Best practice crisis management

Graeme Newton brings his years of experience in Australian disaster recovery to the global audience.

As told to Michael Blayney

Back in 2011, I became CEO of a new body, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority. At that time, a series of floods had hit the state, and I was dealing with all of this when Cyclone Yasi turned up in far north Queensland about a week later. It was a Category 5 cyclone [the most severe category].

Sometimes there’s an assumption that the crisis you have in front of you is all that you have to deal with. But I’ll often say to clients that just when you think you’ve experienced the worst, be prepared for a Cyclone Yasi to come over the top of you.

The first six months in that job were the hardest, but also the most exhilarating. I knuckled down, working seven days a week and very long days. It was such a challenging and rewarding experience.

Related: The rewards of managing risk

The key was surrounding myself with good, experienced, motivated people and advisers. Trust is the key. We broke the job into its constituent parts and made sure we could deliver on the promises we were making. We had great leadership at the next level down with people using their initiative.

The World Bank said the work we were doing was world’s best practice and they asked me to be one of their technical advisers. I see the role as more a self-development thing, spending time with World Bank people.

I’m going to the Philippines to meet up with them, and we’re heading to where Typhoon Yolanda [Haiyan] came through, to share some knowledge.

I was attracted to the Deloitte job because anything that’s considered a disruption to a business can be considered a crisis. Now I’m dealing with fraud, hacking, cybercrime, just about anything that has the potential to affect a business’s reputation.

During a crisis, you must look after your customers in the recovery phase because that’s when reputations can come to grief. But it’s not just about reputation. Anybody with a strong reliance on a supply chain can potentially have a problem.

We help clients identify potential risks and prepare for them by running through different scenarios and simulations. When a company doesn’t handle a crisis well, it can potentially affect the bottom line. The global market is competitive and social media can spread a message so quickly nowadays.

  • CPA Australia has developed an award-winning toolkit especially for smaller enterprises affected by disaster.

This article is from the February 2015 issue of INTHEBLACK.

February 2015
February 2015

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