Archive for the ‘Welcome’ Category

Welcome To My Blog, Pertinent Perils!

Friday, September 5th, 2008
Blogging on the run

Blogging on the run

Welcome to my new blog! This blog is the product of entrepreneurial inspiration! I am an entrepreneur and, on 9-11-01, my small business office was located in “Zone 1” of the World Trade Center. On that fateful morning, I was in the WTC when the planes struck the first tower. I safely exited the building and placed a cell phone call to my office and then to a friend who was on his way in from Brooklyn to meet me. I tried to reach him to advise him to turn around and go home, and, as it was not safe to be about, I did the same.

My home was located in the residential community in the shadow of the World Trade Center. I was in my apartment when the towers fell, in part, on my building. Then, together with my neighbor and his dog, I was evacuated by police boat across the Hudson River to New Jersey where I remained, homeless, for several months. I was allowed to return home once during this time to retrieve some clothing and other personal belongings. Mine was the only residential neighborhood evacuated, closed and placed under the control of the National Guard. Civil authorities allowed my office building to re-open on September 18, 2001, one week to the day later. This was largely because of the symbolic importance attached to re-opening Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. Had we been located a block in either direction, our re-opening would have been further delayed. Even so, we were without essential services for some time, such as electricity, land line telephone, gas, water, mail delivery and pedestrian access. I had to file insurance claims, deal with disaster relief agencies and programs and put into effect an environmental remediation of my office to remove the soot and ash.

I soon realized my experience was very unusual. Few small businesses in Lower Manhattan were prepared to work through such a major disruption. Ours was a statistical outlier in terms of preparedness. This is an accident of two unusual professional backgrounds. Prior to starting the business, I lived in Zurich, Switzerland where I was a senior executive of the world’s largest reinsurance company. Reinsurance companies are the ultimate providers of risk capital and so invest considerable effort in advising their corporate clients in respect of disaster preparedness, business continuity and risk management strategies. This background was of enormous help to me in responding to the consequences of what happened on 9-11.

I was doubly fortunate to have Stefan Dietrich as my business IT guru. Stefan has a doctorate in engineering and computer science and completed his post-doctoral training in computer science at Cornell University. He had contributed to the disaster recovery operations (and future business continuity planning) of Deutsche Bank in London following the bomb attack on Bishopsgate. He had me all set up with appropriate data backup, application access, an appropriate communications plan – you name it!

Few small businesses had the experience that would lead to our insight and so, after providing pro bono help to my fellow Lower Manhattan small business owners to aid their recovery efforts, we decided to write a book to share our expertise more widely and on a proactive basis. Not long after 9-11, I wrote a proposal for a book on the topic of small business disaster preparedness and recovery and one week later, that proposal was accepted. In 2002, John Wiley & Sons Inc. published Contingency Planning and Disaster Recovery: a Small Business Guide.

With weather-related and other disasters in the news, our topic continues to be timely and this summer Wiley published the second edition of our book, with 40% new material, under the title Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses. There has been particularly strong interest in the small business community for information about insurance for disaster exposures; hence, the title of my blog is “Pertinent Perils” which is reinsurance-speak for “relevant risks”.

I hope that with this blog and website we can build a community among small business owners to share best practices for disaster preparedness and recovery. With the events of 9-11, Hurricane Katrina and other major disasters, it seemed that no national learning was taking place. I am reminded of the Drew Barrymore movie 50 First Dates in which the leading lady suffers acute deficits in short-term memory such that every date she has with Adam Sandler requires that they start their relationship all over again. It is an amusing plot for an in-flight movie, but not very funny in real life. Learning the same lessons over and over again is unnecessarily costly, both in human and financial terms.

One of the challenges of entrepreneurship, which is also the one that I find the most rewarding, is that we have to become a Jill-of-all-trades. In the large corporate environment, roles and responsibilities are better defined in functional departments. When I worked in the reinsurance industry, for example, I never had to think about building a website or doing a p.r. campaign with the news media. Now I do and I see it as an opportunity to connect with others and to learn from them.

And I hope we will learn about the best as well as the worst of disaster practices. The new title of the second edition was intended to capture the lesson that disaster planning not only protects your small business against the downside, but it offers immediate, tangible benefits to your business even if disaster never strikes. I invite you to contribute to this blog and share what you can with the small business community.