Jones Business Solutions Ltd | When the road breaks – take a different turn!
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When the road breaks – take a different turn!

When the road breaks – take a different turn!

Six months on and there is still considerable widespread damage to the roading network after Cyclone Gabrielle. Adjustments and compromises have been (and still are) needed. It is surprising how our ‘new normal’ results.

This got me thinking how significant happenings affect how we run our businesses. How do you react, review, and revitalise our operations when unexpected major events occur? What are the ‘go to’ strategies that we employ? Why so some come out stronger and others fade away? Here’s a strategy based on a more positive use of an OCD acronym.


When the unexpected happens it is a natural reaction for many to get in a bit of a panic! Our ‘fight or flight’ responses are normal and often get us through the initial shock of what has occurred. As soon as possible however we should take stock and review the situation. Marie Forleo has an ‘Observe not Absorb’ approach for traumatic situations. Excellent advice! Here are some steps:

  • Assess the situation – gather information (from both local and wider perspectives)
    (if you have a Business Continuity Plan – use it! Review and improve if it is less than ideal)
  • Identify what needs to be done in the immediate aftermath – and in what order – to mitigate risk and keep people and property safe
  • Examine the emotional responses of yourself and people around you – mostly a wide range of reactions are ‘normal’ – acknowledge these feelings from your observations
  • Consider new opportunities and ways of working as a result of significant disruption and change.

For our rural community out at Kereru in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand this has involved different routes to the closest towns – allowing more travel time, less trips, sharing deliveries – and most importantly caring and sharing more with our neighbours and similarly affected business colleagues. For myself I had an overwhelming very emotional response – getting professional help quickly meant I could understand my feelings and put some coping mechanisms in place.


Effective communication is key.  Trust and reassurance are needed at times like this! Identifying the most likely affected staff, customers and suppliers and making contact quickly means you can provide the best kind of help and encouragement. Post cyclone everyone had a story to share, just listening provided great support. The ‘observe not absorb’ strategy really helped on this. Communications needed are:

  • Internal – within the business – yourself and your employees
    • Keep employees informed – with regular check-ins
    • Provide reassurance with an overall action plan
    • Encourage open dialogue
    • Organise emotional support (there are a wealth of agencies that can do this – it’s not all on you)
    • Ways of working – can employees work remotely, reduced hours, job sharing to support each other? Recognise employees may have different needs – don’t take a one size fits all approach.
  • External – maintain open lines of communication
    • Customers – what do they need from you? By talking you may find they are very understanding and accommodating
    • Suppliers – understand their situation – how can you work with them to get good outcomes for both of you?
    • Stakeholders – who else needs to be kept in the loop? Do they fully understand the situation? (Post cyclone those outside the affected areas are regularly asking if everything is back to normal now – usually a long pause before saying ‘No’!)
    • Provide regular updates
    • Show empathy and flexibility.

Maintaining that wider view with good two-way communication is vital to minimise risk and keep people reassured. The sun rises and sets each day, bills and wages need to be paid and business operations need to continue.


Do what you say you will do – and when you say it will be done by! If there are new unexpected hold-ups that changes plans let them know those too. One business does not operate solely in isolation. Your business having a plan and executing it well can go a long way to assisting other businesses to manage better too.

Customers want to know you are going to stick around. If service deliverables will significantly change then make it clear what these will be – and meet your stated updated timeframes. People are (usually) understanding providing promises are met. Be realistic – don’t over promise and end up disappointing – you may lose customers as a result.

Is capacity reduced? Can your competitors or similar businesses that aren’t affected help out? This may sound risky but providing alternatives for your customers may mean they return once you are back to 100%.

Have new opportunities arisen? You may have had to find alternative suppliers, different transport routes that widen your potential customer base, solutions that create new products or service offerings. Any time spent reviewing existing systems can identify new possibilities.

To sum up

In the face of major disruptions businesses can crumble or thrive. The OCD approach outlined above can help weather the storm – not just get through it, but be the stronger because of it. Remember, when the road breaks, taking a different turn can lead to new opportunities and growth. And the new view could be breathtaking!