September 9, 2016

How to Succeed In Crisis Management


September 11, 2001 was a day that changed the world and touched myself and my business directly. On the 15th anniversary of these tragic events, I am overcome with emotion for the sacrifices that so many made.  I witnessed the events first hand from my home office so I am keenly aware of their horror, and now in hindsight their impact, on the people and businesses affected. 
Whether it's an act of Mother Nature or human nature, innkeepers and all business owners need to be prepared to handle any emergency. It is easy to put off thinking about unpleasant and tragic events, however, crisis planning is critical to your businesses’ success. Inclement weather and manmade actions can take place at any time, so it's important to stay in control when things get out of control. Keeping your guests or customers at ease will make the difference between an experience they will rave about or rip apart.

The first few minutes after an emergency occurs are the most critical. You must react quickly and calmly to protect your clients, yourself, and your business. Nothing is too basic when it comes to being prepared, and learning as much as you can about what to do in a crisis situation will make you ready for it. Beyond calling 911, consider the following: know basic first aid and keep basic first aid supplies on hand; have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed and checked on a regular basis; stay updated on all zoning, health, and safety requirements; have fire extinguishers on hand, especially in the kitchen, and know what to do if a fire takes place there; formulate an evacuation plan for every room and be sure it is posted prominently. Be sure to train your staff for what to do in an emergency and conduct drills at least once a year. Have emergency phone numbers on hand and offer a clear way for your staff and clients to contact emergency responders in your area.

What if you have to evacuate your business for an extended period of time? My business did after 9-11 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In this technological age your books and records should be backed up offsite, however, have you ever tested the backup and retrieval process?  Today is a good day to do that. 

Part of knowing what to do in an emergency is an important element of any contingency plan, but it's not everything. You also need to have options for when the unexpected occurs. For example, if you’re an innkeeper, what if there is construction taking place in your neighborhood and your electricity goes out? You will need an alternative place for your guests to stay. That's why it's important to build relationships with fellow innkeepers in your area from the first day you open - and get to know the caliber of their inns. If you have to send guests to another B&B, the place you recommend (for better or worse) will ultimately reflect on you and your inn. One great resource for preparedness and contingency planning is www.ready.gov. It offers insights on how to make a plan as well as tips on preparing for everything from flash flooding and hurricane season to the Zika virus.  I cover these tips and many others in my book, Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies in Chapter 12.

The most important thing to remember when preparing for a crisis is to plan for it and then continually review that plan so it can be updated as needed and your staff will automatically know what to do. If it’s an issue or situation that is in the news communication with your clients is crucial, especially if you sense they may panic due to news coverage that creates unfounded or exaggerated fears. It's also a good idea to keep an eye on issues that might be impacting your city and your country at large. Brainstorming different scenarios you may not have thought of before will help keep you and your staff on your toes in the face of any challenge you may encounter.  Ultimately your success (or failure) does not have to be part of the crisis. 


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