After 20 years of crisis management consulting, training, and speaking at least five principles for coping with organizational crises and challenges remain remarkably reliable. They, and a few other thoughts, are my parting “gift” in this final column as I head into retirement in 2014:
- Taking care of victims remains job one. Affected people want to know whether they are safe and that you are doing your reasonable best to take care of them. Act and speak to reassure them it is so. This “reassurance” is a great litmus test for your decisions.
- Most solutions are internal. It matters little how well you communicate externally if you neglect your insiders. Be sure employees, shareholders, boards, customers, suppliers, etc. know what you are doing and why before you tell outsiders. (There are exceptions and publicly-traded companies sometimes must inform internal and external audiences simultaneously. Crisis management principles aren’t immutable.)
- Fast response and commitment to problem resolution. Whether social media or traditional media the solution is essentially the same.
- Speed saves in crisis management but it is not a synonym for stupid. Think before talking and acting even if you only have minutes to decide.
- Contrary to what journalists (and I was one) often insist, crisis avoidance is not always “tell it all and tell it now.” Sometimes the smart move is to plan for a perceived threat but only pull the trigger when compelled by outside forces. Do NOT, however, withhold information in violation of legal, regulatory, ethical, and moral mandates.
Now, for those starting a new company for the first time (I had zero business experience in 1994), the following insights are invaluable: “Burn” to succeed; be a people-person; provide a service or product that the marketplace will pay for; learn sales; network constantly; keep your name in front of prospects; hang around winners; have a terrific partner at home; and, for the tough times, rely on a “higher power” – however that may apply to you.
I do have some regrets. In the early years I should have been more inclusive in decision-making. I was so sure of my correctness and hell-bent to save clients that I bulldozed a few folks into acting when it would have been more constructive and persuasive to further involve them in planning and execution. Thankfully, I got better. (Acquiring business acumen is Darwinian.) I also regret not being more tolerant of clients whose management styles seemed convoluted and frustrating.
I do not regret firing a client when I learned that executives had misled me. It was one of the easiest and fastest decisions I ever made. To my knowledge, that was the only time a client knowingly deceived me. It was a pleasure to learn over the years that those who seek crisis management assistance self-select. They are typically honorable folks who encounter difficulty or make a mistake and earnestly want to fix problems and maintain trust with all who rely upon them. I worried about having to represent scumbags. Didn’t happen.
Amme & Associates has been quite a ride. Thank you to those who inspired me and followed my musings through almost 300 of these columns.
Dear reader, all of my columns and a handful of videos are available in a searchable database on this website.