Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

BP Forms New Safety Unit

Friday, September 24th, 2010

BP has established a new risk management unit responsible for company-wide safety. The unit is to be vested with “sweeping powers” with full authority to enforce safety standards. Mark Bly, the executive who led BP’s internal investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will lead this new unit. He will report directly to Bob Dudley, who succeeds Tony Hayward as chief executive officer on October 1. BP is immediately putting into effect a corporate reorganization, which includes embedding safety in its operations worldwide. In connection with that reorganization, the company will examine how it manages its third-party contractors and how to align its compensation strategy to reward improved safety practices. No doubt the Gulf Coast residents will be watching with great interest as the oil industry, upon which their local economy is dependent, must rebuild confidence in its practices before the moratorium on offshore drilling will be lifted.

California Launches First State Disaster Corps

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched the first state Disaster Corps to train and coordinate the activities of disaster volunteers across California. “California is always leading the way and now we are the first state in the nation to integrate volunteers into our state emergency plan,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Volunteers are an incredible resource, and no state has more giving, more passionate or more dedicated volunteers than California. Together, we will take volunteerism to a whole new level and make California better prepared and better equipped than ever before, for any emergency.”

With fewer financial resources to support government programs, policymakers have to be more creative to do more with less. “Government can’t do it all by itself,” said California Emergency Management Agency Secretary Matthew Bettenhausen. “Being ready for the next disaster, and ensuring an effective response, includes taking advantage of the many contributions and passion of citizens who care deeply about their communities.” If your business has operations in California, do look into the resources available for coordinating disaster response and update your business plan accordingly.

Greatest Disruption to Air Travel Since 9/11

Friday, April 16th, 2010

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the passengers stranded as much of Europe and the UK remain a no-fly zone after a massive cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland caused European air traffic control officials to cancel roughly 17,0000 flights with more “significant” disruptions in air traffic expected tomorrow. This is one of the most extensive disruptions of commercial flights since World War Two. For those readers who are stranded owing to the flight mayhem, I hope you are comfortable and can make the best of your down time. It is extraordinary to consider how the unexpected, an eruption of volcanic ash in Iceland, can have such profound consequences. Agricultural economists are already forecasting the impact of the volcanic ash on grocery food prices in the spring months.

Impact of February’s Blizzards

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
Still Feels Like Christmas

Still Feels Like Christmas

EQECAT, a company that provides risk management and modeling services to the insurance industry, estimated insured losses from the two blizzards that struck the East Coast this month to be in excess of $2 billion. The snow, ice and wind impacts caused businesses to close and additional costs in recovery. The Mayor of New York City, for example, reported that each inch of snowfall imposed $1 million in cleanup costs. So what are the key lessons for small businesses?

  1. Businesses physically removed from the affected area may also sustain storm-related losses. If your business is located in the southern or western states, for example, but you have key suppliers or customers in the eastern states where the blizzards struck, you have to plan for contingencies. One helpful strategy employed by many e-commerce websites was to advise customers of shipping delays on orders owing to erratic weather. It is better to manage the customers’ expectations of prompt delivery beforehand, than to deal with disappointment afterwards.
  2. Plan in advance for telecommuting wherever possible. It is best to keep your employees and customers off the roads, so that they won’t be in harm’s way and the emergency vehicles can do their jobs. This means you should have procedures in place to ensure network security while telecommuting.

And of course, be patient. We are all at the mercy of forces beyond our control and would benefit from humor in dealing with such situations.

New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
From Ireland to New York

From Ireland to New York

And I will be far from the action. Thankfully, the security alert around an unattended van in Times Square revealed nothing more significant than an abandoned vehicle. But between the cold weather and the crowds, I try to be out of mid-town Manhattan no later than 3:00 p.m. on December 31, which is when the police begin to close off traffic for the countdown celebrations. But I will miss seeing the New Year’s Eve Ball, a 12-foot geodesic sphere and, weighing in at 11,875 pounds, twice the size of previous balls.  The 2010 New Year’s Eve Ball is covered with 2,668 Waterford crystals and powered by 32,356 light-emitting diode, allowing it to emit more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns. As I have Waterford crystal stemware on my home tabletop, I am delighted to see the modern display of this traditional craft. I wish you a safe evening ushering in the New Year as we look forward to starting afresh in 2010.

