Successfully running a business means planning for the worst-case scenarios. Even if those things never happen, having a clear framework for what to do if they occur helps your company stay resilient.
Sometimes you can’t prevent threats, so the best approach is to determine how you’d mitigate them. Recording timely and accurate information during an emergency could stop it from getting out of hand. Here are six threats you should get ready for this year.
1. Supply Chain Disruptions
A well-functioning supply chain helps businesses get the goods they need in quick, reliable timeframes. However, numerous circumstances can cause disruptions.
Nations may impose temporary export bans, ensuring residents access the most in-demand goods first. If borders close or activity levels drop drastically at airports and seaports — as they did during COVID-19 lockdowns — it can take substantially longer for goods to arrive.
One of the best ways to plan for supply chain disruptions is to diversify your supplier base. When you have several sources for the most in-demand goods, your access to them is less likely to reduce or disappear.
Another option is to source goods as close as possible to where you operate. That approach may initially turn out more expensive, but it could prove worthwhile if you and your customers receive orders faster.
It’s also smart to screen your suppliers before beginning a business relationship with them. Clarify your expectations and assess the likelihood that each supplier could withstand and recover from supply chain shocks. Holding your suppliers accountable also conveys that they must continually provide high-quality service.
2. New COVID-19 Variants
All viruses go through frequent genomic changes called mutations. The good news is that most of them don’t cause problems in the affected populations. Natural selection makes sure the alterations that do not benefit the associated viruses die off. Even the variants that become dominant don’t necessarily cause dire circumstances for the living things that catch those viruses.
However, scientists are particularly concerned about two variants connected to SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19. One first detected in South Africa could be 50% more transmissible, researchers warned. There’s still a lot to learn, but scientists worry that new variants could make people more susceptible to reinfection or require vaccine updates.
Until business owners hear otherwise, they should keep engaging in the protective measures for themselves and their employees that they’re likely familiar with by now.
People will still need to practice social distancing, hand hygiene, and mask-wearing for the foreseeable future, no matter what happens with the new variants. However, entrepreneurs should stay abreast of updated decisions that may require them to quarantine after traveling to areas where the new variants are most prevalent.
3. Data Breaches
Data breaches cause severe problems for businesses of all sizes and types. The issues can become particularly damaging if cybercriminals steal customers’ login details, credit card numbers, or other sensitive information. Such attacks lead to decreased trust, which may cause people to stop doing business with you.
Once perpetrators steal information, they often sell it on the dark web. They also frequently use a technique called credential stuffing. It uses bots to rapidly enter compromised username and password combinations on sites other than the breached business. This approach can work well because people often use the same login details multiple times. There were nearly 500 million records exposed in 2018 alone.
When customers register at your website, consider adding text to the form that reminds them to choose passwords they have not used elsewhere. Take steps within your company to safeguard against data breaches, too. For example, purchase password manager tools for employees. Also, train them to recognize phishing emails that could lead to compromised information.
4. Increased Competition
Virtually all business owners occasionally feel threatened as more competitors arrive in the marketplace. Maybe you were the first entrepreneur in your town to have a juice bar, and now there are suddenly two others within miles of your location.
You can’t stop competitors from arriving in the marketplace, but you can act decisively and encourage customers to stay loyal to your company.
Begin by reminding them of the value you offer, whether it’s your outstanding service, fast shipping, or enticing product selection. If you haven’t described your offerings in a solution-centered way, now is the time to start. When people believe you care about solving their problems, they’ll want to stick with you.
Establish and maintain your presence on review sites, too. When people take the time to give their feedback on those platforms, respond to them thoughtfully even if they don’t have glowing praise to give.
Resist the urge to speak ill of your competitors, too. It only takes a second for someone to screenshot content that makes you come across as immature and insecure.
5. Website Takeovers
Besides orchestrating the data breaches mentioned earlier, cybercriminals can wreak havoc by breaking into your website and displaying offensive or misleading content. It’s easy to envision the shock that might ensue if you run a childcare website that hackers fill with curse words or questionable imagery.
Website takeovers often have a ransomware component to them. That means you may try to log in to your site as an administrator and see messages that demand you pay a specific amount before accessing the content. Unfortunately, paying the ransom often doesn’t cause the desired results, although some desperate site owners do it anyway and hope for the best.
An easy safeguard is to update your site plug-ins and scripts. The latest versions often patch security vulnerabilities. Your website hosting provider also plays a role in protecting against takeovers. Read reviews before selecting one, and be wary of any companies that people flag as having unaddressed security issues. Consider using security tools, too. Some products scan your site for problems, letting you know how to fix them.
6. Climate Change
Climate change is a longstanding problem in today’s society. Knowledgeable people and those in positions of power have taken various steps to combat it. Some developed clean energy options and low-emissions vehicles. Others passed ambitious legislation to mandate that nations work towards meeting eco-friendly goals.
Scientists believe there’s a link between climate change and natural disaster severity. Research also shows that business owners view climate change as a genuine risk to their enterprises. Many human-driven activities exacerbate climate change. For example, experts say Amazon deforestation will worsen it along with related problems, such as food insecurity. Cattle ranching and harvesting wood for domestic use are among the leading causes of Amazonian deforestation.
Given the numerous factors influencing climate change, it’s understandable if business owners feel helpless to stop it. However, small but positive changes matter. For example, you may prioritize working with sustainable suppliers or use connected sensors to monitor and reduce your resource usage.
Since climate change affects regions differently, it’s also wise to stay abreast of the challenges it’ll most likely bring for you this year based on where you operate and where your customers and suppliers live.
Preparedness Prevents Panic
As a business owner, you probably juggle various responsibilities on a given day. Maybe that means calming an unhappy customer, retraining an employee who made a costly mistake, or assessing whether a potential price increase would discourage too many customers.
Thinking of the things that may threaten your business is not a pleasant activity. However, it’s a necessary one that could stop you from losing too much sleep. After all, when you’re well-equipped to deal with the catastrophes that could strike your company, the proactiveness will quicken your response, make it more impactful, and stop you from feeling overwhelmed.
About the author
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.