It doesn’t take a natural disaster or global pandemic to turn a business upside down. Life events like pregnancy, illness, or grief can shake a person to their core. And for entrepreneurs, a resilient business model is critical to weathering uncertainty.
After all, you can’t control what life throws in your path. However, you can take precautionary measures to ensure unexpected situations don’t send your business into ruin. Resiliency requires a proactive approach; you can’t expect to survive the tough times if you haven’t done the work during the good times.
Adopt these six strategies to grow a sustainable business that can withstand every curve ball in life and leave you stronger on the other side.
Create a process for the unexpected
Every event pro knows the value of having a plan B. Treat your business like a high-end event and prepare backup plans to mitigate the risks of any unforeseen circumstances.
“Life happens in, around, and outside of your business,” reminds Diane Kolanović-Šolaja of Dee Kay Events. “Creating a step-by-step process and having a contingency plan for emergencies has helped me be flexible and relieve the pressure of ‘what ifs.’”
Does your team know what to do if you fall ill or get into a car accident? Are you prepared if a cyberattack wipes out your company’s files? What if a building fire destroys your inventory? It’s scary to think of worst-case scenarios, but it’s better to create a contingency plan you don’t intend to use than to need a plan you don’t have.
Cultivate a trustworthy team
Emergencies happen. People get sick. Family situations require attention. And you probably want to take a vacation at some point this decade. A resilient business needs more than one person overseeing every aspect of the company so you can step away when life calls.
Satisfied employees are eager to invest their time and energy into a business’s growth, so consider your team your most valuable asset. “If employees feel considered, are paid well, and are treated with respect, they are much more likely to stay and help build your company to stand the test of time,” Sheils assures.
In addition to a solid team, you’ll also need to create systems and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that allow for easy hand-off when an emergency occurs. Training your staff to manage different elements of the company reduces stress and encourages autonomy throughout your team, setting everyone up for success.
Boost your online presence
When things don’t go as planned, it’s natural to put some tasks on the back burner. If you’re facing a crisis, do you really need to send out holiday cards? Probably not.
However, Megan Breukelman of Megan & Kenneth notes that SEO and social media should remain a priority, sharing how a strong online presence helped her business bounce back after the pandemic. “It allowed us to build our brand awareness so that when events did come trickling back into the picture, we were top of mind for potential clients,” she explains.
Showing up online is vital to a sustainable marketing strategy, allowing you to generate leads even during times of uncertainty. If you don’t have time, consider hiring a virtual assistant or social media manager to help you maintain your digital presence.
Keep your network strong
During tumultuous times, there’s nothing more helpful than having strong relationships to lean on—both for your business and your mental health. So dust off the cobwebs and be intentional about cultivating your network!
“Foster genuine relationships and stay connected with everyone on LinkedIn,” encourages Dee Lee of Dee Lee Designs. “My network sends warm leads to me because I genuinely care to check in with them.”
“When you give to your relationships, it will come back to you tenfold,” Kolanović-Šolaja agrees. “Between fellow partners, photographers, venues, you name it; our relationships give us the path to resilience.”
And while business referrals are invaluable, it’s just as meaningful to know you’re not alone in your journey as an entrepreneur. Try to attend monthly networking events and leverage social media to stay connected with fellow event pros.
Commit to continued learning
There’s no better way to stay ahead of the curve than through industry education. Trends change, best business practices evolve, and it’s up to you to keep your company up to date. Attending conferences, workshops, and seminars is a great way to stay current. If traveling isn’t on the table, look for virtual webinars and classes to take from home.
“If you know that you’ll be on-site at conferences such as Catersource + The Special Event, make sure that you’re carving out plenty of time to learn from your peers. If there’s an area of your business that you’re struggling with, there’s probably a session for it!” notes Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services.
Take advantage of free educational resources, too! Books, magazines, podcasts, blogs, and other digital publications cost nothing more than some of your time. Split your focus between industry-specific content and general business topics for a well-rounded approach to self-guided learning.
Ask for help
Hospitality professionals are in the business of serving others. And while you might ask, “How can I help you?” on a daily basis, don’t forget that you’re just as entitled to receive support from others. You don’t have to navigate entrepreneurship alone, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
“Lean into your relationships and ask colleagues how they do their process, what is something new they are doing, or what's the latest business book they have read,” Kolanović-Šolaja suggests.
Sheils notes that help comes in many forms, even beyond business boundaries, “from monetary to advice, to helping with childcare, to just having someone to share your experience with who really understands what you are going through,” she says.
Resiliency is not about gritting your teeth and enduring hardship alone. Instead, it’s a matter of establishing a sensible foundation for your business to thrive for decades.
A reliable team, a supportive network, and a commitment to growth go a long way toward sustainability—but it doesn’t happen overnight. “Great things take time,” Breukelman assures. “Having some patience with yourself and your hard work makes a huge difference.”
Put the work in now, and you’ll be well-equipped to ride out any uncertainty that comes your way.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.