The New Word of Mouth is Social Media

Does it surprise you when you see a friend or coworker post a question asking if someone knows a plumber? With the entire craze about social media, growing a business through word of mouth has certainly changed. The new word of mouth is social media. And more and more small business owners and managers are catching on, albeit slowly. It still amazes how many of small business owners don’t understand how to budget for social media advertising or how to include social media in their marketing plan.

There is certainly enough controversy out there about how social media is a waste of time. But then you have to think about all that time you spend on networking, public relations, advertising, etc. As a small business owner, your resources are limited.  Social media is mostly one resource – time. And it is time that can get your message across to millions of people or hundreds in your circle, depending on how you use it. Using it requires a new way of thinking and a new way of branding. The new word of mouth might be in a blog, post, 140 character tweet, or a combination of these.

People are like music. Some speak the truth while others are just noise.

Anonymous quote for thought. Do you make music or noise on social media?

You have probably heard and may have even seen what happens when someone online posts about his or her fabulous night out on the town. The continuous, frivolous banter online is a waste of time and can destroy someone’s reputation. So can the use of crude, vulgar or otherwise disgusting language. That is when you learn to unfriend or unfollow someone. You choose. You can waste your time catching up on all the gossip and adding to the banter. But when someone provides good resources like information on a blog, suggestions on referrals, or otherwise interest you, you can build a lasting relationship. And that is not a waste of time.  That is networking.

When you learn to trust someone’s resources on social media, this is power to them. When someone learns to trust your resources on social media, this is power to you. Or in the case as we mentioned above when someone posts continuous, frivolous banter, this is also power to you. Many recruiters have caught on to the power of watching people’s habits and conversations online. And companies can use this same power to watch what is being said about them. Social media is all about what you know, who you know and how you use the information.

An online world of ripples.

Make ripples not noise on social media.

Information. Interest. Friending. Communication. What are you looking to use social media for? If a friend didn’t know of a plumber and was not on Facebook, Twitter or another social media site to ask the question, he or she would have had to find another way to get a plumber. Even on a social media site, she could have used the search option. And that is when the noise sometimes prevails. Spam. It is noise when people use social media with only one sight, on money. And most people can spot it immediately as spam. It is when a company fills up their social networks with unwanted solicitation. If your online marketing plan involves spamming people on social media with noise, then you are wasting your time.

Just like with the old fashion word of mouth networking, the new word of mouth networking online gives you the tools to get whatever it is you are looking for. It also allows you to give to others. And that is a good use of your time. You just have to understand that it might need to be done differently. Your marketing plan should consider how you can build the relationship so you are the one someone thinks of for word of mouth networking or when directly connecting with you. Social media is permission based. What permission are people giving to you when they connect online? What can you give that they and others will want? And how can you use social media to give it?

Open One Door of Opportunity

Open one door of opportunity and yet another door opens.

In my last post I inquired about where you are when opportunity knocks. There is an interesting thing I have observed about opportunity. It seems to me that every time I accept one opportunity, the door opens to more opportunities. And it usually does not wait for the first door to close.

Whereas if you don’t take an opportunity when it is there, does it seem that you are less likely to have another opportunity soon?   You have probably heard the term “shut the door and no one knocks.”  So what is it about opportunities that make them more plentiful for go-getters? Is it just a coincidence? I would think probably not.

Quit being too busy being busy and not visible to opportunity.

It may seem like the more you do, the more you have to do. In today’s busy world it would be nice to space things out so you have time to schedule new tasks when you are ready. But realistically, people like to provide people new, exciting tasks when they see you.  You are active and visible. Become the leader and take responsibility.

"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open." John Barrymore.  See more quotes below

“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” ~ John Barrymore

Increase your visibility.

Part of the reason for having subsequent opportunities that seem like they come all at once may have something to do with the fact that you became more visible with each new opportunity.  People start seeing you as a leader.

You might be really busy because you are trying new things.  Do you realize that when an opportunity comes to you and you take it, you may be stepping out of your comfort zone? As people see you willing to step out of your comfort zone, their impression of you can change. They see you as a person willing to accept challenges and responsibility. You have courage to try different things.  You are showing your leadership ability.  You are increasing your visibility that allows people to know and trust you.  And when people know and trust you, they are more willing to give you opportunities.

