In business, it’s not a question of if things will go wrong, but when (and how much). That’s why flexibility is key.

Simply put, if you can’t bend, you break when force is applied (and it will be applied – frequently and enthusiastically). Like a good piece of equipment, your business must be fault tolerant.


Here are 10 ways to increase yours.

  1. Embrace negativity. Yes, a positive attitude is a wonderful, even necessary, thing. But failure is always an option. It’s good to consult your inner pessimist on occasion to get his thoughts on how the sky could fall. Only by imagining worst-case scenarios can you begin to plan for them
  2. Embrace wild-eyed optimism. What’s the best thing that could happen to your business? Are you prepared for it? A deluge of good things can drown your business as effectively as a downpour of bad
  3. Create a change-ready culture. Too many employees (and managers) are conditioned to regard change with dread, something to be avoided at all costs. But change is also responsible for all of your business’s success. Coach a friendly attitude toward change, from the top down
  4. Don’t make a habit of pushing the limits of your equipment. Build in some extra capacity – equipment, financing availability, personnel, and so on. It’s a good thing to run efficiently, but redlining all of the time is going to blow something, usually at the worst possible time
  5. Look up. Many business owners plan 3, 6, 12 months in the future, which is the equivalent of looking at your feet while you walk. It may seem paradoxical, but planning further out – years out – can increase your fault tolerance. Long range plans will almost certainly change, but by looking ahead, you’ll be able to see alternate (maybe better) routes while you still have time to change course
  6. Look back. It’s not foolproof, but one of the most reliable indicators of whether something will succeed in the future is its having succeeded in the past. In other words, always document your results with modern data and analytics and consult them when change comes along and demands a quick decision
  7. Cultivate dissent. A leadership team that’s always in complete agreement is anything but fault tolerant. It’s an echo chamber, amplifying the prevailing point of view until nothing else can be heard. Encourage everyone, anywhere in your business, to share opinions, concerns and ideas
  8. Open up communication channels. To respond in an agile way, your communication has to flow smoothly. Some businesses have a relatively flat organizational structure that promotes this naturally. But even if yours is more hierarchical, take steps to ensure that communication flows up and down the channels easily and swiftly. This includes partners, such as suppliers and financing providers, too
  9. Delegate. Your leadership team shouldn’t be bogged down with day-to-day operations. Delegate routine decision-making so your leadership is able to focus on strategy, rather than just tactics
  10. Keep your technology and equipment up to date. The pace of technological change can be exhausting, but new advances mean new features, new capabilities and new opportunities. Don’t miss out because your infrastructure can’t keep up. For technology that changes especially rapidly (an increasingly large category), consider leasing or another financing option that facilitates quick, easy upgrades

It’s counterintuitive, but the ability to handle the unexpected is determined to a large degree by careful planning. Start planning today so your business can bend, not break, when the winds of change come along.