Horribles — the List of Horribles

Horribles, Big Red Car? What are you talking about? Horribles?

Big Red Car here on a nice Monday, bit of sun and all is well in Austin By God Texas. On Earth as it is in Texas.

When you get finished with Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture and when your pitches are pitch perfect (elevator, taxicab, board, onboarding), you have a business engine canvas, a business process graphic, dollar weighted org charts — you are a top 1% CEO.

Now, what do you do?

You create your List of Horribles.

Big Red Car, what is the List of Horribles?

There are things in your head. [Don’t be afraid to listen to the voices in your head; sometimes, they have great ideas.]

Things which scare you. In that dark corner of your mind you don’t like to admit exists, where the horribles breed and multiply, there are things which terrify you. Oh, you avoid them, but they are waiting for the right moment to pounce. They are there. Waiting.

Let them loose. Brainstorm, write them down, make a List of Horribles.

What happens if your CTO quits?

What happens if your food product poisons somebody? A lawyer?

What happens if a meteor hits your data center?

What happens if your largest customer fires you?

What happens if you have an embezzler?

What happens if you get sick?

There are small ones and there are big ones. So what does a CEO do?

What do I do, Big Red Car?

You take a deep breath, get out your Moleskine notebook and a pen. You write them down.

You do this twice a year.

In between, some of these things may actually happen.

You create your List of Horribles — the stuff which can sink the ship of startup state.

WRITE THEM DOWN.

Then what, Big Red Car?

You brainstorm. You pretend you are FEMA and that you are in the emergency management business and wrap your head about what you might do.

Some of the stuff is easy. How easy? Like you begin to actually pay-attention-to-off-site-data-backups easy.

You take a good, detailed look at your organic server and you duplicate the capability offsite. [If you are subject to Sarbanes-Oxley, guess what? You were supposed to do this years ago.]

You call in a couple of your key folks and you play act some of these scenarios. You know who does this all the time? The military. They call it contingency planning.

Some of the horribles can be fixed — the off site data backup and equipment solution? You can actually do that.

The big customer problem? You can go visit them.

Who does this stuff, Big Red Car? Really?

CEOs who are in the run mode of crawl, walk, run do this stuff all the time.

They make their List of Horribles, they brainstorm, they solve some of them. When the feathers hit the fan, they have a head start; they are ready; they have their raincoat on.

You will not always be a cuddly, cute, neophyte CEO/founder. One day, you will be swimming with the sharks and the sharks do this stuff.

Don’t let the future get here before you’re ready.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to yourself. Make a List of Horribles.