In business, nothing is certain except taxes and change. Whether you are creating a startup, buying an existing company or well into your small business journey, it’s important to remember that how well you manage change may well be the difference between a long-term, sustainable business and a ‘if only’ statistic.
Change can come in any shape and size. It could be deciding to work part-time, a complete restructure, expansion plans or new suppliers. It could involve new staff, redundancies, additional business partners or a buy-out of investors. It might be complete in two weeks, or two years.
Whatever the change might be, there are ways to communicate it to staff, suppliers and customers that will make the process as smooth as possible. Here are my top five:
Have your toolbox ready to go
The key to good communication is consistency. Providing regular communication prior to and during the time of change is important to prevent the insecurity that we feel when we have a lack of information. Not only does it stop gossip in its tracks, it also gives your staff the confidence to continue doing their best work. How you decide to communicate really depends on who your audience is—it’s usually best to have a variety of methods ready to be utilised proactively as needed. YouTube channel, blog, newsletter, magazine, email, social media accounts…you have a huge range of options. Get your communication toolbox ready now, so when change happens you can communicate to staff, suppliers and customers quickly and effectively.
Start at the top
Communicating change isn’t something you can delegate to anyone else. It needs to start at the top, and filter down to everyone else. You don’t have to know all the answers, you just need to keep your stakeholders informed every step of the way. Make yourself (or the head of your company) the face of all communications and most importantly, ditch the corporate jargon. Keep your language simple and make sure it can be easily understood by everyone, from upper management to the office intern.
Share the ‘why’
Simon Sinek says that the goal isn’t to sell to people who need what you have, the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe. By communicating the ‘why’, you are creating a loyal team who will follow you through any change, no matter how long or difficult. Make sure you tell people why you are making or experiencing the change—your ‘why’. This means talking about your beliefs and ‘cause’, rather than the end results (profits, usually).
Get ‘em engaged
The best way to retain trust through a time of change is engagement. Make sure all communication is two-way so all staff, suppliers and customers feel they have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the subject with you in detail. Better still, provide opportunities for your stakeholders to engage with each other, through social media or even at an informal group meeting. Sure, you have to be on the ball in terms of monitoring these discussions to make sure they stay on track, but it’s a brilliant way to keep everyone engaged and ultimately loyal to your brand through the tough times.
What do you think? Have you been through change in business, or are about to? Do you have any lessons you can share?