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The ethics of crisis management

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Shaun Young was on vacation in Las Vegas when he heard the news that an F5 tornado had touched down in his hometown around Joplin, Mo. in 2011. His business partner was in Washington, D.C. for the annual FINRAconference when he, too, heard the news. Both men immediately began texting their employees to ensure they were safe.

“We heard back from every employee except one,” said Young. “Eventually, someone saw the missing staff member walking down the middle of the street with a pile of clothes and her dog. Her house was completely destroyed.”

Not being there when it happened and unable to help was “hell and frustration,” Young said. When he did eventually arrive it was complete devastation on a level he struggled to describe.

Young and his employees found the roof of his office torn off and the interior destroyed. Metal filing cabinets with client information, thankfully, survived, but items such as checkbooks, articles of incorporation, personal photographs and favorite coffee mugs were scattered everywhere.

Luckily, the firm hosted electronic documents remotely using a local third-party provider and had recently begun electronic scanning and imaging through Artisan Imaging.

He was able to find new office space that was partially furnished, reducing the immediate need for new desks and chairs. The aforementioned steel filing cabinets were moved shortly after. Young pointed to friends and neighbors as a major factor in getting back up and running in a few days, assisting clients in their hour of need.

A business continuity plan is required by FINRA, yet too many advisors view it as a chore, and do the minimum required. When a crisis hits, they understandably turn inward and tend to their own needs, which it the exact opposite of the implicit compact they make with their clients.

Young formally updates his continuity plan on an annual basis and will tweak it as necessary and when issues and ideas arise. In the disaster’s aftermath, he had the task at hand to focus on, which kept him busy; but he knew it wouldn’t last and eventually the repercussions of what he witnessed would need to be addressed.

“My father always told me that in moments of crisis, put your head down and work the plan, and that’s what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m also so thankful that I have a business partner who rides my ass and keeps me going, and I wouldn’t get through this without him. But I know that serious emotions will eventually have to be dealt with.”

He and two employees spent one afternoon looking for a friend’s son. His strong business continuity plan gave him the strength needed to make the right decisions.


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