WARNING: Is Your Business at Risk?

In this episode, we continue our conversation with Vanessa Vaughn of business resilience firm, Asfalis, and discuss early warning signs of potential business risk that every entrepreneur should know!

Joseph: Welcome back, listeners. I’m Joseph, your host for today’s CBR B2U Podcast, presented by cbrbiz.com, bringing business resources directly to you.

Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is key to success.” And I’m pretty sure this still is true today. The first step to becomeing a thriving business lies in your preparation. Getting your finances in order, filling all the proper legal paperwork, and planning how you’ll take over the world. But what about preparing for a disaster or a crisis? Today, we’re continuing our conversation with Vanessa Vaughn, President of business resilience firm Asfalis. You can find the first part of the discussion with Vanessa at cbrbiz.com.

Now, Vanessa, last time we talked about what a crisis management plan was. But today, I wanna dig a little bit further into the types of risks small businesses might encounter and how they can manage them. So let’s dive right in. You got data breaches, workplace violence, public relations, and social media. The world’s a crazy place. This is where a lot of crises could happen. And like you said on the last episode, “This is your wheelhouse.” So, for all these types of things that a small business might face, how are they different and how can they plan for them?

Vanessa: Well, Alexander Graham said it best. It’s easier to tell you how they are the same versus how they’re different, and it really boils to one word, preparation. The preparation is the same. You must include your stakeholders. So if it’s an active shooter versus a data breach, you’re going to include different people from the private-public perspective. Natural disasters, man-made disasters, and internal business crises are probably the three things that small businesses need to be concerned about. So the first thing I would say is they need to understand what the risks and hazards are that face their business, have a plan to mitigate those things from happening, and then prepare and think about and act on, “If it happens, what am I going to do?”

Joseph: Makes sense. So, like, in North Carolina, you wouldn’t see earthquake resiliency plans in crisis management forums.

Vanessa: Well, global warming or the earth changing and moving may change that. There was an earthquake in South Carolina a couple of years ago.

Joseph: Yeah. That chair fell over, I remember. I remember. So, but more so, you’d see something like that in California. But, like, here, we would prepare for things like winter storms…

Vanessa: Natural disasters.

Joseph: Like, hurricanes and things like that off the coast.

Vanessa: Tornadoes. Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Joseph: Okay. But then what about, for example, workplace violence? I’m a strong believer we’re all adults and nobody should hit each other at work, but it happens. So how should one prepare for that?

Vanessa: So, you know, to be honest with you, workplace violence is about a culture issue. It’s about how we treat people at work. And unfortunately, we now live in a society where people take their anger and frustrations and they turn to violence like weapons. So what’s ironic about the United States is there are more guns in the U.S than there are people. There’s over 40 million more guns than there are people. And so when you mix that with the bad culture where we don’t sometimes understand how to speak to people and how to treat people, unfortunately, things like workplace violence happens.

So from a leadership standpoint, again, identify that that can be your risk. Work through plans and trainings to prepare your staff. Prepare your front desk team. The most important people in an active shooter are the people at the front desk. It’s the first line of defense. What they say or don’t say, what you train them to do or not train them to do, will hugely impact the response. And if we look at what happened in Las Vegas in 2017 with Mandalay Bay and Live Nation, they’re two big companies that do awesome things around the world and we think that they’re prepared. But they currently have over 450 lawsuits pending because of so many gaps and things that they did not do well.

Joseph: So, not being prepared for a crisis could end you up in court. It’s…

Vanessa: End you up in court with a lawsuit and put you out of business.

Joseph: That’s a, that’s a pretty…

Vanessa: That’s not threatening.

Joseph: No, it’s not. That’s not the lifetime of business success that you were talking about in the last episode. So, what’s the best way to address a crisis to the people affected?

Vanessa: So how would you want someone to address you if you were affected?

Joseph: I think I’d wanna know the truth, and I would say probably in a timely fashion.

Vanessa: Perfect. So your top priority is always to establish trust. I have five rules: assess the situation, prioritize, embrace it and own it, implement the new strategies, and measure your results. And over time, you will begin to see your reputation go back towards an upward climb, which is where you really wanna be.

Joseph: So, Vanessa, some crises are random acts that can’t be avoided, but others may have warning signs. What are some of the early warning signals that we can look out for to avoid a potential crisis in businesses?

Vanessa: Well, the biggest warning signs are, if your leadership team has not, number one, identified its risks, number two, developed a plan to mitigate those risks, number three, identified the right team, and number four, practiced, then consider this your early warning sign. If you have not done those things, this is a warning. Natural disasters versus man-made disasters are gonna have different cues and different things to look for. So, I would always say, “Be aware of your surroundings.” I watched an active shooter video and this guy has been in two to three active shooters in his lifetime.

Joseph: I don’t wanna hang out with that guy.

Vanessa: Don’t ever hang out with that guy.

Joseph: Two to three?

Vanessa: Two to three!

Joseph: He is bad luck Chuck, my friend.

Vanessa: But the number one thing that he said was, “Be aware of your surroundings. You can feel the environment around you. Follow your gut.” So if you’re walking outside and it’s a guy with a trench coat in 90-degree weather that looks a little bit upset, there might be a problem. If you see something, then say something. So report that. If you don’t have a cybersecurity program in place, consider this your warning. If you don’t have one in place, you have already been breached. You just don’t know it yet. And keep in mind that cybersecurity breaches are costing corporations up to 1.3 million dollars. They’re costing small businesses over 100,000 dollars.

Joseph: Wow. So yeah. So it’s being prepared. But still…

Vanessa: Alexander Graham Bell.

Joseph: Yeah, being prepared is your warning signal. So if you’re not prepared, that is your warning signal.

Vanessa: That’s your to-do list. That’s your action items.

Joseph: Okay. So for everybody listening, action items. Make sure you have a plan.

Vanessa: Period.

Joseph: Number one thing on the to-do list. Cool. So you also mentioned natural disasters, but you also mentioned man-made disasters. And recently, we had the whole incident in New York with the terror truck, which was a very sad situation. But, how about for, like, a city like Charlotte? How can the city be prepared for something like that?

Vanessa: The three Ps. Public, Private, Partnerships. So, identify the risks across the community. What’s unique about Charlotte, especially as a city government, are that they’re gonna have internal and external threats to consider. And some of the things are not gonna be in their control, but it’s happening within their city limits. Number two, develop a plan that’s inclusive. Number three, identify the right team to achieve results. And number four, practice with the private sector, which means your first responders and your public officials.

Joseph: Makes sense. Well, any closing thoughts, Vanessa?

Vanessa: Two points. Number one, you will perform how you practice. So be sure to practice. The second is the question for the listeners. By knowing what you know now, what will you do differently?

Joseph: Makes sense. Gotta make sure we’re prepared, so… Well, that does it for this episode of CBR’s B2U Podcast. And thank you, again, to my guest, Vanessa Vaughn of Asfalis. This has been the second part of our two-part series on crisis management, both of which you can now find on cbrbiz.com. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to tweet us @CBRbiz. And until next time, we mean business.

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