Public Health Experts Warn Small Businesses of Flu Risks

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
More Than a Nuisance

More Than a Nuisance

The federal government urges small businesses to develop contingency plans to work through a possible influenza pandemic that could cause high workforce absenteeism. The White House estimates that up to half of the U.S. population could contract the new strain of flu between now and next spring. Testifying before the House Small Business Committee, Rebecca Blank, under-secretary for economic affairs of the U.S. Department of Commerce, stated that owing to fewer resources, smaller businesses would be particularly vulnerable to disruptions in their operations. While not as deadly as the avian bird flu that struck Asia, a flu outbreak could leave businesses short-staffed as employees recover. The Centers for Disease Control suggest that employees with flu-like symptoms should remain at home, out of caution, for at least 24 hours until their fevers subside which, allowing for recovery times, could prolong absences from work to three to five days. To prepare for this possibility, small businesses should cross-train employees on critical business functions. To the extent that workers can telecommute when experiencing suspicious, but not disabling, symptoms they should be encouraged to do so. Public health experts also suggest that adults under age 24 may have to be immunized twice as the flu poses a greater risk of infection to them. Advance preparation should slow the transmission of the flu virus and enhance the safety of your employees and their families.


Sunday, July 5th, 2009
Imagination Plus Adobe

Imagination Plus Adobe

The image shown here is that of the home page for the Intranet I had built for Childs Capital LLC. I did all of the work using the products of Adobe Creative Suite (which includes Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and Acrobat). Adobe is one of my favorite companies; I absolutely love its products.  So I was stunned to read that it had shut down its North American operations this week as part of a corporate-wide plan to reduce operating costs. Adobe, the world’s largest maker of graphic design software, announced to employees back in March that, in addition to the normal holiday shutdown between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the company would close for one week in the second, third and fourth quarters. Staff were asked to take paid vacation time. This measure is on top of an 8% reduction in the workforce taken last December and salary freezes and bonus reductions imposed on the remaining employees. The company has reduced variable compensation plans and cut travel costs.  Spending on information technology is falling as recessionary pressures force companies to cut spending. Adobe is not immune from these pressures, as its second quarter sales declined 21% as customers postponed upgrading to the latest version of Creative Suite.

I also happened to read the newspapers reports that Crabtree & Evelyn Ltd. has filed for bankruptcy. The company expects a 24% decline in sales from last year and projects a 30% decline in wholesale sales this year.  When I was a high school student, Crabtree & Evelyn personal care products were a favorite of the girls who were my classmates. I never thought I would see the day that companies that make such great products would be in such distress.

Going for the Greens in Orlando

Saturday, September 20th, 2008
Go for it! Going for the greens with NAWBO at Walt Disney World

Go for it! Going for the greens with NAWBO at Walt Disney World

Yesterday, I had the privilege to participate in the “Go for the Greens” conference held at the Disney Boardwalk Hotel on the Walt Disney Resort property. The conference was hosted by the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, UPS and Walt Disney World. Diane Sears, the Co-Chair of the Steering Committee, was kind enough to invite me to speak. Participants were welcomed to the program with an ambitious agenda: “This conference is all about access. It’s about giving women business owners access to people who can help them grow their businesses at a faster rate, and giving corporate, government and nonprofit leaders access to terrific, women-owned businesses….The conference’s programming is designed at a 303 level, rather than 101, to show our respect for your experience. We know you’re not interested in training wheels. You want to rev up your economic engine and take off.”

I joined Molly Gimmel, a fellow NAWBO member and CEO of Design to Delivery Inc., in leading a breakout educational session “What Your Competitors Don’t Know About Contracting”. One of the key messages to differentiate yourself from the competition is to think about your the reliability and resilience of your business. Many Fortune-500 companies and government purchasing agencies, as part of their disaster preparedness efforts, are evaluating the resilience of their supply chains. As part of their vendor due diligence, they are examining the disaster preparedness of prospective suppliers. Show the procurement officer that you have a credible disaster plan in place to help you meet your deliverables in the event of an unexpected disruption and you are better positioned to win the business. This was a particularly appropriate topic to discuss at this time, as September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. Preparing your business is part of growing your company and taking it to the next level.

In addition to leading this breakout educational session, I participated in a number of matchmaker events with corporate procurement executives. But most important of all, “Go for the Greens” afforded me the chance to connect with old friends while enjoying the hospitality as a guest of Disney.