THE BUSINESS OF RISK
Every business in every industry faces risk which, in turn, can lead to an emergency or crisis that needs to be managed. How a business prepares for that risk – and handles the inevitable crisis – will help define it through its entire future.
Tigertail Australia was established in 2010 by Rick Stone. It operates as a consultancy specialising in risk, crisis and emergency management – helping clients become resilient and capable of withstanding the demands of the modern, volatile world.
“We think a resilient organisation is one that can cope with whatever the world throws at it,” explains Rick. “A resilient organisation can bounce back because its people feel empowered and trusted, and because they’re able to innovate and fix the problem.”
This philosophy comes from a wealth of personal experience. Following some 10 years in the Navy, Rick joined the State Emergency Service in New South Wales as the training manager, where he successfully reinvented the entire training system and was heavily involved in strategic response management to significant floods and storm events across New South Wales.
“It was a really interesting period,” he says. “I worked extensively across New South Wales as the head of the training system bringing it up to Australian National Standards and being a large part of the development of the national Public Safety Training Package, emergency risk management training programs and more.”
From there, Rick moved into the position of Principal Planning Officer for the New South Wales government, taking responsibility for the State Disaster Plan, state-level specific hazard plans, providing guidance and input into national emergency plans, and high-level advice to emergency services and the government.
Positions in training and strategy development helped Rick understand the true nature of emergency management and who carries out the work when a problem arises. It has helped shape the way that Tigertail approaches its work.
“It’s the same in business. The chief executive or managing director rarely fix the problem – the people who actually do the work are the ones who fix the problem. If they feel trusted and able to be flexible and they understand where they fit in the big picture of the organisation, then they’ll fix it for you.”
Importantly, Rick says that it can’t be a case of simply dictating what people should do in an emergency with a checklist.
“It starts with getting the culture right,” he says. “You work on creating a culture where people know where they fit in. You work on building robust systems that are able to deal with unexpected changes. You work on planning for stuff that can go wrong and practicing those plans. When you get that right you’re on the path to a resilient organisation.”
Of course, building the right culture and plans are based on understanding what risk your organisation faces. Many businesses focus on potential global events which – as Rick points out – are incredibly difficult to predict and actually not very common.
With Tigertail, organisations are encouraged to focus on local issues and build resilience that will cope with issues of an international nature as they arise.
“We can’t predict what the next major shock is going to be,” he says. “If someone was to ask you what the price of oil will be in six months – and the effect that will have on your operation – you can’t say with any certainty. We can take an educated guess, but really an informed bet. But if you have a resilient and agile organisation then you will deal with that as it occurs.
“So we work with clients to help them understand their risks and vulnerabilities – and just doing that builds resilience. For example, we all know that key people will leave the organisation at some point, so it’s good to be prepared for the consequences to the organisation. You know that you might have industrial issues; you might have issues of misconduct or malicious conduct; you might have illness; an epidemic or a pandemic. All of these things affect the people in the business – and they’re predictable. You don’t know exactly what it will look like and when it might happen, but you do know that it will happen in some form.”
The same issues can apply to your suppliers, equipment, the regulatory system, and other matters that can disrupt your business and affect continuity. These issues are often neglected, yet have significant impact on all areas of the organisation.
So how does Tigertail work with an organisation to help determine its specific risk?
“It’s really about talking to
people within the organisation and getting an idea about their appetite for risk,” Rick explains. “We need to build a complete picture of the organisation – including what it needs and what is doesn’t have – and then we can help it implement a plan that covers those areas. It is a very consultative process and it has to involve all levels of the organisation so that everybody owns their role and understands that they contribute to success.”
By engaging the people in the organisation, Rick says they are in the best position for significant change and improvement. He refers to the ‘Four Ps’ of People, Processes, Plans and Practise as the secret to building a robust and flexible organisation, capable of dealing with risk and crisis.
“Start with your people and you build the constructive culture that’s built around trust, flexibility and innovation and your people will carry you through,” he says. “If your people are committed to the organisation and the work that it does, they are self-interested in the organisation succeeding.
“To support your people, you need some procedures to guide them through the best course of action. Those procedures are rolled up into plans which talk about the big picture of how an organisation’s going to deal with the issues and the problems it might face. Then you’ve got to practise all of that so people are familiar with those plans and are able to enact the procedures. Ultimately, this will help develop trust in one another’s ability to handle the problem.”
The strategy has proven to be successful for Tigertail, with continued growth in its six years of operation. Rick sees some great opportunities to expand through diverse industries and new technology, yet remains committed to providing a cost-effective and personalised service to clients.
“I would like to think we accumulate high-profile clients by doing really good things for their business and by building strong relationships with them. I guess that half our work annually is repeat business. We’re pretty proud of that and the fact that most of our new clients are referrals.
“Our philosophy has always been that we build a relationship with the client to help them to become more agile and build capability. It’s not about handing out checklists or forcing an organisation’s processes to fit the template that we used for the last one and the one before that and the one before that. It has to be personalised. Everyone faces risk – but everyone’s risk is different.”
Simulations help refine plans and hone emergency skills