How much time do you spend every day solving problems and “putting out fires”? Could you put that time to better use, such as doing things to serve your clients, attract new clients or expand your business?
The secret is simple: Many of the problems we deal with can be anticipated and prevented. Often, it takes less time to avoid a problem that to resolve it and repair the damage it caused. And sometimes the damage to your business, reputation and customer relationships can not be repaired.
Here are some things you can do to avoid problems and mishaps.
Think negatively. Although it is not a good idea to focus on everything that could go wrong and expect it to happen, it is wise to consider the possibilities. When you imagine possible negative outcomes, you may be able to make changes that will prevent the bad stuff from happening, or at least from having a bad effect. For example, what would happen to your business if your computer crashed? Is the thought of that enough to get you to make regular backups of your data?
Expect the best but plan for the worst. Acting to avoid problems is good, but you can not control every possible outcome. Have plans in place for what you would do if something catastrophic occurred. Knowing that you have a plan will make dealing with a problem easier, and you will not have to decide on what actions to take in the middle of a crisis—you will already know what to do.
Monitor for early signs of trouble. Watch what is said about your business online so you can react to criticism, problems and attacks before they get out of hand. Set up Google Alerts for your company name, products and other keywords. Check your company’s profile on Yelp and other review sites. Read customer feedback, and pay attention to signs of possible trouble such as increased return rates or dropping sales.
Write it down. Document systems and procedures so that staff can fill in for you or each other. Keep track of commitments so you do not overbook yourself.
Stay on schedule. Putting things off until the last minute (or later!) throws everything into chaos and makes it more likely that mistakes will be made.
Don’t react emotionally. When something goes wrong, think before you act. Reacting impulsively can make a bad situation worse and create additional problems.
With a little planning and forethought, you can avoid many problems and minimize the impact of any problems that occur.