Contractors that have survived catastrophic events like the 2018 Florida International University bridge collapse often engage in key post-crisis analysis to ensure they are better prepared in the future. Times of great corporate strife often mold an organization into what it will ultimately become. There are four ways an organization can survive, and even grow stronger, in the face of crisis.
- Look in the Mirror … Closely
Evaluating construction means and methods after disaster is often obvious, but committing to a proactive risk management audit can be a much tougher sell. Companies that have grown rapidly often fail to periodically review their corporate structure from a risk management perspective, leaving themselves vulnerable. Even more-established companies often fail to regularly examine how new and innovative insurance tools can provide protection in the event of disaster. Most executives acknowledge that a legal risk management audit is beneficial but far too often prioritize revenue-generating activities over proactive risk management. More-astute executives understand that a dollar saved through advance risk management planning is no less (and perhaps even more) valuable than a dollar earned.
- Re-Examine Relationships … Regularly
Construction is a relationship business, and building large structures based upon designs created by others necessarily involves trust. Through time, contractors tend to work with the same professionals for each of their projects, and in many instances this is prudent. But periodically re-examining a contractor’s relationships after crisis is healthy, regardless of whether a change is actually made. Information is always beneficial, and the nature of the different services offered by competing professionals can often yield productive discussions about how existing support firms (legal, accounting, architecture, engineering, etc.) can provide better service, particularly following a crisis.
- Establish a Crisis Management Team and Emergency Protocol
Crisis management teams typically comprise a few executives, managers and field personnel who can make timely decisions in crisis situations. But effective crisis management teams should include important external members as well. For example, a public affairs advisor can be retained to provide input on all aspects of crisis communication and ensure the company publicly “speaks with one voice.” A medical advisor can be retained to assess and assist in human health impacts of crisis events, and a legal advisor (often someone other than the company’s usual external counsel) can be retained to guide the company through emergency events requiring timely and objective legal decision-making. Often contractors do not assemble a crisis management team until a crisis event is upon them. Having a team assembled before a crisis hits can provide much-needed support to navigate a company through deep waters.
- Do the Right Thing
Most importantly, just do the right thing. It’s simple in theory but so difficult in practice when calamity strikes a company that took years to build. But history is filled with examples of companies that experienced catastrophic events and survived and others that did not. If a common thread can be found among the survivors, it is that the companies that (often publicly) took responsibility for their failures and sincerely changed, survived. Responsible and ethical decisions made during calamitous events almost always result in corporate survival and renewed organizational character and strength when the events subside.
Maintaining corporate viability during disaster is difficult, and advance planning takes discipline, but proper planning and forethought can make the difference in a company surviving (and even growing stronger) in the face of crisis.
This article was first published May 8, 2018, in Construction Executive magazine.