The Three P’s of Crisis Leadership: Planning, Patience, and Practice

Today’s guest blog post comes from Dan Weedin, of Toro Consulting Inc.. Dan Weedin is a Seattle-based insurance and risk management consultant. He helps his clients to make better, more informed decisions on their risk management to save them money, time, and frustration. His strategies on crisis leadership helps his clients keep their business moving forward no matter what obstacles get in the way. Dan is an award-winning speaker and has a regular monthly column in the Kitsap Business Journal. Visit his web site at www.DanWeedin.com; call him at (360) 271-1592; or e-mail him at dan@danweedin.com.

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Decisions made in real time more often than not…are really bad.

 

When crisis occurs, and it will every year, how you respond to it will ultimately determine your survival. If you’re a small business, you don’t get the cash flow, cash reserves, resources, or human assets that your larger brethren in the corporate world do. A sudden loss of cash flow, ability to operate, or reputation damage can literally kill your business regardless of how much insurance you have.

 

The newspapers and cyberspace are filled with recent examples of crisis – the tornadoes in the Midwest and East Coast; Ice storms; Earthquakes in Japan; Sony being hacked into 5 times; the UK cell phone hacking scandal; Delta being fined for excessive rat feces on their planes. You get the picture.

 

When I coached high school basketball, I used to regularly run drills called “Situations.” These would be end of half, and end of game situations where the game is on the line. Over the course of the year, we rarely ran into those situations. However, we were prepared for them when they came and as importantly, we knew how to act in a tight situation. Can you say the same thing about your team?

 

In order to be prepared to survive a crisis, you must be willing to understand and exercise the “Three P’s.”

 

Planning – You have to create some time to evaluate your vulnerabilities. Don’t be “Pollyanna-ish” and think it won’t happen to you. It happens to everyone in one form or fashion eventually. Bring your team together and brainstorm. Triage the perils into priorities and determine how you will handle each one. Will you insure, avoid, control, or some combination? The reality is that by bringing in your team, you will get a better understanding and rich dialogue about what should keep you up at night.

 

Patience – In this country, we are constantly on instant gratification mode. We want things done now and we want them done our way. Crisis management doesn’t work that way. It’s a process that takes patience and perseverance. It demands that all members of your team get engaged, have input, and above all implement. Just because you don’t have a crisis right away doesn’t mean it’s not working! Your goal is to expect the best and plan for the worst. Patience in developing a model that will be fluid at the outset and go through adjustments and course correction in the middle is a necessity.

 

Practice – Just like I made my teams practice their crisis situations, you’ve got to put your team and system to the test once in awhile. You can’t effectively save someone’s life if you’ve never practiced CPR or First Aid. You can’t effectively respond to crisis if you’ve never practiced it, either. Even if it’s simply going through the exercise of learning to think, act, and make decisions under stress, then your business and your team are the winners. You take practice swings before hitting a golf ball; practice giving a speech to the mirror before the audience; and practice that musical number before belting it out to the crowd. If you don’t make it a priority to practice your crisis response, you are doing your team a huge disservice. Practicing your plan fundamentally improves morale, increases efficiency, and may just save your business from disaster.

 

All the risk management in the world won’t prevent disaster and crisis from happening. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. As you read this, you know that, too. It’s negligent to not be prepared to respond to perils and situations that could ruin your business. Everyone gets the same amount of time in the day. How you use yours is about priority, not process. What you make a priority in your business, and in your life, will eventually be brought forward and tested.

 

Can your business pass the test?

 

© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Hiring and Promoting the Best People that Fit into Your Organization

Our guest blog post is from Bert Holeton, President of The Mastermind Group (www.the-mastermind-group.com). 

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When it comes to choosing the right individual to join your organization, or the right individual to promote into a key position, or the right combination of individuals to form a team – it’s all about performance and fit. To get PERFORMANCE, you need to be able to:

- Select the right people for the right positions

- Develop the right people to be their best and deliver results

- Transform groups of people into high-performing teams

 

The right FIT elevates the performance of the right people – but fit to what?

