Accelerating through a meltdown


I’m sure you know what it’s like: you have big plans for a day – all the parts and players are in place, the starting gun is about to fire… then the phone rings.

Your elite installer just caused a water leak on a project and, well, you know the rest: custom cabinets, exotic wood flooring, electronics, silk covered sheet rock, not to mention setting the critical project timeline back weeks or months – you are at the apex of an ‘oh $#!+’ moment.

Visions of skyrocketing insurance premiums and litigation dance through your head, so too does the cost of having to check your 9-figure client and their family into the Four Seasons while a crack team of contractors re-engineers it all.

Now what?

This is what crisis managers call a ‘low-probability, high consequence’ event. Our society is tensioned to react to crisis; most local and state agencies have crisis centres ready to react to an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, wild fire and the like. We all are paying for insurance on many levels.

What about you?

More than likely, a crisis will hit you at some time. So the time to think through your crisis management process is before you are under the pressure to perform. That way you can make wise decisions, unburdened by pressure and tension that results from a crisis. You can map it all out before you’ve got a gun to your head.

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Act quickly, have an adult conversation with all parties. The sooner the better, and this must be before the nosy neighbor, other subcontractors, etc, get hold of your client. Be honest and transparent.
  2. Come clean, and stick to the highest character standards. Everyone is watching, your employees, subcontractors, your vendors, potential new clients and absolutely this client. Your whole team is taking their play-by-play cues from you.
  3. Realise you can come out on top, but it will take time. Company character is not built on a crisis, but must be modeled, practiced and perfected throughout the years and all business cycles. You will not get a sudden jolt of great karma, a flash of capital character, or an epiphany for doing the right thing – no, this is a core belief and value of your company from top to bottom.
  4. Find solutions. Do not throw your employee under the bus (unless this becomes a habit). Be very quick about talking with the client regarding their favourite past subcontractor that did the original work. Be patient – this crisis will pass, listen, exercise empathy.
  5. Get the process moving at light speed. Find the best and highest convenience points for the family. Just the fact that you were doing work within the home feels like an invading army, now you are at a whole new level of annoyance – placing more stress on each member.
  6. Assemble the best of your seal type members, engineer a schedule, publish the timeline for all to see – the client and family, your subcontractors, vendors and employees – make sure you hit each milestone and deadlines ahead of time.
  7. Keep calm, patient and approachable. Freak out in front of your dog or play loads of World of Warcraft for frustration relief – just not in front of any of the players.

At the end of the day, no-one dies but this could be a financial bloodbath if you are not well insured. An additional suggestion would be doing an insurance audit with your supplier. It’s not just for peace of mind but to be sure you’re well positioned to survive catastrophe.

We all have some horror stories. Once, we were on a gig at Robin Williams’ home in the Bay area. The cable guy was drilling through the wall and ended up drilling right through Robin’s prized impressionist Renoir (an 8-figure painting). The sun rose the next day.

Your client chose you because they trusted you. Now is the time to step up and show them (and your team) what you are made of, and that you’re worthy of that trust.

About Frank White

Frank White

Frank White has about three decades of leadership experience and focuses on promoting and educating about technology.

In 1983, Frank was a founder and principle of Multiplex Technology Inc. a venture based cable television hardware start up that was successfully sold in 1998. Multiplex built complex multi-channel platforms that became standards for most in that industry. Product design (RF) and radical disruptive manufacturing processes affected industry pricing and created an arena that the organization not only conceived but thrived within. Brand names included the ChannelPlus residential performance video distribution equipment.

Frank went on to fill the roll Vice President of Sales and Marketing at AMX the Dallas based technology control supplier. During his three year tenure sales rose from US$45m to $110m.

From AMX, Frank continues to assist many in the electronic and technology industry develop technologies into successful products and leverage the products across multiple channels of distribution.

He has served on several boards within the technology area. Helping found the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association in 1989 the organisation has now grown to attract around 20K to their trade events. He has served many times as a technology subject matter expert on the many certifications and in 2009 was recognised as one of the industries first “CEDIA Fellows” and in 2014 was recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

1 Comment

  1. Pete Baker

    Pete Baker

    01/08/2017 at 11:25 am

    Great article Frank!!! Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom.

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