4 Ways to Prepare for Unforeseen Problems in Your Business

Unforeseen problems are a staple of owning a business; how you deal with them counts.

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By Trevor Cowley

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Preparation is an investment, and it will be your greatest ally when issues come up in your business. Business will always have a human element, and because there is no perfect human, it's guaranteed that businesses will encounter unforeseen problems.

The best way you can solve these problems is not to be reactive after the issue takes root, but to be proactive by preparing for these problems in advance. Here are some of the actions I've witnessed in my own business that not only helped keep things running smoothly when hurdles came up but even helped to bypass issues entirely and ensure the success of our business.

Related: 5 Effective Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected

1. Pair starters with finishers

One of the unexpected difficulties as a business leader is being strategic in how you formulate your teams. Not only does a team's chemistry come down to background and personalities, but the effectiveness of a team is determined by the skills of the people paired together. Some people are great starters — they are always willing to step up to bat and take on extra responsibilities. They're not afraid of an increased workload. However, because of their nature, they could struggle with finishing projects, or they could be spread too thin to follow through.

On the flip side, while finishers won't be the first to raise their hand at taking on an extra workload, they excel at following up and following through. They're the people who are great at executing and making sure a project is completed by a deadline. Rather than punishing starters and finishers in the areas that need improvement, an effective business leader will pair starters with finishers on a team. This takes time and observation to get to know your employees and how they work, but it makes the perfect recipe to avoid problems down the road.

2. End meetings with an action item

Meetings aren't effective if they don't have a solid structure to follow. We noticed a lack of measurable progress coming out of meetings at our own business. I realized we needed to be more intentional with these meetings, so we formulated a plan: Cut the meetings to 30 minutes maximum, assign one person to lead the meeting, and assign another person to email a summary afterward.

The most important change we implemented? Each meeting needed to end with one action item to make the business a little bit better. The action item needed a timeline and designation about who would be responsible for the action item. We didn't restrict them on what the action item needed to be — the action item could make the business run more profitably, make a process faster or smooth out a recurring issue.

This was when we started to see notable improvement coming from these meetings, and it's one of the most proactive measures we've taken in anticipating possible problems in the business.

Related: How to Prepare for an Unexpected, Unwanted and Unwelcome Business Setback

3. Provide clear guidelines and benchmarks for your employees

Create a culture around winning. People feel good when they accomplish things, so it's your job to ensure there's a structure for getting the work done. For every position you create, outline responsibilities and guidelines that fall upon the employee, and establish benchmarks that will help measure your employee's accomplishments and growth. Clarify what skills and requirements it takes to get the job done in the job description, and make sure they have a robust understanding of this when they start the job.

Connect regularly with employees, and give them feedback on how they're performing compared to the job requirements. You could use metrics like sales numbers, customer satisfaction, the scope or quality of a project's completion or how well they respond to deadlines. Highlight their wins, and emphasize what they're doing well.

People want to get things done simply because it makes them feel good; develop a winning culture by setting reasonable expectations instead of repeatedly dumping tasks on your employees without clear guidelines.

4. Keep open transparency and communication with your team

The single most important thing any business can do to prepare for unforeseen problems is to keep a clear line of communication open. Ask your employees, "what can I do better? How can I make your job easier?" Be open to criticism and willing to act on what they say.

Odds are, this will make your employees more willing to listen and accept criticism from you. If you're showing them you want to improve for their sake, they'll do the same for you. The entire business will function better if everyone is helping each other strive to be the best they can be for the improvement of the company.

Consider asking your employees: Are they in a role that they enjoy? Are they spread too thin to perform? Being transparent in your communication will help take your business to the next level by fixing existing problems and avoiding future issues simultaneously.

Related: 4 Ways to Prepare Now so Your Business Survives the Unexpected Later

Preparing for unforeseen problems is a critical aspect to running a successful business. No matter how well-funded your business is and how well-rounded your systems and processes are, unexpected challenges will come up.

Anticipate growth and potential problems by rethinking how you run meetings, being intentional in how you formulate teams, and providing clear guidelines and communication with your employees. If you've pre-scaled for growth, you'll confidently navigate these hurdles.

Trevor Cowley

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor


Trevor Cowley is a 38-year-old serial entrepreneur, investor, writer, and podcaster. He’s a co-owner in 5 businesses that collectively produce over eight figures. He co-hosts a top 100 business podcast on iTunes called Real Business Owners. Trevor is committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed.

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