8 Tips to Help Your Business Plan in Times of Uncertainty

The bedrock of any business that enjoys sustained success is good planning. When individuals, teams and the company as a whole all know their targets, aims and the reasons they need to be achieved, then you’re much more likely to hit those targets and reap the rewards and advancements they will bring. But planning often takes a backseat at the best of times – sometimes we’re too busy fighting fires to take time out to plan anything properly. This can be even more exacerbated in times of crisis or uncertainty (we’re looking at you, 2020…). But before pandemics there were financial crashes, and before that was political upheaval, and before that were environmental disasters, and before that was terrorism, and before that were wars… The point I’m trying to make is uncertain times come and go likes waves at the shore, what’s most important is knowing how to plan even when all around you seems like it’s falling down. Learning to continue to plan during uncertain times could be the ticket to the success of your business… here’s how to do it.

1. Don’t panic. When unexpected curveballs are thrown your way, the absolute worst thing you can do is make decisions on a knee-jerk reaction. Decisions made in haste are never a good idea. Carve out some time to really think about the issues you’re facing. Some of your existing plans might not be affected, others may change, and some may get discarded, but you should treat each individually.

2. Talk to your team. Engage with and get input from all levels of your business. Not only might this give you a solution you hadn’t thought of yourself, but it will also ensure that when making or adjusting your short and long term plans you have your finger on the pulse for how your entire business feels, not just the people at the top.

3. Focus mainly on the ‘knowns’. With a global pandemic or a financial crash there are so many unknowns and often wild speculation about them. If you get too tangled up with those things in your head, your planning will go out of the window. Instead, concentrate on the things you do know. With the COVID pandemic, we knew anglers would still be going out to fish, and perhaps more importantly, we knew they would still want to fish (if anything more than ever). By grounding your decision making in things that are not changing during an uncertain time, you’ll be on much firmer footing going forward.

4. Do some scenario testing. So, you sat down and made a bunch of new plans when the pandemic hit? Great. But what if something changes drastically? What if a vaccine is made available and things vastly improve? What if a second spike hits hard in the winter and fishing becomes restricted at a time when it’s at low season anyway? It makes huge sense to troubleshoot your plans as you make them to see how flexible they are in case of further changes. How do they handle a minor hiccup? What about in the worst-case scenario? Some plans might be able to weather storms, others might be a little more fragile. Give each plan three possible alterations depending on how things pan out – you’ll thank your future self for it. 

5. Plan to reassess your plans. You need to be flexible when things get rocky, therefore it makes sense to plan some time to regularly reassess any plans you make during a crisis of any size. Maybe you planned to target the fly fishing market after a new law meant bass fishing was largely restricted at your local popular venue – is that working out? Are things still the same? Should you re-shift that focus and concentrate on the bass fishing venues that are open? Okay, so this is totally hypothetical, but the point is regular reviews and revisions of plans are incredibly important in uncertain times.

6. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This shouldn’t be something you do anyway, but when there’s uncertainty in the market it is even more dangerous. I’ve seen examples of it myself recently with friends of mine who are freelancers suddenly losing a lot of work from their main client with no backup and no recent experience of hunting for work because they’ve gotten complacent. Try and spread your targets into as many different ways as you possibly can when no market looks to have any real stability.

7. Focus on you. If the chaos surrounding you means it’s difficult to make external plans then it’s time to get introverted and concentrate on making plans to make your business more efficient and more productive from the inside. Sort out those staff rota issues that you’ve been putting off for months, plan to streamline your accounts process making it easier for the future, or set goals for your staff in terms of their performance. Any plans you make to boost your business internally now will help you ride out the uncertain seas ahead.

8. Remember what you’ve been through. At the time we probably all though the financial crash of 2008 was the hardest thing we’d ever have to deal with in business. Now we look back on it and know it was tough, but you got through it, even when it might have seemed impossible. It’s important to remember that uncertain times don’t last forever. You’ve handled them before. You can do it again, and you will.