Do not wait for the next opportunity and take too long to think about it.  Consider what opportunities you are looking for so you can be prepared for them now.  Develop your leadership skills so you will be ready for them.  Grab the opportunity when it gets close to you.  Motivate yourself.  Build confidence in yourself so you are the obvious choice to take on the responsibility.  Ask for the opportunity.  As Milton Berle was quoted, “if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

“I'm not the kind of guy to knock at a door and then when the door is opened not go in.” ~ William Saroyan.  See more quotes below.

“I’m not the kind of guy to knock at a door and then when the door is opened not go in.” ~ William Saroyan

“I’m not the kind of guy to knock at a door and then when the door is opened not go in.” ~ William Saroyan

Consider the following quotes to motivate you about opportunities that are coming your way:

“The right man is the one who seizes the moment.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“Jumping at several small opportunities may get us there more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along.” ~ Hugh Allen

“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” ~ Mark Twain

“What I do know is that if one wants to get a boat ride, one must be near the river.” ~ Anchee Min

“Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them.” ~ Jim Carrey

I wish you the best on accepting the next opportunity.  Go ahead.  Force open one door of opportunity and see what happens.

When Opportunity Knocks Where Are You?

Door of OpportunityEvery time opportunity knocks I am out back taking out the garbage. ~ Unknown

I saw this quote on a pin I have. I collect pins, although not as much as I did in my youth. Many of them have come to represent opportunities I have taken. Some are from opportunities I had to volunteer in special events or for a specific organization. Many are from opportunities I had to travel around the country and overseas. Others come from conferences or awards in organizations.  Some were given to me because I attended an expo or seminar.  Every opportunity I took represents an experience.

What opportunities have you had that have given you the experiences for where you are in your career? It is likely that these opportunities are because you committed yourself. Someone asked you to do something or referred you to someone. It might have been a small thing at the time. But small things add up to create bigger things.

We may not even be looking at some of the things we can do as opportunities. How often have you thought of volunteering as an obligation that you don’t have time for? There is a need in that organization you belong to for leadership. But you think to yourself that you are not a leader. You think to yourself that you don’t have time to put in all that extra work. And it doesn’t even pay. But as I look back at all the things I have done I realize that the first time I volunteered to be on a committee or as an officer of a club, I was given an opportunity. It was an opportunity to learn. It was an opportunity that developed into more opportunities for people to mentor and sponsor me.  It was an opportunity in various areas that I could grow as an individual and as a professional. It was an opportunity to meet new people, to network. It was an opportunity to lead. Indeed I recognize now that all the volunteering I have done has been essential in my leadership development.

I am interested in your thoughts about the quote above. When you read it, did you think that opportunity passes you by because you are not in the right place at the right time? Or could it be that opportunity passes you by because you make yourself unavailable? You could be trying to avoid opportunity by making yourself look busy. The truth is that if you really want opportunity, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone, to take that first step. You might not even fully understand why you should take that first step. But it is an opportunity. Do you want to take it?

Get Noticed in Business Is More Than Marketing

Do you have a marketing strategy?  How are you getting noticed in business?

If you don’t get noticed, you don’t have anything. You just have to be noticed, but the art is in getting noticed naturally, without screaming or without tricks. ~ Leo Burnett

Are you being noticed the way you want to be?Who is your ideal client? He is the client who does business with you. You have been noticed in business not because you are giving him the latest gimmick or slathering him with marketing promises. He is the client that is doing business with you because he wants to do business. He recognizes the value and benefit of your products and services. And he may very well be the easiest client you have. The client that makes it seem like selling comes easy to you.

Do you remember what you did to get noticed in business? What did your ideal client see or hear?  Was it an advertisement?  Were you doing a marketing campaign or an exhibitor at a trade show?  Maybe you made several sales calls to him until finally you sold him on trying a product or testing your service. Most likely it was not a chance he took. You convinced him through your marketing strategy that you had a benefit that he wanted. And he saw the value of doing business with you. The benefit and value of what you provided was what won over your client.

What is the benefit and value of what you sell?

Most people buy things not because of what it is so much as the benefit and value to them. And to sell it, you must do more than advertise.  Don't rely on a roll of the dice.You must bring across the benefit and value or the person will not buy. After all, everyone is marketing to them.  They could either do without it or go somewhere else. It is very rare for someone to sell something that cannot be found elsewhere. So be noticed in business beyond the tricks and gimmicks.

Back to your ideal client.  How did this client first notice you? Was it your website, an advertisement, a referral, or something else? Chances are that first glimpse into your products and services hinted at the benefit that your client wanted. And if he liked what he received, there was a greater likelihood that he would be a repeat client. If you do not know what it is that he liked then you want to ask him? Ask what was the main reason he bought from you? Ask what is the main benefit he gets from your product and services? I wrote about price, value and sales previously.  Understanding the benefit and value of why people buy from you is of key importance in selling. It is something that is key to repeat business.

