by Shawna Suckow, CMP
But do you have a personal risk management plan?
Last week, I tried and tried to reach her to discuss our plans, with no success. When she finally responded, it was from a hospital bed. She had fallen down the stairs in her New York apartment building and broken her neck. Thankfully she wasn’t paralyzed, but she would be out of work and in a neck brace for four months.
That really got me thinking about how we prepare risk management plans for our own lives. As planners, we’re really fabulous at orchestrating a million details and planning for contingencies in case of an emergency at one of our meetings. When we’re not wearing our planner hats, though, how well prepared are we personally?
According to SPIN (Senior Planners Industry Network), about a third of all US planners are independent (‘solopreneurs’) or own their own small firms, and that number is growing. Regardless of whether you work for yourself or for a huge corporation: what if you were in my friend’s shoes and with no warning, you were out of commission for several months? Do you have a contingency plan for your meetings? Who would take over for you in a pinch? How would you pass the baton to them to do so?
What about for your personal life? How would you handle a sudden life event? If you’re the main breadwinner for your family, it’s even scarier.
I hate to be alarmist, but for an industry that functions on preparedness, we’re in the business of being prepared for others’ sake… yet not so much for our own sake. I have to admit that I would be caught unprepared if something terrible came along and threw me out of work.
I realized I was frighteningly underprepared when it came to contingency planning for myself - in this case, both personally and professionally.
More and more, our industry promotes and accepts that we work alone, especially the more experienced we become. We may work in a large office or as part of an international team of planners, but it’s highly likely we’re solely responsible for some or all of a meeting and its planning.
An industry friend of mine has been planning several 150-person meetings across the US this year. She works for a huge third-party planning company. When we chatted, I asked her if anyone knew the specifics of her meetings, and she said no. She may work for a large company, but given the size and scope of the meetings, she can easily handle them alone. If something happened to her, her company thankfully has a contingency plan in place where someone would show up and operate the meeting, but they’d be without key details that only my friend knows.
Then there’s another industry colleague whose young husband unexpectedly passed away. Nobody could have foreseen this, and she was not prepared either professionally or personally to be so suddenly thrown into turmoil.
Thankfully, we are a tight-knit industry. I always say that we are not six degrees of separation, we’re only two degrees of separation (especially the longer you’ve been around). When someone has a personal emergency, there’s no shortage of people willing to step in and lend a hand. That’s a wonderful trait of the people who do what we do. We’re fixers by nature - we solve problems, but if you’re not prepared with a game plan, then how will they fill your shoes?
I urge everyone reading this to take a few minutes and think about your personal contingency plan. Who at work and in your personal life can you share this article with? Can you set up a buddy system to be on call for one another if you are faced with an emergency? This is especially important if you work or live alone.
I am going to take my own advice, and contact a few professional speaker friends of mine. I’ll ask them to be my on call buddies and offer the same to them. I’m also going to make sure all my files are in Dropbox and that a few key people have access besides me. Lastly, I’m going to admit to myself that bad things can happen and be more prepared going forward, rather than burying my head in the sand.
Shawna Suckow, CMP, has been a planner for over 20 years. Today, she is the Founder & Chairwoman of SPIN, the 2,500-member Senior Planners Industry Network. Shawna works with planners to provide strategic networking and rethink audience engagement at their conferences. She also works with CVBs to help them market more effectively to today’s planners.
Honors include being named to the 2015 list of Top 100 Women Business & Tech Speakers, 2015 Top 25 Women in the Industry, Top 25 Most Influential in the Meetings Industry in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and Planners’ Favorite Speakers of 2014 and 2015.
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