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2015 should be the year of chief resilience officer in small business

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Businesses looking for inspiration can turn to the public sector and evaluate an interesting new role that emerged in city authorities and local governments around the world in 2014 – the chief resilience officer (CRO). Cities, like businesses, are facing a wide range of challenges, many more extreme than commercial organisations, but require careful strategic and operational planning if they are to continue to improve and enhance the services offered to the public. 

In the private sector, leadership teams in SMEs should consider adopting some of the key principles of this role, in order to build resilience to cope with the uncertainties of the current market place. Indeed small business owners should go as far as to create a charter for business resilience that the CRO oversees and implements – outlined below are some key considerations.

Firstly, a quick explanation of my take on business resilience. This is not just about ensuring a company has the right systems and policies in place to maintain business continuity, more importantly this form of resilience is about building the stamina and fitness of a company to be alert to opportunities and respond at speed. This approach does bring with it risks and challenges. Above all it requires a fundamental re-think of the way companies are organised, which can be hard for smaller businesses with less resources and well established ways of working. 

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Traditional centrally controlled, “top-down” businesses do not have the flexibility built into their strategy and operations to enable them to respond to ever changing market conditions. Small business owners, who recognise this challenge and re-shape their businesses, accordingly, will not only survive, they will become more productive – and indeed will be well placed to take on rivals of all sizes.

How does your company build its business resilience? 

There are several steps that should be followed in order to maximise the opportunities. These include:

Recognise there is a problem

While it is always hard to accept that a current strategy or business model is no longer “fit for purpose” it is critical that the management team undertakes a frank and open evaluation of the company’s success in responding to new market opportunities and fending off competitors. If everyone around you is moving more quickly to expand into new markets, then you need to have an honest conversation about how well you really are doing. Appointing a CRO is the ideal way to quantify your business resilience, because it will ensure a fresh and dispassionate assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. 

Be clear about future strategy

If you are to accomplish significant organisational change you have to be confident of the goals you are trying to achieve. This will help your evaluation of current strategy and the operational structure of your company. You will be able to identify the areas in need of change and be able to explain to your staff why you want them to support such change. 

Be ruthless about what is core to your business

There is often discussion about what is core to a business, i.e. what generates revenue versus what does not generate revenue. As you go through your business resilience process you should be sure of what your core business assets and processes are, namely those skills, expertise and processes that deliver your competitive advantage. There is always room to improve the efficiency of every aspect of a business, but non-core processes should not distract your employees from the central goals of growing your business. 

Align your people, policies and processes with your infrastructure

With today’s workforce spanning five generations it is very difficult for any business to provide universal access to tools and information in a simple way. Companies are trying to add layers to their infrastructure on top of legacy systems, allowing workforces to be mobile and use any device. It is no easy task, but it is critical that the infrastructure, processes and policies you put in place empower your employees to be more productive, to respond more quickly to customer needs and use information to spot opportunities before rivals. Laying out a clear strategy will go a long way to enabling a dynamic workforce.

Business resilience strategies have always been important to companies of every size. Today more than ever it is essential to survival, but it is not just a defensive measure it is a business enabler. With the right approach to resilience companies will be able to build dynamic, responsive organisations. Guided by the Chief Resilience Officer they will be able to use their resilience to competitive advantage and create a buffer against the uncertainties of today’s global economy.

Giles Thorpe is managing director of CCE.

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