Build trust and confidence with your client.

Understand who your ideal client is, what benefit you are providing him and how he values your products and services. There is a saying “All hat and no cattle” that refers to talking about what you do and who you are, but not being able to back it up. You had something to back up the trust and confidence your client put in you when he bought from you. What was it?

Consider your website. It has a function. What is that function? If you are looking to generate business with the website or increase your client development, then how are you doing that? A flashy website is attractive initially, but it must have a function. If you are looking to generate business, you must first be able to bring people to your website. And then you need to include content to back up who you are and what you do.  There are also examples of your products and services, testimonials, and listings of your accolades that can help to back who you are and what you do.  Your biography or company history can further tell a story of achievements and experience.

Another way to get noticed is through industry-related directories where you can place an advertisement or have a link to your website. Being involved with industry-related and business organizations helps to show you as an expert in that industry. Involvement can further help back up who you are and what you do by showing your leadership or support for that organization. This is especially the case if you are active in the organization. Taking on roles with responsibilities builds trust and confidence. People like to do business with people they know and like.  Your involvement gives them the opportunity to get to know you and what you do.

I get a lot of my work through referrals. And this is a great way of getting noticed in business. When someone refers me to another person, that person gets a personal plug from the person who is referring me. This helps to add trust and confidence in the potential customer.  And many of these referrals come because people were able to know me and find out what I do.  I was noticed in business.  And by following through with the expectations from that referral I can continue to be noticed in business.  Building character in who I am and integrity in what I do is a continuous process.

Are you who you see in the mirror?No matter how you get noticed, you have to back it up with what you are about. Getting noticed in business is more than marketing.  Are you about service, convenience, quality, fairness, integrity or something else? Because to continually be noticed in business and convert that potential client to a repeat client, he will see past all the hype and gimmicks.  He will consistently do business with you because of who you are and what you are about.  And he will notice when you are providing something of value with a benefit.

Is Your Website Designer Your Marketing Consultant?

HTTP Blackboard

Not all website designers are ready to do your marketing.

Have you heard these complaints about websites? “It is taking so much time to complete my website!” “My website has no information on it.” Or “the information on my website is inaccurate but I can’t get the web designer to change it.”

The questions above are not typically the result of flaws with the web designer’s specific talent. Often they are the result of lack of communication or marketing skills. Many web designers started designing because they had computer science experience or were good with computer programming. They loved that they didn’t have to communicate a lot with people and could work alone. But it is their very lack of communication and marketing skills that causes some of the problems with website design.

Why should a website designer need communication and marketing skills? Typically, a business would have the marketing materials to provide.  The marketing material is a big part of what they would need to replicate your businesses marketing approach online.

Before you hire someone to design your website, understand exactly what you will need to do to have the website you want for your business. Yes, you will need to do some things. Many people seem to have the thought that they can hire a web designer and poof! They have a great website. No matter how much knowledge and experience the web designer has, they cannot create your brand or your image with a magic wand. They need your vision and your marketing plans.

What Do You Have to Design Your Website?

Everything and anything in the marketing of your business can be helpful in designing a website. If you are starting or own a small business, you might not have much marketing material. You may not have the detailed descriptions about your company and services in the form of various brochures, press releases, statement of qualifications and more that larger companies have.

Or you might have been in business for years surviving off of referrals. I have come across many clients that have never had a brochure.  They have never done any advertising so they do not have ad copies.  They have never needed a biography or company profile.  And they never needed to visually show information on their products or services.

That is fantastic if you have been able to do business by word of mouth! But have you ever gotten testimonials from your customers? Have you ever taken photos of your products or services? Have you ever thought that maybe someday you might need…something…besides a logo and a business card?

Of course you have thought that you would need something else! That is why you are getting a website. You just didn’t think about your marketing until now.  And now you find out that you need a lot of marketing material to use in the design of your website. How else will the web designer know about your company? How else will they know about your products and services?

The unfortunate truth is more and more start-ups and small business people are turning to these cookie cutter websites that are already written for specific industries. They are cheap and quick to get.  The problem….you get the same website content as everyone else who wants that cookie cutter website. And you might not even realize it!

