If you've been in business for decades, you understand that circumstances change and unforeseeable events occur. While you can't read the future, you can make smart choices to prepare well for it. Not only will this provide you peace of mind, but you're more likely to respond quickly and effectively when trouble strikes.

What Causes Uncertainty?

As much as we desire control and predictability, uncertainty is a permanent fixture in business. While conditions may seem unfair at times, it's important to remember that most people are exposed to the same effects. A brief look at various facets of business shows that at least three uncontrollable factors can have a profound effect on your operations:

  • Economic conditions. If the recent recession taught us anything, it's that small mistakes compounded over time and across the nation can have drastic consequences. When an entire nation's economy hits a rough patch, this may require companies to cut back on resources, hiring, and expenditures. Have a plan in place.
  • Illness. Whether it's a flu bug traveling through the office or a more serious global issue like the Ebola outbreak, illness is something you can't plan for but it can lead to serious consequences.
  • Shifts in consumer behavior. One reason many businesses eventually have to close up shop is that consumers demand change. A product that satisfies a need or addresses a pain point in the present may not do the same in six months, a year, or five years.

Preparing for Uncertainty: Practical Tips

By nature, not all future events can be fully prepared for, but you can equip your company with the tools necessary to fend off potential threats by developing specific plans for certain situations. Here are some practical tips designed to help your company prepare for the unknown:

1.) Stay in the now. It's easy to get caught up in your own little world or bubble, but that's an important trap to avoid. One of the best ways to combat financial uncertainty is to stay abreast of economic indicators. By educating yourself on the general state of the economy, what decisions are being made at the national level, and how economic forecasts might affect your industry, you can put yourself a step ahead of others.

2.) Prepare for multiple outcomes. It's wise to stop assuming the most likely outcome will turn up at the conclusion of every situation. A successful company prepares for multiple outcomes regardless of what's expected. Foresight enables you to respond effectively in all circumstances. The best way to prepare is to include all departments and employees in the planning process. You'll get fresh, unique perspectives that are more likely to result in critical and innovative thinking.

3.) Consistently review. A forward-thinking company understands the value of analysis. Are you consistently reviewing your business plan to ensure it is current? This is a particularly helpful way to combat changes in consumer demands. If your business plan is still addressing the needs of customers as they were five years ago, the odds are it's out of date and in danger of extinction.

4.) Build relationships. In times of real trouble, is a computer going to help you regain solid footing? It's possible, but unlikely. What you really need is support from peers and partners. The best investment you can make for future stability is relationship building. Whether it's tough times in a struggling economy, a lack of resources, or changes in demand, healthy business relationships can help you weather the rough patches.

You've heard it said many times: the only certainty in life is change. This is particularly true in business, where unpredictably has been at an all-time high in the past decade. Are you properly prepared for the uncertainty into which your company is surely headed?