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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 3
Issue 2

Business Lessons Learned From Katrina

I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans to establish a program to connect consultants and coaches with businesses that need help in the aftermath of the hurricane. I came away with some revelations. The business owners had been hurt both personally and professionally over the last six months but they still have hope. They know what they have to do to get back on their feet. They also see an opportunity to grow their businesses beyond what they were before the hurricane. They are thrilled to have help.

Life is a painful teacher. However, if we open our eyes and ears, we can benefit from others’ difficulties. Let’s look at what we can learn from businesses surviving the Gulf Coast disaster:

  • Expect that there are going to be problems and issues. Many business owners I met with wished they had contingency plans and had built some safeguards into their businesses. Every business can be more prepared by creating plans to deal with computer disaster recovery, weather-related emergencies, economic downturns, personal tragedies and other potentially devastating problems.
  • Deal with it! During major disasters or dramatic change in the workplace, human reactions are long-term and fragile. How do you as a business leader deal with your own feelings as well as those of your employees? The key is deal with them. You cannot support others in handling difficulty if you do not face it yourself. Typical situations can be emotional departures in a company, major changes in its organization, a sale, acquisition or other major transition.
  • Attitude is king! We see over and over again in business and in life that how people think about a difficult situation affects the outcome. Katrina survivors are no exception. People live with all types of fear in business: Are we going to meet our numbers this quarter? Is our largest client going to leave over a missed delivery date? Will our key salesperson be lured by the competition? Moving forward with an open and positive attitude, beats the gloom and doom mentality more than we think.
  • Operate your businesses with trusted partners and alliances. Struggling New Orleans business owners expressed a tremendous desire to work more closely with others. Even in our small group meetings, several opportunities arose for two businesses to work together. Healthy alliances and partnerships can help you through tough times and prevent you from having to reinvent the wheel. Build and maintain relationships now, they take work but the reward is there.
  • Plan, plan, plan. If you have a business plan, you have a blueprint for your destination. Gulf Coast business owners see now how important it is going forward to have a roadmap. If you have laid out your route, a detour is just a detour.
Hopefully, we can learn from these business leaders brave enough to move ahead. Many of their major competitors left town, for now anyway. They view this as an opportunity to grab more of the market share. If they give their new customers the best customer service possible, they needn’t fear when the “big guys” return. There is a window of opportunity. If they take it, their businesses can be sustained.
Remember we are all susceptible to crises. Review my photo journey of disaster and optimism: click here. Please send your best wishes and if possible a helping hand to our friends in the Gulf Coast.

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