One can hardly turn on the news these days without seeing a story on how some disaster--from a winter storm to a domestic terrorist attack--is profoundly impacting communities, businesses, and individuals. For companies, at no time is leadership more important than when a crisis strikes. But how many companies are actually well prepared for catastrophe?   

As you begin your strategic planning for 2019, one area to take into consideration is how your business plans on dealing with any potential disaster that may hit next year. To find out more, I spoke with Christine Perakis about the three barometers of small business survival a company needs to manage before, during and after a catastrophe. 

As a certified mountain rescuer, EMT, 100-ton-licensed boat captain and world-champion yacht racer, Christine has figuratively and literally weathered the "category 5 storms" in life and business and guided her teams to safely reach their destination. In a decade defined by disasters, here's how Perakis says your business can weather the storm. 

Decide on an "emergency" leadership style. 

"A boat is not a democracy," says Perakis. In a natural disaster or emergency situation, an autocratic leadership style often works better to reassure your team and ensure everyone's safety.

Establishing what "emergency" leadership style your senior management team is going to take prior to a crisis will allow them to respond quickly and make decisions effectively in the event of an emergency. 

Shore up with proper protections. 

"Leaders need to watch where they have become complacent in their business," warns Perakis, "where they have stayed in their comfort zone and ignored the signs of danger ahead." Where have you failed to shore up proper protections? For example, do you have: 

  • Adequate insurance to cover likely events
  • Survival strategies in place in the event of a lengthy shutdown
  • A plan for how you will manage your employees, so your team doesn't disappear   
  • Individuals identified who could be designated leaders in a natural disaster
  • A plan for communications with team and customers in the event that telecoms and data are lost for an extended period

Prepare a "float plan." 

"Leaders need to prepare for the uncomfortable," says Perakis. A typical float plan details the relevant specifics that need managing in order to maintain the business during any outages and recovery time.

A good question to pose to your team (and answer) prior to a disaster is: "How will we function with limited or no infrastructure?" The answer just might keep your business afloat. 

While good judgment and decision-making skills are critical in times of disaster, there's an old adage about sailing into a storm that goes, "If you're asking whether to reef in the main, it is probably already too late."

In a crisis situation, hesitation can be costly in both business profit and, in some cases, lives lost. By taking the time to think through the above, and at the risk of pushing the metaphor too far, your company will be ready to sail through rough water and come out shining.