I’m writing the first draft of this post in my condo on Miami Beach. We’re under a hurricane warning for Matthew, due to make landfall tonight. The bands of wind and rain started sweeping across the area from late this morning. This gave us a taste of what is expected to come, multiplied by three!
With the power sure to go out at some point, I’m charging all my devices. When the TV and air conditioning go out, at least I can continue to work – today. Tomorrow is another day.
The only issue I’ve had so far is trying to find a secure place for my rental car. The management of the building I am staying in gave me two choices. I could either leave it in the lower garage which they know will flood. Or I could risk parking it in the street, where it is likely to get damaged by flying debris. They said it was my choice to decide which risk I wanted to take! I chose instead to drive it to a nearby hotel that had higher-level parking available.
I wanted to share my current, or by the time you read this my recent past situation, as it was the inspiration for this post. The topic I am referring to is how to prepare business for anything that life may throw our way.
How would your business cope if a hurricane or other significant event happened? Here are some of the things I saw in Miami over the past couple of days. Hopefully, they will give you some food for thought and ideas on what you yourself might do to be better prepared.
1. ASK EMPLOYEES TO HELP. The local supermarket chain, Publix, asked some of its employees who were off, to return to work. They knew there would be a last-minute rush of clients for all those forgotten items. My early-morning visit certainly proved them right.
If you know that your business will be impacted by an event, whether positively or negatively, then you need to start by preparing your staff. In the case of the hurricane, Publix knew there would be the need for more staff before it hit. They called those on their day off and asked them to help with the surge in visits that morning. They then gave everyone the day off the following day, when they knew their outlets would close.
What events may impact your business and how would your staff needs, or theirs, change? Adverse weather conditions? Then allow staff to stay and work from home if they prefer to do so. A terrorist attack on your offices or a threat made to your business? Work with local police and follow their guidance. In the case of immediate danger, get everyone out and moved to a secure location.
Time taken now to consider all possible scenarios will put you in a strong situation should any of them occur. You will be able to react immediately and not lose time in discussing your options when time is at a premium.
2. ORDER EXTRA QUANTITIES OF ESSENTIAL GOODS. Two days before the hurricane struck, I went to Walmart, only to find that they had already run out of water. However, just down the road, another supermarket had plenty of water. Clearly, their managers had been better prepared, or perhaps people had just gone for the “obvious” solution to their needs.
Sometimes in only takes a little thought to find a better answer to the problem. In my case, like thousands before me, I had thought that bigger was better. It wasn’t. By going to a smaller outlet off the beaten track, I found all the water I needed and a pleasant and quiet environment in which to do my shopping.
When planning your response to events, don’t take your first idea as the only one, or even the best one. Brainstorm alternatives and then analyse what the best solution would be for each circumstance. For more on responding to terrorist attacks in particular, read “Prepare for Anything: How to Build an Actionable Incident Response and Recovery Strategy” by CBIZ.
3. PLAN FOR THE WORST BUT HOPE FOR THE BEST. I like this statement from Florida’s Governor Rick Scott during Thursday morning’s briefing. It was comforting to hear such words on the morning the hurricane was due to hit. Unfortunately, he became ever more negative during the day, mentioning that “There will be deaths” which no-one wants to hear. Luckily he was proven wrong at least in Miami, perhaps because we all did what he asked us to do and stayed inside and off the roads. The city was a ghost town by lunchtime on Thursday. That was even scarier than the hurricane itself, the eye of which ended up missing us altogether.
I believe most businesses plan for the best and hope the worst doesn’t arrive. It would be far better to prepare for many of the worst possible scenarios – well in advance. If laws were passed banning certain ingredients which you use in your products, do you have a possible replacement for each? Suppose consumers reject or demand certain business practices, how would you respond? What about your government adding mandatory practices or behaviours for your industry, could you accommodate them, both physically and financially?
4. DO WHAT YOU CAN DO. Tolls were suspended on all South Florida highways where evacuation was recommended or ordered. This made the traffic flow smoother and gave families one less thing to worry about. In disaster areas, it’s not uncommon to see local businesses donating food, water, blankets, shelter or other items. It’s not their “job” to do so, but the best organisations feel involved in the events impacting their local community, on whom their businesses depend. It is both generous and admirable to see companies doing this – especially those which don’t turn it into a PR campaign!
What would the communities in which you have your offices, need the most in times of strife? Budget for such support every year, even if such events are rare. Better to have some extra budget at the end of the year, than to be in the position of being unable to help your local customers when they are most in need.
5. EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES DEMAND EXCEPTIONAL DECISIONS. There were queues for petrol at every gas station yesterday and again this morning. Luckily the petrol suppliers had organised for delivery lorries to constantly do their rounds to deliver to all the stations several times during the day. I know that it meant extra sales for them too, but it took quick decisions and organisation to satisfy the significant increase in demand. Remember people were buying not only for their cars, but also for their home generators.
Would you be able to ramp up the manufacture of your product within mere hours or would it take days? What would it take to have sufficient supplies in stock to increase your production at short-notice? You may decide not to do so, but with the opportunity for increased sales, you should at least consider your options.
This sort of situation not only arises during external events, it could also result from one of your competitors having a product recall. While I’m sure you wouldn’t wish this on them, it does give you the opportunity to step up and help your category customers by providing them with a replacement product. And it could perhaps also help you to convert a few customers from your competitor as well.
So these were just a few of my observations here in Miami this week, and the relevant learnings that I wanted to share. How have you planned to prepare business for future opportunities and threats? What situations have you already reviewed and which of the others that I have mentioned have you forgotten to consider?
Please share your plans and also your experiences below. Or feel free to comment about other situations where you need help to plan for different future scenarios. I am sure other readers here will be happy to help, as much as I am.
If you haven’t yet done much in terms of preparing your business for potential future events then contact us and let’s discuss your situation. I know we can help, together with our exceptional partners in future scenario visualisation, to get the whole organisation behind the preparation.