Cookie cutter websites are the product of too often a web designer not being able to get the information from you to properly design a website that is representative of your business. So it has no real information or is an inaccurate reflection of your products and services. And if you have a web designer who is not using cookie cutter websites, she is either stuck waiting for you to provide the information, moving on because it has taken too long to get what you do not have, or piecing together information from competitor’s sites.

marketing-strategyHave a Marketing Plan First, Your Website Second

One thing you can do to make your website the best it can be is to work with a marketing consultant before you work with a website designer. The marketing consultant can help to bring clarity and focus to the vision of your business and then align that vision with your short term and long term goals in marketing. A marketing plan can then be prepared that describes the aligned vision and marketing goals.

For more about your marketing strategy on the internet, see our prior post What is Your Internet Marketing Strategy?

It is the marketing piece that is most often missed when people approach website designers. If the designer has communication and marketing skills they may provide marketing consulting services with the design of your website.  It is that very piece of having communication and marketing skills that is critical to creating your unique brand, providing the message you want people to hear, and appropriately showcasing your products and services.

Do You Have Courage in Business?

Courage and Innovation

As a leader in business you need to show courage to think differently. You need to step up to the challenges that face you in an innovative way. You need to be a driver of positive change. What needs to change in your business or professional career? How can you make those changes? Are you willing to make those changes?

Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision. ~ Peter DruckerIn business, do you want to be a leader, striving to become the best in the industry? Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Strive to increase your strengths and improve your weaknesses to be the best. But at what costs to others? Are you respected? Are you sincere in your motivations?

Consider an industry leader in your field. What happened after they became the best? Many industry leaders die from complacency. They have the vision to be the best. They want the recognition. They want the power. They have made it to the top. But do they create positive change for others? Are they really leaders or just at a tentative high in their careers?

Business Leaders with Courage

Only a few leaders in business are heroes who have the courage to continue to improve once they can influence. They are innovative in how they think. They are not only wanting to be the best but wanting to create change for others to have a better quality of life. They are willing to take the risks. These leaders continue to thrive by providing a benefit to people beyond what has ever been experienced. These are heroes in the business world. They step outside their comfort zone for a greater good.  They sacrifice to give something bigger.  They don’t just create positive change.  They create positive influence.

Don’t be complacent in your business. Consider your vision. Look at the benefit that you want to provide others. What is it you are passionate about? Get motivation from those who served and gave everything.

Reflect with Quotes about American Heroes

This Memorial Day weekend, take a pause and reflect on our American heroes who gave their lives to our country so we could have our freedom. As you reflect, consider these quotes:

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass others at whatever costs, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. ~ Arthur Ash

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. ~ George S. Patton

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. ~Joseph Campbell

We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them. ~ Francis A. Walker

Freedom of speech and freedom of action are meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of thought without doubt. ~ Bergen Evans

Peace is more important than all justice; and peace was not made for the sake of justice, but justice for the sake of peace. ~ Martin Luther

I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

For the love of country they accepted death. ~ James A. Garfield

The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children. ~ William Harvard

It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. ~ Norman Schwarzkopf


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Be Around Positive Influences

Do you ever think about who you are hanging around?  They may be family or friends you have known forever.  They may be people from work.  Or they may be people you met through your son’s soccer game.  But are they positive influences in your life?  What is the attitude they have?  Are they supportive?  Are they helping you grow and prosper?  And are you being a positive influence back?

Choose to be around positive influences

I had the pleasure this past weekend of being around some amazing women.  It was a long weekend with seemingly endless meetings.  First starting with the board meeting of the Atlanta Area Council of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), then with a monthly seminar with Life Leadership, and also with a team meeting.  I chose to surround myself with these women who are talented in their careers, supportive of one another, and who are positive influences.  And those positive influences made what could have been a long, tiring weekend an amazing experience.  We all chose to help each other grow and prosper.  We all chose to have a great attitude.

“Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is going to determine how you’re going to live your life” ~ Joel Olsteen

Life is about experiences and relationships.  You have a choice.  And you can choose to be around people who make positive influences in your life.  But do you select that option?  Consider the above quote.  Are you grateful for the positive influences around you?  If not you might need to get involved with other people.  Some people are often amazed when they learn about the activities I volunteer for.  And they are more amazed when they find out many of the volunteer time is given outside of the typical work day.

Some of my best meetings are on the weekend.  During these meetings I have met so many amazing people that I have great relationships with.  I am grateful for the relationships I have built and the experiences I have with them.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” ~ Winston Churchill

You develop the mindset of those you are around

Would you be willing to volunteer your time during the weekend if you knew the experience would be awesome?  Or would you be so upset because you were constantly thinking of everything else you could be doing?  Be open to being a positive influence and you might amaze yourself.  Yes, it might take work.  Yes, it might be volunteering your time.

