You probably don’t know that when I left the work world to go into business for myself, I was deep into emergency management. Surprised?! Yep, I created a national organization that the country’s top emergency managers participated in. I’m talking about the guys who handle nuclear emergencies, flying off to Japan or Chernobyl. The guys who know how to handle problematic chemical spills and plumes that cross national boundaries with deadly materials in the air. The guys who walked through shopping malls and flew in specially equipped planes, searching for nuclear materials in public areas. The guys who are expert in responding to tsunamis, hurricanes, Haitian-sized earthquakes.
Last week I was asked to come back to their annual meeting and speak to them about the greatest challenges they face in the ever-changing world of handling both man-made and natural disasters. In thinking about what they face every day, I realized that entrepreneurs face much the same, albeit on a much smaller level. So I ended up telling my old friends that emergency management and entrepreneurship can both do three things that go a long way toward being able to handle what comes. Here are the points I made, and I believe they are useful to both self-employed business owners and those who handle the world’s worst emergencies.
- Never forget that both inside your organizations and outside, in the public you serve, you must meet the know/like/trust factor to be effective. Measure your actions against this yardstick – what you do and how you do it should strengthen that know/like/trust factor. Why? Because when there is a true emergency, people will not respond in the way you wish unless they know you and like you enough to trust in what you are telling them to do. You can get more cooperation faster and with less backlash if your know/like/trust factor is strong.
- I tell all my clients that if they want to embark on a sharp path of personal growth, the way to do it is to open their own business. Being your own leader will test you and stretch you in ways that you never imagined – half the battle of being a truly successful entrepreneur is committing to the changes within yourself that come up. Emergency management seems the same – every emergency manager I’ve worked has had to step up their inner game and evolve into greater leadership and greater public scrutiny. A career in emergency management requires that you face the fears and act with resolve anyway. In that way, you are all entrepreneurs.
- Believe and act with the certain knowledge that you are a transparent organization. Nothing is going to escape notice, and that’s a good thing, really, because you can use that transparency to build credibility and visibility. Some of you may have read that a guy in Afghanistan actually Tweeted about the attack that killed Osama bin Laden. He didn’t realize what he was Tweeting about until later – but you can bet our military never expected a blow-by-blow to be Tweeted around the world. Now, the guy’s followers on Twitter have grown in just a few days from 750 to over 13,000. The Internet and especially social media can either be your nemesis or your savior. Embrace the radical transparency and make it your friend.
I was so honored to address the group I began several decades ago. And today, I’m honored to work with each and every client I serve.