The first was that the size of the business directly affects the scope of perceived threats. The smaller the businesses, the smaller and more local the threats they think about. This supports a long held impression I have from my career that your awareness of risk runs parallel with the size and scope of your business. Small businesses think about small threats but not the bigger threats. I think this is a survival reaction because small businesses don’t have the resources to normally withstand a major disaster. The problem is, disasters don’t happen on a convenient schedule and they don’t differentiate between large or small businesses. On the other side of the spectrum, large businesses tend to focus on large scale events and can sometimes miss the smaller threats. They feel they’re too big to worry about those tiny things. I think both perspectives could learn from each other.
One of the surprises to me in the discussions was that people love talking about disasters & disruptions to their business. OK, I’m joking with this. People don’t want to talk about bad things happening to their business. I know I am VERY passionate about preparedness topics such as threats, risks, plans, exercises, assessments, and training but I understand that most people don’t share that same level of interest. This is just human nature.
The unfortunate observation to me was how few business leaders I spoke with have thought about those 3-4 nightmarish scenarios at all. My impression was that only 3 or maybe 4 out of 10 people I talked to have thought about what the top threats to their organizations are. I’m not talking about businesses that put any continuity processes in place – I’m just talking about the lack of any kind of threat awareness overall. With only 30 or 40 percent of businesses having done some sort of risk assessment (by my informal data gathering that night) that leaves a lot of owners and managers with absolutely no awareness of the threats that exist that could impact their business.
Now let me ask everyone reading this who is a supervisor, manager, president, CEO, or business owner right now to honestly answer what are your 3 or 4 top “oh-crap” scenarios? Go ahead and think about that, I’ll wait. Write them down. Got them now? I have good and bad news about those scenarios.
The bad news is even with those 3 or 4 likely scenarios you are probably missing twice as many other threats that are just as dangerous. I’m not kidding. Thinking about it briefly you probably came up with the obvious answers; but you likely don’t know about the rest. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “we never thought about that” during a risk discussion. The good news is you can raise your awareness and understanding of the threats to your business by conducting a risk assessment.
If you happen to lose a bit of sleep tonight because you’re thinking about those scenarios, I’m sorry but it was necessary. I’ll make amends with this second tidbit of good news: once you know what the threats are, you can take action to prepare for those threats and reduce the impact from them. I suggest you go back to those scenarios you wrote down and ask yourself what are you going to do about it? If you chose to do nothing and accept whatever comes along, I can’t help you with that. But if you want to make your company stronger so you can deal with those threats and all the others, and don’t know where to begin - contact me. I would be pleased to help.