July 13, 2021

Never Waste a Good Crisis

By Paul Bieber

A crisis is a serious problem that you did not anticipate and don’t have a ready solution for, limiting the damage. Or in other words, those words can’t be printed in USGlass. A crisis is going to cost you money and upset your customers whose work you had promised to finish. Somehow you limp through and get everything done, but looking back, you didn’t make any money during this time.

A day after the smoke has cleared, with a strong cup of coffee in your hand, you say “thanks” to whomever you pray and ask that it doesn’t happen again.

I am glad you got out of the weeds, but praying doesn’t prevent that next crisis. The only thing that does work is identifying how the crisis occurred and laying out a plan to prevent or lessen the next one.

Now, grab a pencil and layout exactly what happened in your crisis, including what caused it and who was involved from your team. Next, jot down three or four ways you could have taken action to avoid or reduce the impact of the crisis.

Maybe you need more than one vendor who supplies a product. Possibly you need to cross-train folks in your company to handle a crisis. You need to discuss this crisis with your whole company and the problem(s) caused. Explain what you have done to prevent this from happening again. Congratulations, you have just created chapter one of your crisis management book!

If you determined it was a vendor problem, start finding new vendors that you will give 20% of your business to. Now expand that thought beyond the one product that caused the crisis and develop this 20% formula for every significant product you use.

Maybe the crisis maker was due to someone being hurt on a job. It wasn’t a serious accident, but you lost one day of work for your foreman, who drove him to the walk-in clinic and two days of the injured employee’s time. This put you behind in finishing this job on time and your customer screams at you about being late. He doesn’t care if someone was hurt and is going to deduct 5% from your final payment.

So, in your after-crisis planning meeting, you set up another round of cross-training. You discuss why the foreman shouldn’t stay all day with the injured man and how, if necessary, you will send someone from the office. Then you go over the safety rules for the whole company and see what caused the accident. Many companies have a mandatory safety meeting weekly or monthly with all employees. Go over this accident with your whole company and detail how it could have been avoided.

You have two shower doors to install today and 20 minutes after the van leaves the office, you get the phone call that another driver rear-ended your van. The only injury is to the van. You call the tow truck to bring the van back to the shop, unload it and take it to a body shop. Calling both customers is like walking on thin ice and they are upset, both having stayed home from work for the day.

You get there two days later with your other truck. Both customers are glad you installed it, but they also want a discount on their bills for the extra days of work they missed.

Crisis meeting says the problem is not the accident. Your driver was not at fault and had loaded the truck correctly, so no glass was broken. You need another truck, or easier access to a truck that you can borrow at a moment’s notice. Solution: Set up an account at a local truck rental to have a working van available and delivered to your office on an hour’s notice. The other driver’s insurance, or yours, should pay for this. Even if they don’t, this will be less expensive than paying your customer for a day off.

So, when a crisis occurs, go over it with your team, learn from it, and use this information to reduce the impact of your next crisis.