Consider how you could be a positive influence outside of your typical work environment if you chose to be that positive influence around other like-minded people one weekend a month?  Do you think it could help you to grow and prosper?  Do you think it could help in your relationships with the other people you are constantly around?  It could if you continuously create the mindset.  Like the quote by Zig Ziglar says, “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

Sometimes you need to sacrifice your time to create that positive influences.  Every once in a while you need to do something different that is a positive experience with people who can provide positive influences.  Having a positive mindset starts with a good attitude.  But being around people who are positive influences helps you to continuously maintain the mindset.  Being around positive influences helps you to keep a good attitude. And that positive influence and good attitude can spur amazing results.

“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes.  It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” ~ Wade Boggs

Continue the chain reaction of positive influences

The next time you have the chance to be around people who can provide you with a positive experience, consider accepting the experience.  I just registered for an ABWA Spring Regional Conference.  I am so looking forward to another amazing weekend soon with some women who are positive influences on me.

Ability to Adapt in Business

When crisis hits, a business owner wants the ability to adapt in business with whatever it takes to keep a continuous flow of work and profit.  But is adaptation realistic for you?  And would those affected be ready if the crisis involved the business owner?  What about if the crisis involved a manager or key employee?

Accidents Can Affect Business

A split second – that is how fast things could change.  The other week I had a car accident that could have been much worse depending on the time of day.  Luckily no one was hurt but my vehicle was totaled.  I adapted to change with my transportation to and from meetings.  And in general, business continued.  This is not always the case after an accident for a business owner, manager or other key employees.  What would happen to your business if an accident occurred?  Would you and others have the ability to adapt in business in a case like this?  If you are a business owner, do you have someone ready to handle your responsibilities? How about the responsibilities of a manager or key employee?

Storms Can Affect Business

A few weeks ago the winter storm conditions in Atlanta caused thousands of accidents all over the metro area and many with injuries or fatalities.  I talked about leaders making decisions in preparation of a winter storm in my article Winter Storm Emergency: What’s Your Policy.  The aftermath of what happened in Atlanta and all over the country with this winter’s storms is a reality.  People abandoned cars while others were injured or killed.  Many others struggled to adapt to the closures and loss of work.  For some, their business might have been significantly affected.  For others, their ability to work might be significantly affected.  How ready are you to adapt to changes with your work when crisis hits?

Do you have the ability to adapt in business in case of an emergency?

Adapting to change in business is not easy.  Some business owners, managers and other key employees might think of themselves as indispensable.  Do you have the ‘that won’t happen to me’ syndrome?  Or are you one who thinks you are irreplaceable?  You are constantly trying to do it all.  Delegation – what’s that?  Certainly no one can do certain tasks better than you.  But the truth is if something happened and the business could not adapt it could fail.  Having the ability to adapt in business to change during and after an emergency situation is essential for business continuity.

In a spit second things can change.  For a business to run without you, create systems and backup plans.  A business continuity plan is a specific guide for continuing operations under adverse conditions such as a storm or a crime.  A business continuity plan is a tool you create to help build an environmental with the ability to adapt in business.  By building an environment with the ability to adapt in business to change, you are taking the steps necessary to prepare not only for a crisis, but for long term success.

Most people do not like change because they do not know what the change might bring about.  The ability to adapt in business is crucial to its success.  In your business continuity planning, don’t just think of the inventory, the documents, the policies and procedures.  Consider the people.  Way before an emergency arises a business needs a leader.  A leader is not just running operations while there.  A leader is able to show employees the vision.  He provides direction on what to do, even if he is not there.  He motivates employees to be confident so that they can make certain judgment calls that relate to their own work at a time of necessity.  And he builds a team that can keep the work flowing continuously on its own.

So many things can happen if you are not there.  To be a leader, you must think through the difficult situations before the cash flow, shifting of work, change in communication or something else becomes a problem.  To be a leader, you must communicate what systems and backup plans are in place in advance so you can avoid chaos and keep your business operating as close to normal as possible.  If you can’t be there, does someone know what you want done and that you want him to be the one to take control?  If you can’t be there, do the employees trust that you have continuity plans in order so that business continues on?  Do you trust that people will have the ability to adapt in business without you there?

Winter Storm Emergency: What's Your Policy?

