By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA
Thirteen years ago, Vanessa Mathews said “the perfect storm” led her to her passion of helping businesses weather — and manage — a crisis. It just so happened to be an actual tornado in Georgia that picked-up her car and totaled it while she was sitting inside. That sense of losing all control gave her a fresh perspective on how she wanted to help businesses.
Mathews, Founder and Chief Resilience Officer of Asfalis Advisors in Charlotte, NC, gave the keynote during a virtual roundtable on crisis management for The Enterprise Center last week. The roundtable on January 26 included leaders in the Chattanooga business community: Angela Johnson Director of Business Development at La Paz Chattanooga; Miles Huff, Senior Director of Talent Initiatives at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce; Marcus Johnson, a Business Lender at Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union; and Sarah Mattson, Small Business Specialist with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center. Debra Socia and Geoff Millener from The Enterprise Center also spoke.
While the coronavirus has been the latest example of a crisis that businesses of all shapes and sizes have had to struggle through in the last year, Mathews said it is important for businesses to be prepared and recognize the hard times.
“It is a crisis situation that shows you who you are and how you lead,” she said.
The Chattanooga business leaders on the roundtable also helped The Enterprise Center to create a Resiliency Checklist, which is available online in both English and Spanish.
One of the top things a business can do to prepare for a crisis, Mathews said, is to define what exactly a crisis is for your business, adding that an incident and crisis are different things and should be handled differently. This way, a business isn’t exhausting its resources when it doesn’t have to.
Companies should also identify what possible risks are. “If you can’t see it, you can’t solve for it,” Mathews said.
The roundtable focused on many of the issues businesses have been trying to navigate during the COVID-19 lockdown — PPP paperwork, lack of networking, how to pivot a business model, and more. Each member also talked about the different resources their individual organizations provide to businesses.
Garcia of La Paz also said that the Latino business community in Chattanooga has been facing extra challenges because of language and cultural differences. Members of the roundtable agreed that inclusion and equitable access to resources has been a focus during the last several months. One way of doing that has been to make sure forms and resources are available in Spanish.
As issues with the virus continue to persist, Huff with the Chamber said that management has evolved. Instead of dealing with the immediate crisis at hand, it’s become an issue of stamina and continuing to weather the storm.
Mathews said that while much of the current crisis management talk has been focused on dealing with COVID-19, learning to be flexible can be important for handling any crisis the future may have in store. She offers a free course through her company called “Road to Resilience.”
While a crisis can be seen as a negative thing, learning how to handle issues successfully can lead to a business becoming stronger.
“Resiliency is about much more than survival,” Millener said. “It’s about hope. It’s about thriving again.”