- Their responsibilities

- Their direct supervisor

- Any group of people they need to team with

- The culture of the organization

It is possible to PREDICT PERFORMANCE AND FIT before you make decisions about people. Here’s what you need to know:

Passion & Purpose: What lies behind our innate and unchanging nature. What are this individual’s core values and purpose in life?

Experience & Knowledge: Our education, work experience, training, industry knowledge, and skills. What verified experience and knowledge does this individual bring to the position?

Critical Thinking: Our capacity to perceive the core issues that are driving the problems, conceive workable solutions to those problems, and implement those solutions. What is this individual’s capacity to leverage his experience and knowledge in this environment?

Focus of Thinking: The natural priority path we follow to face challenges, solve problems, and make effective decisions. How will this individual naturally choose to implement his critical thinking?

Workplace Motivators: The factors that drive and motivate us in the workplace, which influence our decision-making and impact how we apply ourselves. How will this individual prioritize his focus of thinking?

Natural Behaviors: The way we each deliver our focused critical thinking and core values into the world. How will this individual naturally tend to act on his motivations?

Team Dynamics: The way in which people work together – on a project team, an executive team, or a board of directors. Is there a strategic fit (alignment) or a tactical fit (balance)? Are there any potential problems – such as too many similarities, too many differences, or missing talent in any area?

Armed with this awareness, you can make people decisions that:

- Retain high-performing employees

- Increase individual and team morale and satisfaction

- Improve decision-making to achieve better results

- Align your people to the corporate goals

Thrive in the Upturn – a legal perspective

We keep hearing about the “new normal” and that the business environment has changed and we must change with it.  It’s still not clear what this “new normal” looks like; but we’re all working toward getting back to business.  In doing so, we are looking at how to communicate our value to customers and get revenues back on track.  For established businesses, now is the time to stand out and take bold action.  Companies looking to grow have many opportunities to do so.  

Acquisitions.  The recession has forced many small business owners to reconsider business ownership.  This environment has created opportunities in many industries to acquire these small businesses as a strategy for growth.   Many of the business owners are highly skilled and happy to stay on in the business adding a valuable resource to the team.  Acquisitions come with specific legal questions that must be answered in advance of proceeding.   You must confirm that all taxes, including employment, state and federal taxes, of the selling company have been paid.  Taxes are one of the few liabilities that can flow to a buyer, even in an asset purchase.  If key contracts with employees or clients are critical elements of the purchase, you must also get a solid understanding of the likelihood that those employees or clients will continue with the new company.  It’s important that you really investigate the company before jumping in, even when the price is right.

Geographical expansion.  Many companies are looking to expand to new markets where they see a gap or need for their services.  Geographical expansion can include opening a new office or buying a company in a different city or state.  You must be aware of licensing requirements in the new geographical area including the tax implications of making such a move.  The overall business structure should be implemented to maximize tax benefits while still accomplishing necessary company goals.  Similarly, employment law differs across jurisdictions, even within a state.  It’s important to modify your employment practices, as necessary, to meet the requirements of new geographical areas. 

Online expansion.  The online space has become very attractive for many businesses.  It’s now simple to set up an online presence with a shopping cart and social media tools.  When expanding your online presence, a Terms of Use and a Privacy Policy must be implemented to protect your business from activities of users.  A critical factor is that these contracts must be based on the specific functionality your site offers.   The required taxes on online sales is another area that may require investigation so you’re sure to calculate and pay it correctly.   

Many opportunities for expansion and growth exist with fairly low capital requirements.  Think about the ways your business can grow rapidly and investigate which ones are feasible for you in this market.  It’s a great time to stand out!

Your Bank Presentation- The 3 Key Components That Will Get You Noticed

Our guest blog post is from Michelle Goerdel, President of Biz Loan Link, a company that works with business owners to prepare presentations to banks that tell their stories.  Michelle is an ex-banker and knows the ins-and-outs of the commerical lending world.  Here she shares her insights on how to get noticed!

