Usually learning new things is exciting, but in this case not so much. I think it is safe to say that few would enjoy rolling blackouts. So what are they? How could they affect our businesses and what can we do to prepare? Keep reading for some tips in these uncertain times!
What Are Rolling Blackouts?
Rolling blackouts (sv. cirkulerande strömavbrott, fi. kiertävä sähkökatko) have been discussed in Finland since 2022, when the winter was not yet upon us. The energy crisis with its looming elictricity shortages could lead to situations in which parts of the country would experience planned power outages.
The blackouts would not be targeted at one area only, but would circulate so as not to affect only a few people, homes and workplaces many times in a row. Hence rolling. Houses in the immediate vicinity of hospitals would never be included, but otherwise anyone could get the experience of their area going dark.
Since there would be no electricity, we could immediately imagine machines such as elevators, traffic lights, refridgerators and water pumps running out of power. And how about lighting, air pumps or desktop computers? Then we didn’t even consider telephone towers yet.
Suffice it to say, an urban area in particular is absolutely not designed for a rolling blackout, let alone several of them.
Doing Electricity-less Business
How about your small business? Do you feel prepared to tackle electricity shortages lasting a few hours at a time, especially in the middle of winter when indoor temperatures drop quite fast, if there is no source of heating available?
It feels particularly unappealing when recalling that any electronic device needs electricity to connect to the internet, if business is to continue uninterrupted. All those digital or drop-shipped products you have filled your webshop with, will do your business no good, when the server of your website has no electricity to power its function.
Those of us, who rely on the internet to teach live, consult, or coach customers scattered around the globe, will not do any better, if our precious smartphones and tablets experience no connection to the internet.
How Can We Prepare?
So how do we prepare ourselves and our livelihoods for situations when, in addition to the mere nuisance of having no internet access, the navigation of staircases in total darkness becomes a safety concern, flushing a toilet is a no-go, or opening a faucet creates a clonking cough because no water appears?
For those of us, who work from home and may have kids as well, the questions are particularly relevant. There are numerous sources out there by both governmental institutions and private persons for prepping tips, all of which a quick googling will reveal.
To help you along here, however, consider covering your basic needs such as:
- Shelter, including its temperature: curtains or blankets to place in front of windows are a must.
- Food and water: how will you heat food when neither kettle, stove nor oven work for hours, if each needs electricity?
- Lighting: indoors and for hands-free (!) navigation of staircases. Instead of something utterly ugly, in addition to head lamps, Eva and I have purchased LED lights to charge, which can be used on a balcony or terrace for a cozy feeling.
- As for stairs, the elevator stopped working for a few days in my building, which meant putting one dog on a flexi leash, so she could walk at her own pace, and (yay hooray…) carrying the other one up and down several flights since she is scared beyond reason of stairs. This little practice period, yet massive ordeal, convinced me rolling blackouts would be a total horror.
There are other implications, too, of a rolling blackout, so do read up a bit!
Since we run a website for business skills as well as getting organised in the firm, my ultimate concern in this particular blog post is more in the line of reputation management.
How do we communicate a looming risk of local rolling blackouts to both current and potential customers? Specifically, how do we pull it off such that we don’t sound panicked, but professional and in as much control as one can be in such a situation?
What aspects will we need to put emphasis on, when considering our chosen business model? By this I refer to for example what we sell, how those offerings are delivered, and also how we might deal with force majeur, such as a temporary inability to show up for a training session already paid for by the client, or the closing of a brick-and-mortar space.
If there are team members, how do we as the leaders communicate to them our internal plan for risk management and reputation management? Perhaps it could benefit everyone to have some of them provide input before said plan is decided on, too. People are creative and I as one person will never come up with all angles myself.
The one thing I hope you take with you now is that we should never take anything for granted, but circumstances can change dramatically and quickly. Think of the stuff that is obvious, but also the parts you currently may view as stable and unchanging. Ask what could happen, if anything you view as reliable all of a sudden evolves into a loose cannon, or actual disaster. What then? Can it be fixed? Plan for it. Can it not? Plan how to communicate around it.
Spring will arrive soon here in Finland, so the risk of a rolling blackout decreases as temperatures rise, but I warmly suggest you send some time with this topic nonetheless. It is a practical and easily understandable path into risk management and reputation management, both of which perhaps sound a bit rigid and dusty, but in fact are as relevant as ever.
Our good reputations are built slowly, but due to poor communication or poor planning can be destroyed in seconds. Customers still look out for each others’ interests, so any chance we get to appear professional amidst a crisis will not go unnoticed. Unfortunately, often bad service is also remembered more clearly than the neutral version, so if we mess things up very badly, business will surely suffer. Not to worry though. Even corporations are capable of creating trainwrecks and in many cases they seem forgotten the next day. I certainly am not suggesting to rely on anyone’s questionable memory though, but speak for a great Customer Experience at all times.
And now I invite your thoughts in the comments!
Photo credit: Theo Eilertsen Photography.