Crisis Management: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, Confess

Big Red Car here, ya’ll.  Still in the throes of SXSW but the interactive folks are gone.  We already miss them.

Ahhh, going to be 70F and sunny today in the ATX.  Ya’ll are expecting snow?  Well move to Austin.  Now.

Crisis comes calling

When you are least looking for trouble, trouble will come calling.  That is the way of the world, brilliant CEOs and founders.  Trouble will find you.  In the startup world sometimes it’s on a first name basis.  Sometimes it crawls into your bed and spoons with you.

The solution?  It’s called crisis management and you’re going to want to know how to handle it.

When it does come calling — remember to run your business.  Run.  Your.  Business.

Aviate, navigate, communicate, confess

When you fly an airplane, like The Boss, and you run into trouble, you are trained to aviate, navigate, communicate and confess.

1.  Aviate — fly the airplane.  Fly the airplane.  Fly.  The.  Airplane.

2.  Navigate — point the airplane toward help like an alternate landing site or flat ground upon which you could make a safe emergency landing.

3.  Communicate — call air traffic control and tell them you’re in trouble.

4.  Confess — tell air traffic control the exact nature of your emergency or problem.  Ask for help.

The Boss has never had a real in air emergency.  The closest such thing was the smell of smoke in the cockpit when about 20 minutes into a flight from Georgetown, Texas to Charleston, South Carolina.  It smelled like something was burning.  [Hint, it wasn’t love.]

Turned out to be the air conditioning system which hadn’t been used at altitude in a long time.  The Boss subsequently learned this was perfectly normal.

The Boss decided he was going to return to Georgetown.  He flew the plane.  He notified air traffic control of his change in flight plan.  He pointed the nose back from whence he had come.  He asked for a priority landing.  He notified the tower of the problem and asked for assistance.  They cleared the pattern and gave him a straight in clearance to land when still 5 minutes out.  The tower scrambled the fire trucks to be on the edge of the runway to douse a fire if needed.

The Boss made a smooth landing, taxied off the runway into the arms of the fire trucks.  His mechanic, whose shop is just a stone’s throw away even for a weak stone thrower, came and took a look at it and said:  “Air conditioning clutch friction.  No problem.”

No big deal.  But it could have been.

Practice recovering from a crisis

As part of one’s instrument training in an airplane the Instructor will practice “upset attitudes” which means recovering the aircraft’s stable flying characteristics after the plane is put into a dangerous flying configuration.  It is particularly important to trust one’s instruments.

The Instructor will blindfold the pilot and then run the airplane through some turns, ups, downs, speed changes and announce:  “Your aircraft.”

The pilot looks at the instruments — no peeking outside, only instruments — to determine the flying attitude of the aircraft.  Is it climbing, descending?  Is it accelerating or decelerating?  Is it screaming fast or about to stall?  Is it level or turning?  An accomplished instrument pilot makes these determinations and takes instant action to get the plane under control, level and at the right airspeed.

It can be a bit nerve wracking but ultimately the pilot learns to trust his instruments and to disregard the seat of his pants or the little hairs in his ears.  Trust your instruments.

In business it is possible to make contingency plans that will prevent your business from crashing or stalling.  Think through the challenges you may face and make contingency plans NOW.  Don’t wait to get into an upset attitude.

It’s that simple, Old Sport.  You can do it and very few companies actually do do it.  Not you, you’re a brilliant CEO or founder.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.  Be kind to yourself and your loved ones this week.  Make plans to re-connect with someone who has been missing you.