaints, or business-related shortcomings. By being proactive and using a bit of foresight to prep for the worst can prove incredibly beneficial if and when you ever have to get in front of growing contention or dissatisfaction.
2. Keep your business interests FIRST — When controversy confronts you, as the face and voice of your business, it can be incredibly hard not to take things personally. Even with tough skin, the right opponent or situation can make you question the future of the brand you’ve invested so much of your time, money and effort into. Be sure to think PROFESSIONAL, not PERSONAL in such an instance. Just like the CEOs who left the president’s business and manufacturing councils, focus on the supporters and stakeholders of your brand who are depending on you to protect your interests and come out better on the other side. It might not be easy, but keeping your feelings and emotions separate from your business dealings MIGHT just be the thing that helps you beat the blow of a business-threatening quarrel or boycott.
3. Focus on recovery — Controversy can cripple a business, but it doesn’t have to. By focusing on how your brand will bounce back, you’re able to take what you’ve learned and build a more resilient, fortified small business. Will recovery include issuing a series of refunds? A video apology? A revamped social media strategy? Whatever the ultimate cost, have faith in your ability to rebuild the trust and support necessary to sustain -- or regain — your audience and client base. Staying focused on these aspects will keep you — and your small business — moving in the direction of success.
Still not sure you could handle controversy as a small business owner? What worries you most about your brand being caught in a battle related to current societal issues? Has your company encountered a crisis before? How did you deal with it? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment.