Crisis Communications Tips for SME Business Owners

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As much as we’d like to believe it, a public relations crisis doesn’t always happen to some other business. In this era of instantaneous digital technology, even a small customer complaint can blow up overnight into a full-blown crisis. But while it’s inaccurate to say that such a crisis is inevitable, nonetheless small business owners who plan ahead for the unforeseen are generally better equipped to weather the storm than those who have no crisis communications plan in place.

Here are tips to help you formulate a plan of action when a crisis strikes, as well as general principles, to guide your conduct during a difficult time:

1. Engage with media and the public, rather than try to outsmart them. Let’s assume that the nature of the crisis—be it a product recall, a data breach, a surprise legal claim against your business, alleged employee criminal behaviour, etc.—meets the criteria for a necessary public response. In such cases, expect that the demand for information will likely include what happened, why it happened, what solutions are being considered and how your customers will be reimbursed for their troubles.

PR specialists advise:

  • Acknowledge the problem or crisis—say “we know what is happening and we are doing something about it.”
  • Stick to the facts and don’t speculate.
  • Be honest and transparent and don’t try to cover or obscure the issue.

In other words, tell the truth.

2. Select a single spokesperson to represent your business. In many cases, it falls to the owner or CEO to stand up for a company under media siege. Sometimes this responsibility is assigned to a media or PR representative. Whatever the situation, it’s imperative to select one individual to represent your business and to allow no one else to act as an “additional” spokesperson. Many PR mishaps only get more complicated when two or more people step forward to defend the company.

3. Remain calm in the eye of the storm. It’s asking a lot of an individual, but the most effective public persona to strike in the midst of a crisis is staying calm. If you’re the spokesperson, you will be “bombarded by doubts, questions, negativity, and grievances as you struggle to lead your company and your team. Keep a steady hand on the tiller and “don’t succumb to frustrations, panic, or anger, as your staff is going to be looking up to you to discover a solution.”

4. Think before speaking out on social media. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be enormously helpful in getting your message out. But they can also be filled with perilous forums in which you and your business can get mired in seemingly endless negative chatter.

When a crisis strikes, you obviously can’t avoid referring to it on your social media networks. At the same time, remember to never get into back-and-forth exchanges with trolls or anyone else who seeks to bring further damage to your company’s reputation.

The best advice is to take a deep breath before composing and sending a message.

“Publish a neutral statement showing you’re aware of the situation and that you’re investigating the matter,” “Do not go into details of what happened just yet, before you get the full picture, and don’t make any comments acknowledging or rejecting any fault.”

Of course, prior to holding a press conference or issuing a statement, you should consult with a solicitor who has a good experience of being in the middle of crisis communications. They might wish to err on the side of extreme caution, so the most effective approach may be to weigh their legal advice against the potential damage to your brand if you choose to say or do nothing at all. We have a number of TAB lawyer members in Dublin who have such experience.

Remember, your ultimate priority during any crisis is to preserve the trust of your customers.

Want more advice on crisis management or general advice from other business owners like you? Contact us to see if we can be of assistance. 

 

PULSE SURVEY: CYBERSECURITY

This is a high-level summary of our key findings from the September 2017 Small Business Pulse Survey. This survey concentrated on Cybersecurity. The survey asked business owners about their past experiences with cybersecurity, their fears, and the precautionary measures they’re taking against cybercriminals.

Key Insights from the Survey

  • Only 5% of business owners feel fully secure against cyber-attacks.
  • 62% of owners surveyed agree “cybersecurity breaches can cripple any business”.
  • 31% of entrepreneurs surveyed are committing a minimum of $10,000 to cybersecurity.
  • 52% of business owners report having been victims of cybercrime, yet 46% have measures in place to protect their businesses against them.
  • According to the survey, the average business owner spends $8,933 per year on cybersecurity protection.
  • According to the results, nearly half of all CEOs have faced some form of cybercrime, yet less than half feel 100% prepared against them.
  • Only 5% of the entrepreneurs surveyed said they were 100% safe against cyber-threats and cyber-attacks. Yet, 40% still do not have a cybersecurity response plan in place.
  • 75% of business owners agree a cyber-attack would compromise the profitability of their business.
  • Business owners surveyed believe time (43%), resources (32%), expertise (30%) and capital (29%) prevent them from reaching their desired level of cyber protection.
  • 39% of entrepreneurs believe they are responsible for cybersecurity issues affecting their business.
  • 95% of business owners express concern over their level of security.
  • Entrepreneurs are most fearful of data loss and view credit card skimming as the most likely form of attack (35%), followed by malware (26%), website hacking (22%) and ransomware (21%).
  • Of the 60% of business owners who do have a cybersecurity response plan, 48% are prioritizing recovery above all else and believe firewall and network protection is the best precautionary investment.
  • Only 23% of entrepreneurs consider themselves likely to purchase cybersecurity insurance in the next year.

 

 

The Key to Selling to Different Senior Management Personalities

selling to different c-level personalities

According to conventional wisdom, effective selling is all about forging relationships between a business and it’s customers. But relationships can only be established when you identify the customer’s personality type—particularly among senior management personnel. Sales prospects at this high level can’t be approached in the same manner as the purchasing manager in a warehouse.

To be successful, a sales team—or, as can happen in B2B and other transactions, the company’s owner—must be able to interact with individuals possessing dramatically different attitudes and behaviours.

Generally speaking, salespeople will encounter four distinct personality types among C-level executives. Each displays certain traits and characteristics and requires that the sale team be proficient in adaptive selling in order to close the deal.

Here are the four types of C-level personalities. Do you find yourself among these? What are the best ways to work with these varying individuals?

#1. The Driver (or Assertive Type)

We’re all familiar with this personality type—forceful, hard-charging business leaders who are deeply focused on a company’s long-range goals and the state of its bottom line. Unafraid of challenges, they’re quick to take action and do so in a decisive, no-regrets manner.

Look for self-assured body language, a tendency to speak in declarative sentences and a strong competitive nature. Business expert Jeffrey Hayzlett offers a somewhat exaggerated description of the Driver’s office as “filled with things they’ve killed or captured, things they’ve done, such as good deeds or certificates earned, and examples of anything they’ve accomplished or overcome in their careers.”

The best sales approach with Drivers is to be direct and professional. Be ready to buttress your sales pitch with hard facts. It’s also wise to offer them multiple proposal choices because, as Hayzlett notes, “their other alternative is to say no—and trust me, they’ll say no 95 percent of the time.” Given more than one option, they revel in the power to choose.

#2. The Expressive Type

These are creative individuals with outsized personalities who enjoy bonding with the sales representative. Making high-level decisions doesn’t come naturally to them. Facts are important, but so are more intangible elements like the relevance of their individual perspectives and a concern for the welfare of employees.

With Expressives, it’s often most effective to stress a strong provider-client relationship. Share some of your own experiences (as they relate to the specific sales situation) and describe the benefits to them and their business as a result of the sale. Be patient as they work their way towards a buying decision.

#3. The Analytical Type

Often found in positions like CFOs and CIOs, the Analytical type much prefers working with statistical and qualitative data. Before arriving at a decision, they will undertake in-depth research, verifying every sales claim you make on behalf of your product or service.

With Analyticals, a salesperson digresses from the matter under discussion at his or her peril. Be prepared for an onslaught of questions, which can be intimidating but will also demonstrate the depth of your knowledge. They will also take time arriving at a decision, so your patience (and readiness to provide more facts and figures upon request) will factor heavily in whether or not you close the deal.

#4. The Amiable Type

These individuals value being part of a team and pride themselves on their ability to get along with just about everyone. They like innovative solutions, particularly those that embody a business’ core values. Building relationships based on trust and rapport is also important.

