Catherine (Kitty) Taylor is vice president of innovation at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy
Disasters are chaotic and complex. Just a few minutes of howling wind or shaking earth can leave years of cleaning up, rebuilding and coping with a new reality.
Naturally, people want to help when they witness significant duress, like we’ve seen recently with hurricanes Harvey and Irma and like we’ve seen countless times globally. Some of the greatest moments I’ve witnessed in business have come in the aftermath of disasters.
But, those moments didn’t happen by chance. Much forethought created them.
In business, disasters are the antithesis of how we operate our companies. Order and planning create the stability needed to keep our doors open and offer reliability to our customers and employees.
Despite the disorder of disasters, the same discipline we use to run effective companies can be applied to disaster giving. If your company is considering what role is right for you to assist when disaster strikes, consider these steps for effective corporate aid.
Align: Reflect on your core competencies. Do you supply equipment that is critical in the debris-removal stage? Do you have financial-planning experts who could lend a hand when small businesses are trying to reopen? Do you supply schools, stores, arenas and other venues – and therefore have a mission-critical interest in their timely return? Do you have engineers who can assist in mitigation planning for the future? Don’t shy away from aligning your desire to help with your core business. Self-interest isn’t in conflict with doing good; in fact, it’s sustainable over time.
Plan: In crisis management, if you haven’t taken the time to craft a response plan before the disaster happens, you’re too late. Whether your preparation is to handle an operational crisis or to provide disaster assistance, the purpose is still the same. Your focus is on building in advance your relationships with key people, creating common understanding about general expectations for the response, defining the plan’s activation triggers and running a practice scenario (tip: tabletop exercises can be a manageable way to plan ahead). For disasters, this involves finding the non-profit organizations that best align with your competencies and your brand and forging strategic partnerships with them.
Do No Harm: Resist the urge to self-deploy a group of volunteers or transport to the disaster zone an unplanned – or worse, inappropriate – collection of donated items. This becomes another small disaster for the on-the-ground workers who have to divert attention away from their mission to manage your well intended, but unexpected, contribution.
Communicate: Share your news with your employees, board, business partners, and others. Of course, the exact tone of this communication is important – this isn’t the time for bragging, but sharing your support for a non-profit disaster partner should be received as a welcomed update.
Catherine (Kitty) Taylor can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.