Few people would argue that the current economic climate has been examined ad nausea. The mainstream media has spilled countless gallons of ink and talked until they are nearly blue in the face, trying to assess the blame for our economy’s most recent recession. And politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to prey upon consumers’ fears to drive home their ideological agendas.

Joseph M. Carbonara, Editor in Chief
Joseph M. Carbonara, Editor in Chief

Understanding the current business climate and how your customers react to it remains paramount to your business’ short-term success. Generally, remaining close to your customers and understanding their needs can help a business leader chart a path to success over the long haul. Still, it seems to me that many business leaders fail to realize that there’s a whole list of more unsavory subjects that they need to be prepared to address, even if they hope these situations never arise.

That was one of the key messages conveyed by Mark Moses, during his keynote presentation at the fall conference hosted by the Commercial Food Equipment Association. “What are some of the unplanned events that could put your company out of business?” Moses asked the service agents and manufacturers in attendance.

As the audience contemplated his question, Moses went on to list several examples that could keep even the most seasoned business leader up at night. These include: managing growth properly as to not disrupt the balance of the business; the death of a key employee with a significant stake in the company; large customers changing their buying strategy; succession planning; being unable to get into your facility for 60 days due to fire, flood or other extenuating circumstances; or the introduction of new municipal, state or federal regulations that impact your business.

This represents just a small list of events for which many businesses fail to plan. Because of the unsavory nature of these issues, it’s easier to ignore these issues than proactively discuss them with your business partners before it’s absolutely necessary. On their own, the issues listed above can cause significant disruption for even the most time-tested organizations. Factor in an organization’s not being prepared to address these issues and you have the potential to make a bad situation much worse.

In the back of their minds, some people might be inclined to think that these business interruption issues will happen to someone else, but not to them. Moses quickly dispelled that notion by sharing a series of first-hand experiences that included many such examples. Although I may be paraphrasing here, Moses’ message was pretty clear: yes, this can happen to you too so you better plan for the unexpected.

As the year winds to a close, what better time to take a closer look at any number of factors that impact your business? This can include making sure your disaster plans are up to date, reviewing insurance policies to make sure they fit the needs of the business, examining your balance sheet to ensure it’s in order and anything else that seems relevant.

Look closely at your relationships with customers, suppliers, creditors and anyone else who touches your business.  Make certain that these key business partners have multiple contacts within your organization. Having only one person responsible for your relationship with your biggest customer or supplier can place your business at risk should that individual leave the company.

I realize that these issues do not represent the more passion-inducing aspects of the foodservice industry.  But managing them effectively will allow you to dedicate your energy to those tasks that you truly enjoy and provide a solid foundation for your business.