With Amiables, it’s best to emphasise your own most likeable qualities. Ask questions relating to their own experiences. Emphasise the collaborative nature of the sales transaction, while also focusing on how your solution involves little risk on their part. Try to avoid offering them too many options to choose from. Generally speaking, they want you to provide the most balanced, intelligent solution for them to accept.

The more you know about the prospect’s personality type, the better you can adapt your sales pitch and presentation. This approach offers a greater chance of success than any “one-size-fits-all” sales strategy.

 

84% of Entrepreneurs Are Working Overtime, Here’s Why

productivity
According to The Alternative Board’s most recent Small Business Pulse Productivity Survey, 84% of business owners are working over 40 hours per week, and 1 in every 10 feels continuously overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Considering the majority of entrepreneurs don’t just get into business for the money, but also for the lifestyle, freedom, and flexibility, these numbers suggest that most business owners are not getting what they want out of their businesses.

So how can business owners better manage their productivity for improved work-life balance?

The first step is identifying time-wasting habits and then replacing them with proven time management practices. Fortunately, TAB’s May 2017 survey illuminated a lot of these productivity-sabotaging habits and found a few key solutions for how business owners can reclaim their time. 

 

1.  The average business owner spends 10+ hours a week in their inbox.
When asked about the breakdown of their day, business owners reported spending the most time on email – 25% of their time, in fact. That’s 5% more time than the surveyed entrepreneurs report spending on in-person meetings (20%) and customer service (15.7%) – two primary functions of business leadership.Considering these numbers, it’s not surprising that the surveyed business owners agree the best strategy for improving their productivity is scheduling finite time to answer email.According to a survey conducted by the University of British Columbia, three times a day is the sweet spot for checking your email. Use that scheduled time to delete anything unnecessary and respond to what needs to be responded to.Resist the urge to respond to emails as they arrive. “Switching between tasks requires realignment of attention and emotions, which can be taxing on the mind,” writes Samantha Murphy Kelley (@HeySamantha).If you fail to resist the urge to instantly respond to every message, you’ll be giving into the very dangerous “tyranny of the urgent” and wasting your time on day-to-day fires, rather than long-term strategy. Take it from time management expert Steve Davies, CEO of The Alternative Board Nassau: “It is essential to keep your priority items to a minimum. If everything is important, nothing is important and if you have too many top priorities there is a very real danger that none of them will get done.”

2.  If you’re going to spend 53% of your time on meetings, you better make them productive.
The average business owner spends 20% of their time on in-person meetings and 13% on phone/video conference calls — that’s nearly 55% of their workweek. While meetings are a critical function of business leadership, only 4% of the entrepreneurs surveyed believe their meetings are 100% productive.“Meetings are a necessary evil,” writes Bob Pothier (@Bob_Pothier), Director of Partners in Leadership. “How you manage your meetings says a lot about how you’re managing your organisation.”In order to stay productive and lose as little time as possible Pothier suggests starting every meeting on time, having an agenda, starting with a “culture moment” (i.e. telling a story or giving recognition), and ending the meeting with a “who’s-going-to-do-what-by-when” list.

3.  You can blame it on a hundred other things, but at the end of the day, your productivity boils down to your time management.
Business owners cite poor time management as the #1 productivity killer for their business (35%) — above poor communication (25%), personal problems (18%) and technology distractions (16%).Fortunately, the survey offered some tips for better managing your time. For example, the large majority of entrepreneurs (81%) feel most productive in the morning, with 87% opting to get the most important tasks out of the way first.“First thing in the morning your mind is clear, the office is quiet, and you haven’t gotten pulled into six different directions — yet,” writes Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani), author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of com“It’s your one opportunity to prioritise the thing that matters to you most before your phone starts ringing and your email inbox starts dinging. By knocking out something important on your to-do list before anything else, you get both momentum and a sense of accomplishment before 10 AM.”

