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; call him at (360) 271-1592; or e-mail him at



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

Feeling overwhelmed? Need to reduce risks… have too many big issues in front of you?…. Do something! You’ll feel better

Today’s guest blog comes from Dave Shapiro, a group leader at Excell CEO.  Dave mentors CEOs and business owners throughout the Puget Sound and West Coast to help them gain clarity about what is holding their company back and what will propel it to even greater heights.


One of the toughest issues to face is uncertainty… Many of the CEO’s/Business Owners I work with are facing issues they have never before addressed.  Often such issues come one at a time.  Today, I listened while a CEO said that he was facing the following issues: one of the buildings in which his business sits is now worth less then the mortgage on it; one of the Company’s markets had disappeared, not just reduced; a line they manufacture was related directly to the demand from the market that had disappeared; and one of the Company’s long time employees was performing inconsistently in ways that were costing the Company significantly.

Understandably, he felt hosed (overwhelmed).  Most of the time, when we feel overwhelmed, we become inert, stop acting.  While planning is often a good thing, taking action is often the first step to getting unstuck.  Here are some very quick steps to take that will lead to your feeling re-energized, provide some clarity and let you be more proactive as you move through your tough time.

  1. Write a list the issues/problems
  2. Prioritize the list
  3. Take only the most or least important item on your list and list all the options you can think of to do about that issue and prioritize those items.
  4. Do one of the items and with that result, see what has changed
  5. Look at that list again and add to it if something comes to mind.  Then do a couple more of the prioritized items and stop
  6. List what you have accomplished, no matter how small it may seem.


At this point there are a number of actions you can take and we can discuss these in another blog.  What I often feel after having taken some actions (listing, prioritizing and doing) is more powerful and able to address the issues in front of me.  Standing still is what usually makes me feel stuck.

What do you do when you are stuck?  How does that work for you?

Groundrules and Communication are Key to Success in Family Business

Our guest blog post comes from Steve Brilling, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center and Family Business Roundtable at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics. 


It all comes down to communication—clear, concise, honest communication, with a dash of compassion thrown in. Whether it is in a legal document or simply a written memo, it is a business imperative that every family member knows the ground rules beforehand. It will save you much heartache in the future. While a verbal understanding is better than nothing, it opens the door to bad memory and misinterpretation.

I’ve personally lived through it. I allowed my daughter to be hired into our company with some trepidation but established the ground rules with both her and her boss – if Anne didn’t perform, that was between her and her supervisor and she should be treated like any other employee. Fortunately for all of us, it worked out but she did leave about a year later, after falling in love with one of our top salespeople—that’s another story for another blog.

I tell the above story to remind ourselves that establishing ground rules is important for not only the family member but also the non-family employees. They often feel very conflicted about their role in the family drama. Do they really have full authority to treat the family member as “just another employee?” Be honest with yourself—how do you really feel when your son or daughter is criticized by a non-family member? I think I have pretty good emotional intelligence but this type of situation can test your resolve.