If you run a business, the time will eventually come when you face a disaster. Something will inevitably go wrong, and it will be your job to pick up the pieces.
The way that you do that, though, is just as critical as the disaster itself. If you make errors in your handling of a crisis, it can come back to bite you and your business in the future. In extreme circumstances, your enterprise could fail, or you might have to resign. What you do in those first 48 hours, therefore, is critical.
When we talk about disasters, what do we mean? Examples include:
- Global pandemics
- Violence between employees that results in injury or death
- Data loss or breach
- Full IT system failure
- Weather events, such as flooding or hurricanes
- Chemical spills and environmental hazards
- Cash flow crunch or failure of lines of credit
Here’s what you need to do in the first 48 hours following a disaster:
When something disastrous happens, a lot of companies will try to hide it under the rug and pretend it never happened. It is someone else’s problem. It is too big to deal with right now.
That approach, however, can come back to bite you, especially if it puts people at risk.
If, for instance, you have had a chemical spill, you need to get on the phone to emergency response services immediately. Tell them about the situation and get them to come and clean up the mess as fast as possible.
You should also tell the staff about what’s happened, and the local authorities, if necessary. Everyone who needs to know should know so that you can protect your local community.
Don’t sit on a data breach. Eventually, customers will discover that their accounts have been compromised, and you’ll be liable for additional penalties. Send out emails immediately telling people what has happened.
Also, be honest with your colleagues. If you’re facing a disaster that puts their pay at risk, let them know. By telling people early, you can foster adaptation and prepare employees psychologically for what’s coming. You may have to take drastic action, such as lowering wages or putting people on temporary leave. We already see this in response to the current epidemic.
Initiate Your Plan Of Action
Companies should already have plans for how they will deal with common risks in advance. Ideally, therefore, you should already have a system in place, telling you how to proceed in the emergency scenarios listed above.
If you see a disaster unfolding, initiate your emergency response. Get the ball rolling as soon as you discover what’s happening. Do whatever you can to protect employees and your customers. Ensure that you connect fast with whatever services you need to ensure that your business remains viable. Don’t allow paralysis on your team—issue instructions to solve the problem, no matter what it takes.
Work Out When You Will Exhaust Your Resources
Disasters and emergencies are usually very taxing on your resources. You can often find yourself struggling to make ends meet or find the people you need.
The trick here is to economize. You want to preserve your key people and critical stockpiles to address the most pressing needs. You also need to consider how long you can continue operating on your current reserves. Unfortunately, it is probably less than you think. In the event of a credit crisis, you can rattle through your cash reserves in a matter of weeks.
Think On The Level Of Campaign, Not Event
If you’ve never faced a crisis before, it can be tempting to see it as a “problem that you need to fix.” Almost always, though, that’s the wrong approach to take. Crises tend to be impossible to isolate. Typically, they spill over into other realms, creating all kinds of problems for the people involved.
For this reason, it is better to see a crisis as a campaign – an ongoing battle involving multiple elements.
Take the example of a business that experiences a chemical spill. Crisis management isn’t just about cleaning it up (although that is important). It also involves other things, like staff training and public relations. Incidents don’t happen in isolation. Often there’s more to them than that – and it requires a holistic mindset to put them right. Typically, recovering from a disaster is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a heck of a lot of time to get to the bottom of problems and put new processes in place that make you more robust.