Maugie Lyons: Fail to plan, plan to fail

Prevention is better than cure but what plans do you have in place, questions Maugie Lyons, head of commercial operations, Royal Horticultural Halls…

Contingency planning and risk assessment go together like cheese and pickle. Given that the latter might be a tastier affair, the former still needs to be considered and implemented if businesses are to succeed. There is nothing that makes me want to lock myself in the stationery cupboard more than the prospect of answering every possibility to a million different “what ifs?”. But, as I slide the key back into my desk drawer, take a deep breath and brace myself, I know that the hour(s) of pending gloom couldn’t be worse than not having a plan B in a critical situation. Today, more so than in previous years, businesses are threatened by a number of risks. Be it swine flu, terrorist threats or just transport strikes, it’s best not to take any chances.

A mistake that many people make is to develop plans in isolation. You need to ensure that all staff are familiar with them and practise them. Imagine the situation British Airways would have been in if they hadn’t had a back up plan to replace the striking cabin crew. Don’t just write the plan then file it away; it will only work if staff are fully familiar with the plan so they can act on it when incident occurs. Make sure you review and update your contingency plans regularly. What worked a year ago may not be so effective today.

Remember that as an event organiser, it is your responsibility to check and evaluate as much as possible. For example, try not to rely on just one mode of transport. Country locations are great, but what happens if there is a fuel crisis? If your event is being broadcast in any way, ensure the venue can supply power for everything, from laptops to lighting. And then make sure that the venue team has done their own risk assessment and that they go through these with you before your event opens.

Hopefully, all the preparations will prove unnecessary and your plans will not be needed. It’s not often that we want our hard work to be in vain, but in this instance, we do.