It’s snow in Atlanta. It does happen, but not that often. Winter Storm Leon took its hold quickly over a period of hours. It was a winter storm emergency with prior notification.  Because it is an infrequent occurrence people are often left wondering up until the event “will I have to weather the elements for work?” It is a wonderment that can create stress and anxiety.  As an employer or manager, what were you doing to reduce that stress and tension prior to the winter storm?  As a leader, what decisions were you making?

How bad of a winter storm emergency will it be?

How will the winter storm emergency affect the work?  Closures in schools and government agencies are expected when snow comes to Atlanta. And if you are a business with employees who have kids, the added burden for your employees of what to do now that the kids are home increases the stress and anxiety when you do have to work. On top of that, travel is a nightmare. Without the proper tires and experience, cars can’t get up the hills or slide all over the place. And you can’t expect the roads to be maintained.  It might take hours to drive a few miles when it is snowing.  Will your employees be able to get home safely if they come to work or if they work until a certain time?

Winter Storm Emergency Policies and Procedure

When you know something you can prepare for it. A winter storm emergency does not have to be a guessing game.  For a business, understanding what causes stress and anxiety for your employees can help you make the different between a happy workplace and an unhappy one.  When your employees are trying to figure out how to handle personal issues of safety and getting food, water and other supplies are enough without the panic of how to do everything around work.  The lack of a decision or the lack of timely communication can increase or reduce stress and anxiety.

Do you have policies and procedure? What does it say about communication in advance when weather advisories are broadcast? Do you have a simple way to provide information quickly and accurately? And are your policies standard for multiple offices across the country? Who is making decisions? Does it provide some practical information so managers in certain locations can make decisions quickly and in a timely manner? Or does the manager have to make numerous calls to get someone above to approve certain situations? Will the decision maker be in the office to announce a timely decision?

Understanding how to deal with a winter storm emergency does not have to be complicated. You can create policies and procedure.  But it is important to know the policies and procedures before crisis hits.  Leadership is about tough decisions.  Understanding your emergency policies and procedures in advance can help make that decision easier.

In the case of snow in Atlanta it is a winter storm emergency. What might not seem like a big deal with a few inches of snow over a few hours, can be a very big deal to in a place that does not get snow often. The roads are much less safe than when you have the same amount of snowfall compared to the Midwest or Northeast. And the closures and time it takes to get anywhere can frustrate anyone’s schedule. As for this storm, who would have known that there would be over a thousand accidents and every side road had obstacles? If you are in other parts of the world, your emergencies might be entirely different.

Decisions and Communication

The point of policies and procedure is not to be specific on the amount of rain, snow or sleet, but to let people know how decisions will be handled and by whom, and how those decisions will be communicated. I previously worked for an office in Atlanta with field crew. It was common that the field crew contacted the office administrator to find out if there were any changes in the schedule. Although the office administrator wasn’t the person who made the decisions, it was policy that the office administrator is told immediately about a decision. This made a lot of sense because the administrator answered the phones and management would be more difficult to get in contact with.

Notification is important. You cannot always just walk around the office and rely on word of mouth to get emergency information to those that need it. It is usually not the people in the office that are unaware of an emergency situation. It is the people who travel, such as the field crew who are working out-of-town. And they might not be aware that a storm is coming unless you have some warning policy. That employee out-of-town might be scheduled to return back to the office right at the time when icy roads are at the worst. Or he might be thinking he can work outside with equipment and supplies that will be unusable in certain weather.

What’s your emergency policy? You can add in your policy that a text and an email will be broadcast to all personnel within a certain time after any winter storm emergency warnings become known. An emergency policy that includes early warning notification can help your employees re-prioritize the work and reschedule events. Notification can get field crew back early enough to avoid travel in the worst conditions, or reroute them to another work location that is out of reach of the storm. And in the end, good judgment about employee safety helps to keep employees happy, less stressed and productive.

Leadership and Employee Safety

Leadership has nothing to do with you and everything about others. Leadership is about making tough decisions.  Whether or not you have an emergency policy and procedure, a leader has the ability to make quick decisions. And a leader who makes a favorable decision toward employee safety is looked upon with respect. You won’t know the exact situation in advance but you can think of the past occurrences and the employee concerns.  Are you going to send the signal that the money is more important or your people?

Something that might seem as small as thinking about a winter storm emergency in advance is viewed as caring about safety of another. That view of a caring leader can be one small step to help motivate others, ease stress, build loyalty and create a safety culture once the emergency passes.