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Banks these days are an interesting conundrum. Every lender I talk to says “We’re Lending!” Yet, when I bring in a company’s package to a banker, we’re getting turned down by an average of 1/3 of those same lenders before they even meet the owners. What’s the deal? I am an ex-lender so I should know better than anyone how to put a well-thought out presentation together. I have to say that some of it is simply that each bank and even each lender has different interests that change frequently, policy is still changing on a regular basis, and at times the lender just gets tired of getting excited about a deal only to have it shot down by credit That said, there are ways to significantly improve your odds of getting some sort of offer- the latest poll I read said that the number of banks the average number of banks a company talks to before they get a deal is 6-12 depending upon the industry and the area.

First, bring the bank a complete package of financial information at the outset. If you do that you will immediately get a better reception! Rather than listing out everything you need, I suggest going to the SBA website http://www.sba.gov/content/sba-loan-application-checklist and simply printing it off. There are links to several of the forms necessary to SBA loans including the personal financial statement, which you should also print off and use.

Next, write out a bio of the owners and the company. Its very likely you’ll be talking to a lot of banks to find one, rather than tell the story in full several times have that ready to go. Discuss the history of the company, the ups and downs, or as I like to say “tell them what happened, what you did to fix it, and what it will be like going forward. This is actually a great exercise for thinking as an outsider looking in- how would you like them to know your company’s story? A separate section of discussion specifically on the financials from the same perspective will decrease significantly the number of questions the lender will ask, saving you time and the headache of answering never ending emails or phone calls.

Finally, write out a list of your top ten customers and competitors. Who are they, why, and how do you plan to keep the customers and fend off the competitors? This is often a good exercise to do on an annual basis anyway but will show the bank that you are thinking and planning for the future, as well as helping them to fill out a fairly important part of their credit write up!

I recommend putting all of these documents on a CD and bringing to your meeting with the bank. Often the pile of paper tends to get shoved to one side of the desk until the banker feels he has to look at it, while if you give them a CD they get a much cleaner desk and they have to actually open the files to take a look. Once they are into it they will keep going, hopefully getting you an answer back much more quickly- especially if they can copy and paste directly from your documents into their underwriting package.

To sum up, the best way to get a positive reaction from the banks is to be prepared, have a complete package at the initial meeting, and prove that you think and plan for your business and learn from the ups and downs that any business experiences.

Good luck!

An Umbrella on a Sunny Day

Our guest blog post this week comes from Ron Raport, Vice President and Business Banking Officer at Columbia Bank.  Ron will also be one of our panelists at our April 27 Equinox Focus Event

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One of my best friends loves to give me grief about being a banker.  And sometimes we bankers deserve all the grief my friend can dish out.  His favorite tease is the old one about the umbrella which never gets loaned out except on sunny days.  Sometimes lending can feel like that, but my friend really needs a better analogy to describe the complicated interplay between borrower and lender.

Rather than seeing bankers as stingy umbrella vendors, my experience suggests we are more like tool rental companies.  We offer an essential tool to enable our borrowers to accomplish tasks, we want our tools returned without damage and we need to make a profit to keep our rental company healthy in the long-run. 

The “money tool rental” is different for each user.  For an individual, our rental tools might purchase a home, buy transportation or unlock the door to higher education.  For a business, our rental “tools” enable and increase business production capacity.  Short-term production capacity is boosted by funding inventory and labor costs until accounts receivable are collected.  Longer-term production capacity is boosted by funding necessary equipment or sometimes the business’s warehouse, manufacturing or office space. 

Tools are a funny thing.  They can be invaluable at best, and a dangerous, dysfunctional contraption at their worst.  Most tools require experience or at least a good user’s manual and the willingness to learn.  Tools can also be broken by misuse or sloppy work.  Sometimes conditions change and the wrong tool can be useless or even damaging.  And the wrong tool in the wrong hands can be a recipe for disaster.  As “money tool” renters, we bankers need to do our part.  We need to understand our customers’ needs and match them to the right tools.  We need to make sure our renters understand how our tools work, how our rental agreement works and what the rental costs are.  If we ignore any of those responsibilities, we will create problems for our renters and for ourselves.  Just ask the home lending industry. 

As a “tool renter” to the small-medium sized business market, my goal is to find clients in need of “money tools”, to understand their needs and to offer the proper match to those needs.   When I do that, and when I communicate everything they need to know about using and properly returning the tools I have done a good job.  Now if you will excuse me, it’s raining again in Seattle and I need to grab my umbrella.