Some lessons from Hurricane Irene. By no means do I intend here to minimize the losses due to this storm for many people. But I think we all have to learn from extraordinary circumstances and, at all times, to be our own best counselor.
• On Saturday we had lunch at the Wauwinet Inn in Nantucket in an almost eerie calm, as still as I’ve ever seen that remote part of the island, not a leave or blade of grass stirring. We took the ferry to Hyannis that evening on a calm sea with mystical fog. We drove back to East Greenwich on empty roads, as quickly as we’ve ever traveled that route. The next morning we were in 60 MPH winds with tree limbs crashing down and no power. But our house had been well prepared and has an emergency generator. What are you doing in the calm before the storm? Many consultants tell me, as they bemoan lack of business, that they couldn’t handle the business if all four proposals outstanding were accepted at the same time. That’s beyond a crime—it’s stupid. You need to prepare for storms.
• In 48 hours of nonstop (and 95% repetitive) weather reporting, I found only one person of truth and non-calamity. (If you pay people to talk about catastrophe, they find or invent catastrophe.) The meteorologist on the NBC affiliate in Boston said something to this effect: “I don’t want to understate this or tell you not to take precautions, but by the time Irene gets to the Boston area it’s going to be a tropical storm and will not be as bad as predicted. There can still be damage and danger and you should use precautions, but I think we’re going to be better off than we had feared.” We need to use judgment and the facts available, and not jump on runaway trains. This was the only source I came to trust, and I loathed the “meteorologists” using computer models to talk about low pressure and worst cases reading their Teleprompters. Are you providing best judgment and creating trust, or trying to scare people and/or just repeating conventional wisdom?
• Both our town and the local power company sent recorded messages on several occasions to my personal and business phones apprising me of progress and what to expect, including: emergency centers, garbage collection, evacuation areas, traffic access, and so on. Knowing what was happening so easily was calming and obviated the need to make calls and search for information, which probably made their activities much easier to complete, as well. Are you keeping clients informed of both good and bad developments so that there are no surprises and people aren’t trying to find you and ask questions? Do you practice full disclosure?
• Our cable system went down for an evening. But we have satellite, so we could use that for TV, and I have a Verizon card which I could use on my lap top to take are of email and web business. Do you maintain alternatives to get key aspects of your business completed and maintain your important personal activities?
• Our daughter, her husband, and our grandchildren spent the day at our house when their power went down. We saw many homes with a dozen cars in the driveways. People were helping each other out. Do you have a support network that’s available and accessible?
• The inn in Nantucket told us that we could check out late on Saturday, and if our ferry didn’t run we could return for a few days at half-price to ride out the storm. Do you make offers to clients that gives them comfort and build relationships by the very gesture, even if the offer isn’t used?
• We toured the neighborhood as the storm subsided to learn what had happened and the extent of the damage, which was nothing compared to prior storms we’ve experienced. Then we found some entrepreneurial restaurants that had opened up as soon as they could, and tried a completely new place. This morning we’re going to work out, as usual on a Monday, because the owner of our health club will certainly have it running bright and early. Are you resilient and can you bounce back quickly?
Storms pass. Your values and beliefs don’t.
© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.