A retailer with an 88-year presence on the British high street has today gone into administration. Up to 164 potential gaps on high streets across the UK and 111,000 people who are fearful for their jobs.
Many BHS staff will have turned up to work today to receive a letter from the business owner. Meanwhile the media was talking about the business slipping in to imminent administration, a story that has featured heavily in the business press over the weekend.
I can't help but think this administration has been talked into happening and the PR team could have done more to answer questions, better position the company and clarify what exactly the issues were. Details aside - and there are many! - there are a few lessons for any business facing a crisis.
Firstly, don't bury your head in the sand. Take control of what people are saying about you.
Yes, you are busy keeping your business afloat but keep dialogue going with key stakeholders to ensure they hear your side of the story.
It's important to keep staff, clients, investors and suppliers up to date, particularly if you are struggling but working hard to resolve issues. Say what the challenge is and detail what you are doing to rectify it giving a deadline if at all possible about when the challenge should subside. Stakeholders will appreciate this and may give you breathing room to resolve temporary issues.
Keep your staff updated on what's happening. They shouldn't first hear bad news in a newspaper, on the TV or radio. Any bad news should come from you as the business owner and you should say what you are doing to resolve those issues and how they have come about.
Ideally, you should be keeping staff regularly informed on business performance, challenges and trading updates. They are your best PR tool. They can bring positive news into the market if they are kept regularly informed. But, if they are the last to hear bad news, it doesn't make for great PR for your business.
You should also consider adding to your stakeholder list a trusted journalist or journalists with whom you already have a good relationship. Tell them what is happening and answer their questions about what you are doing to resolve this. What is the bigger picture affecting your business? A piece in the local or trade press which positively sets out your side of the story could be the difference between investors/clients/new merger partner staying with you or them leaving in droves because of relying on market rumours.
Business can be very tough and markets certainly don't hold prisoners, but with open dialogue you can work to retain your business reputation and keep as many key stakeholders on side as you can.
High Street retailer British Home Stores (BHS) has gone into administration, putting 164 shops and almost 11,000 jobs at risk. Administrators will now seek to sell all or part of the 88-year old department store group, although it will continue to trade in the meantime. They said BHS had "no alternative" after talks to find a buyer failed.