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July 24, 2021

How to foresee unforeseen problems


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Tired of paperwork?

As an entrepreneur or business owner, unforeseen challenges have persistently caused trouble for businesses. These challenges can take the form of unexpected events that one can control, such as a worker falling behind on their deadline, or they may constitute something bigger, like a grave obstruction in a technical project, or one of your essential employees deciding to quit right after signing on huge business for your company. But they can also come in the form of unexpected events that can’t be controlled, such as extreme weather changes, the rise of a pandemic, changes in prices of raw material and more, 

Kevin, a construction manager, mentions an unexpected challenge he faced while he was contracted to build an extension in a client’s house. This small, yet significant challenge cost the laborer an extra $150 - which the client refused to reimburse, claiming Kevin had been “contracted to finish the work”, regardless of all or any unforeseen issues. This extra cost came out of Kevin’s own pocket, amounting to a loss from his end.

However, unforeseeable problems can also come as a result of unexpected growth. You may launch a marketing campaign that causes demand to increase drastically, or you may have an influential person talk about your goods or services which will have a similar effect. On the one side, amazing news for more customers; however, for your operations, unexpected growth is a nightmare.

Still, learning how to face, overcome, and even arm yourself for these challenges without losing your cool or compromising your long-term goals is a crucial part of owning a business. No matter the magnitude of the problem, the following tips are guaranteed steps you should take so that you are prepared to handle any unforeseen circumstances that may arise in your business:

Test your product or service thoroughly

On your own, it is possible to identify potential problems when it comes to a new product or service that you are about to make available to the public. Testing is crucial to the success of any business. Some necessary changes may be discovered and implemented as you begin to receive customer feedback. However, it is best that you find these hiccups before putting out a product or service just so you can avoid getting forced to run damage control at any point afterward.

Track the progress of your projects

Those who do not learn from history are prone to repetition. This is why compiling detailed records and applying lessons learned from your own experiences is vital to the success of your business. Detailed track records and timesheets will give you adequate oversight in your business and will also provide good insights for future decisions. 

The first time is always around is always a challenge, however, if a similar project approaches in the future then historical data will help you lay a trap for those problems.

Learn from others’ experiences

Another way to learn from history is by joining a community of people in the same industry. Doing so will give you the opportunity to learn from their experiences. One of the many communities that support contractors is - there you will hear from industry professionals who support new entrants facing all kinds of unexpected challenges from recruiting, pricing, project management to equipment purchasing and more. 

By adopting a learning mindset, you will be able to make more informed decisions and give the best responses to similar challenges that will emerge in the future.

Learn to thrive by improvising 

People who are masters at improvising handle unforeseen circumstances the best. Challenges often arise in sudden, unanticipated ways and disrupt previously existing plans or increase the amount of time, money, or effort necessary to complete an ordinarily straightforward task, just like in Kevin’s case presented earlier. However, a swift and creative mind that can easily devise alternatives when an original plan has been disrupted will always be better at surviving such unforeseen challenges. 

Let’s think of a hypothetical situation in which you are the manager of a small-sized painting business with a team of 6. One day - out of the blue - 4 out of the 6 staff members decide to join together, leave the company, and start their own business. In their contract, they are obligated to stay for another two weeks before leaving the company. As such, you have two weeks to find replacements.

In these kinds of situations, a great manager will have to think creatively and pull 4 new staff members out of thin air in a short period of time. Whether it’s reaching out to a recruitment agent, or going out on the search by yourself, both will require you to think outside the box to find the solution.

Exclusion clauses

These are good legal defenses against any unforeseen issues that may arise in the execution of a contract. A well-written proposal or contract is very important. You must specify in written form what you will do in the proposed project and what will happen in the event of unforeseen modifications to the scope of the project. Also, you always have to expressly declare the adverse conditions that may arise, how exactly you will be excluding yourself from any liability or superfluous costs these situations may accrue, and ensure that your client is aware of the exclusion clause(s) for you to have a guarantee that these clauses will be effective.

A brilliant example is this exclusion clause that was inserted in a building contract:

"Expenses incurred on account of unusual or unanticipated underground conditions (e.g, fill, rock, groundwater) shall be paid by the client as extra work."

This contractor has foreseen some specific unusual circumstances that may occur while his team is digging the foundation for the contracted building and, using this clause, has sufficiently protected himself from having to take on any extra costs that have not been covered in the monies settled on in the primary contract.

Note that this contractor was most likely able to foresee these unusual conditions through experience, either personal or learned from another contractor’s encounter with these same circumstances.

Maintain good communication

Having excellent communication with your clients from the onset will make things simpler for you if a challenge were to arise. The more upfront, straightforward, and transparent you are with your clients, the easier it will be to let them know about any hitches in the job you are doing for them. In fact, a problem will seem less of a problem to them because you have always maintained good communication and they will take the information better than when you only reach out to them in times of trouble. 

Staying calm, informed about the situation, and keeping a rational mindset will also make it easier for you to communicate with the people you work with so that you can collectively discover the best solutions to any problems. This also prevents the problematic event of an interested party finding out about a challenge too late to do anything about it.

Ask for feedback

More than just giving a comprehensive report when something happens or changes, effective communication also applies to encouraging constructive feedback. Your employees may notice certain things that you as a supervisor or manager may never see, so it is important to encourage their perceptions for the benefit of the business. Applaud constructive contributions made by your employees to a discussion because their insight might just provide you with the foresight you will need to tackle a possible future challenge.

Finally, in the face of unforeseen problems, DO NOT:

  • Rush headfirst into responding or making decisions once the problem arises.
  • Let yourself fall into panicked thinking and biased views on the situation as these will give off the impression that you have no control over your emotional responses.
  • Assess the problem using short-term thinking because it is very unlikely that one challenge will completely destroy your business.
  • Stunt communication with your staff or your clients as good communication is an effective remedy for any bad business situation.
  • Refuse to work with others in finding a solution. A business is hardly ever a one-man show so neither should the solving of an unforeseen challenge.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula to make you better at anticipating future challenges. However, these tips will put you in the right direction, helping you to make more logical decisions and possibly prevent problems by tackling the underlying causes before they manifest.

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