Before the Crisis Hits…
May 19, 2014 | By Alexander Kippen |
The adage that the cover-up can cause more trouble than the crime has its equivalent in a corporate crisis – the follow-up can cause more trouble than the event that sparked the crisis.
From the Exxon Valdez to Tonya Harding the warning is clear – come clean quick or you too might face decades of inquiry and torment and become an example for bad management.
But the lesson that big names in commercial air flight and shipping, then automobiles and athletes, learned the hard-way is still sometimes ignored in the entrepreneurial world of small and mid-sized businesses. Perhaps because smaller businesses think they can pass unnoticed they often face crisis unprepared then try to dodge instead of confront what went wrong. Part of the small business challenge is lack of resources. Because they don’t have the time or the millions to pay lawyers and court costs they instead close their eyes and hope it will all go away. Better is to put your plan in place now before you need it.
Prepare for the Worst…
Like a sprinkler system, the best solution is in place before the problem that requires it. Along the same lines as having a lawyer before you end up in court or an accountant before you file your taxes, it’s a good idea to have your crisis team in place before you face your crisis. Otherwise when trouble hits, your only option is reaction using a plan quickly cobbled together under pressure. You may still win the day but luck will play a bigger role than your plan. Safer is to reverse that ratio.
Build your crisis team now under a single crisis manager. Maybe it’s you. If you have sufficient staff, designate individuals as sub-captains in charge of crisis related to fire, finance, harassment etc. in the same way you designate vice-presidents or managing directors of your business departments. Ask each to draw up an emergency plan. The benefit here is in allowing an individual to develop expertise in his/ her focus area. Also everyone else in the company is clear on whom to immediately look to in the event of trouble.
With your team in place now test your crisis management plans. You have time to do it and you’ll need that time. Building a crisis plan is easy. Testing it and adjusting it to work in the hard reality of hard reality can be hard. And time consuming. So don’t wait. Because if it goes wrong, the follow-up can cause more trouble than the event that sparked the crisis. Ask executives at Exxon or Tonya Harding.