For a large number of companies the current economic situation is already having a detrimental impact and there is a lot of political rhetoric about the current wave of Industrial Action when the financial environment is already bleak. There is always a knock on effect, it is not just the customers of the company affected by industrial action, but also the customers of their customers and so on. Whilst some customers of the catalyst company may have sympathy, it harder for customers further downstream to appreciate the ‘shockwave’.

This can provide businesses with an opportunity to think ‘out of the box’. Rather than accept that you can’t do something, find another way…”from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success” . The news this morning was decorated with voxpops of disgruntled commuters facing the prospect of a shutdown of the rail network and being unable to get into the office. A flexible business would be able to use their initiative and allow employees to work from home. Most households have access to the Internet and a phone line. Rather than wait for the strike to hit, build an ‘off the shelf’ contingency. Ensure there is a procedure for staff to easily claim a payment to cover the ‘expense’ of working from home. Set up a portal to allow staff access to certain information so that they can maintain the Customer Relationships remotely. If you were due to fly to a meeting, investigate offices that offer video dial-in, that will still be more cost-effective than flying! If the postal workers are on strike, there is always plenty of warning – seek information on alternative carriers and get those contracts in place – you may find this is more cost-effective anyway.

And when you have done all this…sing about it from the rooftops! “We do not stop working, we work around and work clever!” In a competitive market, turn these problems into Unique Selling Points…be cheerful with your customers and delight them in the fact that your strengths are always in being able to service their requirements! Think of yourselves as the modern day Pony Express.

There are obviously processes that would need to be gone through in order for this to be feasible, but rather than think about ‘why this can’t be done’, think about ‘why it should be done’. Don’t wait for the day of the strike hoping that eleventh hour negotiations save the day – plan in advance and tell your customers what you are doing and why – it could be an amazing opportunity for marketing. Stephen Covey’s first habit of a highly effective person is ‘to be proactive’. Apply this habit to your business, get the necessary people around the table and put your plan together – who knows you may even alter some of your day to day practises and maximise your return on investment at the same time.