‘Less’ Risky Business

August 3, 2011

Growth of Contingency Planning Indicate That Fewer Companies Fail to Plan

By Jim Rovers, National VP Crisis and Disaster Response

While prominent labour disputes continue to capture Canadian headlines, there has been a significant decline in the number of strikes, especially in recent years. According to federal government statistics on days of work lost, the level of strikes today are only around one-seventh of the 1970’s average. Why this labour success story? Certainly there may be many social, economic and political reasons, but one contributing factor is certainly better risk management. More and more companies and executives have stopped being ‘caught off guard’… and have finally woken up to the tremendous benefits of long-term contingency planning.

And it goes beyond labour disputes and plant closures. To defend against workplace violence, floods and natural disasters, smart companies have become proactive in working with security experts to get defensive measures in place to ensure their business is not crippled when the unthinkable occurs.

Risk management and continuity planning, in fact, has become big business – and has saved billions for many companies, not to mention rescuing a few from certain demise. After all, it only takes one incident – and operations could be shut down immediately. Even worse, if there is no plan and matters go to court, union officers will have a field day showing that the unfortunate company did not take the proper steps to protect their employees and business. The damages to a company’s brand and reputation can be so serious that it can lead to complete business shutdown within 2-3 years – or even less.

Planning is an In-Demand Niche

Unsurprisingly then, planning today has been a successful offering for corporate security companies like ours. And yes, it is a great career choice for police and security professionals looking for a strong niche. Planning is a service in high demand — and we have always provided it in-house with top experts, many of whom have been in our employ for many years. It is an area that requires highly skilled specialists able to apply both security smarts and analytical skills to protect the interests of businesses across the nation. We continue to recruit talented individuals into this area today to meet new demands.

What’s Involved in Contingency Planning?

So what does an AFI continuity planner actually do? We sit with the company (months in advance of any negotiation) to set a deadline and work back to develop a step-by-step timeline. A key consideration is ‘how can staff be treated best?’ In other words, we see a big part of our job as making sure the company is doing things properly and fairly when it comes to their workforce.

Our planners and risk experts get to know the individual client’s business, industry, labour climate and unique risks. In the pre-planning stage, we will manage a site audit and survey of all corporate locations and also develop a budget and an outline of what is needed to keep operations running, whether it’s securing offsite facilities (like warehousing and storage) or procuring transportation and manpower – in each case, taking into consideration unique industry and geographic factors.

The plans we develop highlight the realistic expectations of operational capacity during a work stoppage. We factor in all the potential requirements, including highly skilled & trained security officers, videographers, injunction investigators, transportation and logistics equipment and other necessary resources (most of which, incidentally, we provide ourselves in-house).

And it must be mentioned that any effective plan should be in place at least 6 months prior to scheduled labour negotiations.


Manufacturing Plant Crisis Shows Value of Contingency Planning

Without proper contingency planning, a labour dispute can hit hard and devastate a company. As an example of how this can happen, let’s look at one critical situation from January 2008.

‘Un-Anticipated’ Plant Closure

In January 2008, a major manufacturing company in Ontario suddenly announced a plant closure. Management called for an immediate lock out, asking employees to vacate the plant. There was no clear plan of action, communications strategy, nor a complete understanding of the ramifications of this drastic action.

Upon receiving the news, the employees immediately occupied the plant. They ceased operations, took control of the equipment and the building. Management contacted the police for assistance…but police refused to get involved.

Professional Intervention

AFI was called in to intervene. We secured the perimeter, addressed the employees and immediately commenced gathering evidence to support a court injunction. Once sufficient evidence was gathered, we attended court, provided the necessary evidence and helped the company obtain a court order barring employees from the property. Armed with a court order the police were able to proceed in asking the employees to leave the facility or face potential charges. The employees complied, while our staff monitored the orderly departure. Our objective was to ensure no damage to property occurred and that everyone departed safely from the facility. Once this was achieved the site was turned over to management to resume operations.

Reputation Damage and Other Non-Recoupable Losses

This unanticipated crisis significantly cost the company: bad press, legal fees, lost revenues, stakeholder distrust – and major damage to their global brand and reputation. Sadly, with advance planning in place, none of this would have happened!


Exciting Work Experience – Before or After a Career in the Police Force

If this all sounds like a great challenge – it is. The specialized professionals and planners on our corporate security teams love what they do, and for a good reason. It is incredibly stimulating work that is different every day. Our experts include retired police officers who use experience they gained on the force and apply it to our business and helping our clients. We are also a great base for those aspiring for a career in law enforcement. After all, we present an incredible opportunity to get training, learn on the job and rub shoulders with those who have been on the front lines and doing it for years.

Do Your Homework

So in a sea of corporate security firms, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? It’s a question we might pose both to security professionals looking for employment and companies seeking expert contingency planning services. Look for a strong industry track record, a history of no incidents and excellent in-house capabilities; that is, a company that does not subcontract and has all their own experts and resources. We certainly deliver in these three areas, with our own guards, specialists, training & equipment in place –and a spotless industry reputation. Through our planning and response services, we are proud to have rescued many high profile companies from financial ruin and even obliteration.

Whether you are seeking a career in contingency planning – or looking for a good company to provide it – it’s always beneficial to set your strategy, timelines and do your homework. After all, when you fail to plan – you plan to fail!
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