The media pounced on the release of a survey yesterday showing that, while more than half of the companies polled predicted a global flu epidemic within the next two years and two-thirds said it would disrupt their businesses and cause social unrest, more than two-thirds said they simply weren’t prepared. Amazingly, one-third of the executives surveyed said no one in their company had been appointed to plan for a pandemic. And another one-quarter couldn’t or wouldn’t answer the "preparation" question.
These seemingly shocking findings come as no surprise to me whatsoever. We’ve surveyed corporate executives several times since 9/11 to determine their crisis preparedness, and gotten identical results to the one released yesterday.
For whatever reason, Corporate America cops an "it won’t happen to me" attitude when it comes to crisis preparedness. Whether it’s a cyber intrusion, a terrorist attack, a hostage taking situation, a cave-in or a flu epidemic, many corporate executives see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
When one considers the tremendous business disruption that a major calamity such as a flu epidemic might cause, it boggles the mind to think that some of the best-known, best-managed, brands in America are asleep at the wheel.
When I think about the relatively low-cost of a crisis simulation program, I’m reminded of the guy on the classic muffler parts TV spot who warned motorists, "You can pay me now or pay me later," with the implication being that the "pay me later" part would be horrific.
Corporate America should invest a modest amount of money now to simulate how they would respond to a mega crisis like a pandemic in the near future. Crisis preparedness is so smart in so many ways: it imparts caring to the workforce, it demonstrates corporate social responsibility to the community and it communicates smart business management to the Street.
So wake up, Corporate America. The company you save may be your own.
Hat tip to Tucker Greco for sending me the survey.