How many times in our lives have we heard, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”? The phrase usually comes to mind when searching for a new job. Recently, while attending the DRJ Fall World 2006 conference, I overheard someone make this statement in the hallway and thought to myself, “When it comes to business continuity, that’s so true.”
Business continuity professionals are a community that networks across all industries. When attending a conference, we might sit at our own industry tables, but there is common ground even when someone in the communications industry sits at the banking/financial services table.
Regardless of our respective industries, we all have knowledge and experiences to share – whether with our peers at conferences, local user groups, industry groups, or others. So it’s important to consider how well you network and how you go about it. Do you just network within your own company or industry? What happens if you are tasked with developing an emergency management or crisis management tabletop exercise? Do you have these skills in your toolkit? If not, where would you turn to begin such an assignment?
Networking with other professionals can be accomplished through many different channels: local business continuity/disaster recovery user groups, conferences, records management groups, security groups, public sector groups, past co-workers in business continuity, and so forth.
Who you know can mean the difference between accomplishing your task in an efficient and expedient way, accomplishing it with some difficulty, or failing altogether. If you’re in the private sector, have you reached out to network with the public sector? Do you know your local first responders? How about your supply/procurement chain? And have you established relationships with the utilities that provide services to your business?
In July 2006, several major storms hit the St. Louis, Mo., area. At one point, more than 600,000 of the local electric utility’s residential and commercial customers – including the company for which I work – were without power. This represented approximately one-third of the utility’s entire customer base. Although the utility immediately launched service restoration efforts, many affected customers didn’t know who to call to find out when their service would be restored. Two days
later, more storms rolled through the area, further delaying restoration efforts.
After the first wave of storms, our prior networking efforts with the local utility paid off, as electric service was restored at all of our company’s locations within 24 hours. However, we quickly learned that various individuals within our company made multiple calls to the utility, all seeking the same information. Since then, we have held several meetings with our contacts, resulting in a detailed protocol for interfacing with the utility during future events.
Shortly after a major blackout in St. Louis during 2003, I remember sitting in a DRJ Fall World session when a panel member said something that hit home with me and many other attendees: “Get to know your electric utility and understand how power is generated and distributed.”At the time, I was working for the St. Louis electric utility and had several requests for presentations on electric generation and for tours of a power plant. I was happy to respond that our generation and distribution personnel were eager to show them around.
The bottom line is this: It’s absolutely critical to network with all of your utility providers. You never know when you will need them.
Furthermore, if you get the chance to attend a business continuity conference, go sit at other tables and ask the people about their industries. I guarantee they will be eager to meet you and to share their experiences. This exchange of information will not only benefit everyone at the table, but it will enable you to expand your network of business continuity professionals. Then, when an actual event occurs, you will have valuable contacts with utilities, first responders, other industries, and the public sector – something you can’t put a price on. Because, during an emergency situation, success is often determined more by who you know than what you know.
"Appeared in DRJ's Winter 2007 Issue"