4.  64% of entrepreneurs believe they could be delegating more responsibility.
39% of the business owners surveyed reported that paperwork is the #1 waste of their time, followed by manual labour (37%). If you are doing either of these tasks, there’s a good chance you are working below your pay grade and not delegating properly.“The biggest obstacle to successful delegation is the persistent urge to not delegate anything at all — or ever,” writes business consultant Larry Alton(@LarryAlton3). “Sometimes, it’s a point of pride for a boss to retain as much work as possible, but more often, it’s created from the mentality that your workers wouldn’t be able to handle it, or that they wouldn’t get it done the right way.Learn to overcome your fear of delegation, and you’ll feel an enormous sense of relief once you let go of the menial tasks that are preventing you from long-term planning and exploring development opportunities and keeping you glued to your desk chair day in and day out.

Work-life balance is not a mythical notion, but a very real possibility for entrepreneurs who are willing to devote a little extra time to planning and prioritizing. Keep an eye out for the little things — like email, meetings, procrastination and those silly little administrative tasks — that add up to leech your hours away — hours that you could be spending with your family and friends.

If you’re among the 1 out of every 10 entrepreneurs that feel constantly overwhelmed by work, you may want to take a look at your time management practices. Getting an outside perspective is often the best way to start. The Alternative Board provides you with the unique opportunity to meet regularly with a board of fellow peer business owners who can help you overcome challenges, such as overworking and poor time management. To take advantage of TAB’s peer advisory model, find a local board and get in touch.

 

Recruiting through Social Media: A Quick Guide

recruiting on social media

Increasingly, businesses in search of talented job candidates are turning to social media as part of their overall recruitment strategy. “Social recruiting” seeks to leverage the power of various social media platforms to strengthen an employer brand, attract interest among qualified job-seekers, and build a pipeline of talent to tap into for future growth.

If your business already has an active social media profile, it’s no great leap to expand into social recruiting. If not, you may be losing out in the “talent wars” to other, more nimble competitors.

Here’s a quick primer on essentials related to social recruiting for your business:

Promote your brand on all platforms. Everything you post on your company’s website and social media platforms—from blog posts to company news, images and videos—should be filtered through the lens of brand awareness and company culture. Always gauge the potential impact of your content through the eyes of prospective employees. Is what you’re posting likely to attract them or turn them off? Are you portraying your business as a place where people would like to work or are you discouraging further interest?

Seek out and establish relationships with influencers. Just as it’s important to engage in influencer marketing, so you can boost your recruitment efforts by building ties with influencers in the realm of social recruiting. Seek out industry influencers with sizable networks, share their content and offer content of your own. As the relationships grow, you can begin touting job opportunities in your company—reaching a far greater audience than might otherwise be possible.

Get active on millennial-focused platforms. Sure, it’s important to be active on Facebook and Twitter, but you won’t necessarily generate a lot of interest there among millennials. Take time to explore Snapchat, Instagram and other sites where millennials “hang out.” Building your presence on these sites can result in greater brand awareness among the job-seekers you most wish to attract.

Encourage your current workforce to generate leads. Employee referrals are always a promising source for potentially qualified job candidates. Take this a step further by encouraging employees to promote open job opportunities via their own social media networks.

“Simply talking casually about enjoying a company vacation, feeling supported at work, or being glad about something that the employer is doing for them can make an impression on their followers,” notes Business.com. “But you want it to be genuine.”

Look to the future. Social recruiting bears only a cursory resemblance to recruiting employees “back in the day.” In today’s era, cultivating relationships is just as important as lining up applicants for your latest job opening. Whether you expend your efforts on LinkedIn, Facebook or other sites, the key is nurturing a pipeline of qualified candidates—individuals who show an interest in your company by following you on social media, commenting on your posts, sharing content with others—and then reaching out to those candidates when the time is right.

In many ways, social media has dramatically altered the way business gets done. It’s also an increasingly useful resource for attracting the right people from the emerging talent pool and putting those talents to use in your company.

Want more advice on recruiting and retaining great employees? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!