Business leaders need to think the unthinkable

Many business leaders are propelled by can do attitudes, but supreme confidence only gets you so far

Business leaders need to think the unthinkable

Real life doesn’t care how much you believe in what you’re doing; real life demands you pay attention and plan ahead for curveballs you’d rather not think about. 

If you’re worth your salt as a business leader, you will have considered what you will do if the worst happens. If you want to excel as a business leader, you will have contingency plans for every business-threatening eventuality you can think of.  

Here are just a few.


You will have heard about the wrong sort of leaves, the wrong kind of snow, and more recently rain coming from the wrong direction (!?). At times it can feel like nature is determined to stop people getting to work. Sooner or later bad weather is going to be a problem for most businesses. Don’t wait until your workforce is stuck on a train or trapped in their cars before thinking about what you’ll do with an empty office, shop, or warehouse. Imagine that scenario now and work out what your best plan of action will be. It may be that your staff can work from home, but what do you need to put in place to ensure your team can seamlessly switch from on-site working to remote working. Easy access to cloud-based data storage and employees having the necessary kit at home are obvious minimums for most businesses but consider if your business requires anything more. And/or work out how long your business can cope with zero staff and no work being done and have a plan in place to kick in before you reach that critical point.  

Remote working

If you have set up your business to have staff working remotely from the start, hopefully you will have considered potential pitfalls and planned accordingly. But if remote working is a post-lockdown driven innovation, have you taken the time to switch your contingency planning from being based around a single location to multiple locations? The more “moving parts” the more opportunity for things to go wrong, so you need to consider the implications of a switch from single to multiple locations. For example, in a single location you can ensure a robust, reliable internet connection, but with staff working remotely you have to decide whether to take control of your employees’ internet connection (by paying for the service they receive) or gamble on your employees’ choice of provider being able to meet your business’s needs. 

Losing staff suddenly

No one wants to think about a colleague dying, but as a business leader you must think about the possibility. You owe it to your business, your customers, and your staff to think about what you will do if faced with this situation. 

As a boss, you will be in the unenviable position of balancing staff grief and the need to manage logistics. It is a tough tightrope to navigate, but planning ahead can make things easier for everyone. 

Be aware that, regardless of the size of your workforce, close friendships may have developed. Do not rely on uniform reactions. Grief will hit each of your employees differently, and it is important that you provide staff with contact details for sources of support.

The impact of the sudden death of a colleague on your business can be mitigated by safeguards such as sharing calendars and contacts lists, but this will vary from business to business. You should also consider how work will be re-allocated in the event of a member of your team passing away unexpectedly. This may vary from colleague to colleague. 

The burden of looking after your staff while keeping the business on track will rest on your shoulders but do remember to include yourself in the mix. Grief has a way catching up with you. Make sure your contingency planning includes looking after you.

Jane Robson
Jane Robson

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