...So, there I was alone as the most powerful storm ever to strike the Atlantic Basin was headed my way. I was feeling confident, complacent really. I’ve been a professional rescuer, a navigator of businesses, boats and people, guiding them to safely reach their destinations for a couple of decades. I had done all I could to prepare and it would soon be over...famous last words…
How many times have you thought in a situation, “I’ve done all that I can, I hope it will be enough?”
Each time we are challenged in business, life, by the weather, or in this latest pandemic catastrophe, when the dust settles, it is important to remember that there will be another storm. How well-prepared were we for the last one? Did we get slammed or did we learn from the experience in anticipation of the next one?
While nature, competitive markets, and human beings are all unpredictable, whenever we want to make a quantum leap forward or when disaster is looming, certain reliable steps and actions will shore up our capabilities, help us to become better leaders for our teams and those who count on us, and provision our lives and our businesses to create successful growth, or to stand against the onslaught of a global pandemic.
Setting out to achieve something new, like starting a business, or a growth initiative, we are responsible to those who depend on us – our employees, clients, suppliers, investors, partners, families – to safely and successfully reach our destination. These stakeholders want to know that we are prepared and have sufficient provisions, so that they can measure our progress along the way and know when or whether we have reached the distant shore.
Have you ever started something without a plan? Maybe with just a feeling and a passion? How did it work out? I can honestly say that I have worked with clients and partners who have done it both ways – with a full-fledged business plan and without. And, I’ve seen these plans wind up in the back of the drawer, gathering dust. I run into entrepreneurs often who, when they think of doing a business plan, their eyes glaze over and they start looking for affordable templates online.
Creating something actionable when undertaking any journey in business or in life, is far more useful. In a Category 5 situation, it is imperative.
In boating, before leaving the dock, a captain files a “Float Plan” onshore with those who have a stake in knowing where the boat is going, how well-prepared it is and when it will reach its destination. Like any CEO, we do our best to anticipate the obstacles that are “out there,” and prepare for the things we can’t predict. Responsible mariners never leave shore without leaving a float plan behind.
The float plan is like a one-page strategic business plan – succinct, and only containing what is actionable and relevant. A float plan describes the goal (distant port), the necessary resources (equipment), the team onboard (crew), the chosen course, potential adversarial predictions (weather), potential stops along the way, backup systems, an outline of who is responsible for what, and any hazards to reaching the shore. The float plan includes planned departure and arrival times to the port, if goals are met. The float plan also allows the crew to assess whether the vessel is “making way” according to the plan, watch for upcoming hazards, changes in weather and other factors that would diminish resources, or how unexpected delays, breakages, marine life encounters etc., will impact the journey.
Slamming into a powerful storm or dead calm seas, can cause delays that outlast the food and water supplies – or, in business terms, your cash flow! In the recent Covid-19 outbreak, so many businesses were caught unprepared, including very large companies, with insufficient reserves to handle a temporary slowdown or stoppage.
With people’s livelihoods at stake, leaders are counted on to know where the company is heading and how well provisioned it is to manage any Category 5 event. I can’t tell you how many times I have laid awake at night wondering how to make a $1m payroll or to pay rent for a fast-growing company when incoming cash didn’t match outgoing needs. And that was just on an ordinary day. The leader’s available skills, capabilities, preparation and planning become even more important in a Category 5 situation.
Creating a float plan forces you to think through key decisions. What am I going to need to provision my business for any weather? What team, skills and competencies do I need? How do I keep them safe? Have I clearly communicated our destination? What direction are we headed and how do we keep on course? What conditions and potential hazards lie ahead? How well-provisioned are we for the unforeseen situations that will inevitably arise?
Before the Cat 5 event strikes and circumstances get out of control, creating a float plan shores up our resilience to weather the storm and come through thriving.
In this continuing series, I share with you some key strategies to weather any Category 5 event, both during and in the aftermath, to not only lessen the impact, but to come through thriving. These are the "7 Barometers of Resilience" that I introduce in my upcoming book, The Resilient Leader: Life-Changing Strategies to Overcome Today's Turmoil and Tomorrow's Uncertainty.