Do not be caught off guard, prepare for a crisis now.

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We see it all the time. Businesses deal with crisis, either over a product recall, a devastating weather event, an accident that harms a consumer or a CEO scandal.

As a business owner, you have many daily concerns to deal with. Being prepared for a crisis may not be on your list. All the same, it needs to be in today’s fast-changing environment.

Preparation is principal to ensure your business continues to function regardless of what happens. Most companies know what their vulnerabilities are, but yet fail to plan to mitigate those situations. Head in the sand does not work. Crises happen with or without you so why not be ready?

Where to start with crisis preparation? It is easy to over think the process and become overwhelmed. Developing a simple plan is better than not having one.

Examine your company’s state of readiness. These are the questions you need to ask:

Is there is a crisis plan? And where is it?

Does it have the latest contact information for key personnel and stakeholders such as insurance agents and legal counsel?

Is it relevant to the current state of the business, or is it just boilerplate?

Who are the people involved in managing the situation?

And are they prepared and knowledgeable about the company’s systems and procedures?

Once you answer the above questions, then you can start the real process.

Begin with ABC.

Below are some critical items that need to be included in a basic plan.

Assemble a team.

When a crisis hits, there are many moving parts. Managing a crisis is not a one-person activity. It takes a team.

Select a core team made up of business-critical people with specialists depending on the situation. That includes some external people like legal counsel. These are people who understand the circumstances at hand. It should be industry specific. Training and regular drills are vital to readiness. Contact information should be reviewed and updated at least quarterly.

Build a plan.

To build a program, you need to understand the risks to your company and industry. Examine how other organizations, both inside and outside your industry, handled a crisis. Also, review any crises your organization faced before, asking yourself how they were managed and was it successful?

To be fully prepared for a crisis, you need to be aware of possible scenarios facing your organization. You need to understand your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the threats to it. Ask internal stakeholders to identify the most vulnerable areas or processes.

An organization has to be listening at all times, and that’s where a monitoring program with keywords will assist you. Due to the speed of social media and how fast a crisis could evolve, it’s mandatory that monitoring systems be in place before a disaster happens.

Create a toolkit

A toolkit holds the specific scenarios. Those are distinct to your business and industry. Some universal ones are weather events, fraud, and customer dissatisfaction.

Develop holding statements around universal and business-specific scenarios will buy you the time you need when a crisis is breaking. Holding statements bridge the gap between when the initial crisis breaks and when you get more concrete information on the situation. They should be prepared for all channels including social media platforms and be preapproved by executives and legal before a crisis strikes.

Build processes and responses to identified scenarios. The scenarios should be named, key stakeholders identified, and what notifications systems are to be used to disseminate correct information quickly to both internal and external audiences.

Think of a flow chart. If “a” happens then “b” happens, and so on. For example, during a hurricane, x, y, and z would happen.

Having a plan in place where you do not have to focus on the systems as to how to react to a crisis allows you to concentrate on the actual crisis as soon as it unfolds. That will give you time when time seems to speed up.


Leadership Takeaways

– A crisis will happen. The question when will it happen.

– Examine your company’s state of readiness in managing a crisis is the starting point.

– As easy as A (assemble a team), B (Build a Plan), C (create a toolkit)

– Having a plan in place before the crisis hits, allows for you to focus on the actual crisis, not on the systems of managing a crisis.


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This column was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on September 28, 2018, and nationally distributed to over 300 media outlets through the Tribune Content Agency. 

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