When we think of business crises, we tend to think of major, famous disasters such as the BP oil spill, Chipotle’s E. coli outbreak, wildfires that take out entire regions, or maybe even COVID-19. For smaller organizations, the crises that turn into PR disasters seem out of the picture. But business crises can affect them too—fire and smoke damage that destroys your building or equipment, an online security breach, a bad cold that takes out your staff. Sometimes smaller businesses can be even more at risk. Today we’re taking a look at why crisis management is important and the best steps to take to be prepared. 


So, we know why crisis management is important. But the question remains—where and how do we start? 


To lead through any crisis, it’s important to know your organization. Everbridge, a critical event management platform, breaks down the impact of crises into five categories. Thinking about each of these topics can help you and your team understand the types of crises you might face and their impact.


A lot goes into running any organization. But people are—or, at least, should be—your organization’s most valuable asset. Happy, healthy, and motivated employees can create a positive culture that drives your mission forward in ways that a top-down approach simply cannot. The same can be said for customers, volunteers, or other supporters. 

When it comes to crisis management, what kind of crises might pose a threat to your organization’s people? While there are physical threats such as an active shooter or a natural disaster, your staff may also be susceptible to other threats, such as abuse in the workplace.


When thinking through potential crises, consider your organization’s infrastructure. For most organizations, there are factors that could affect their physical space such as a hurricane or fire, smoke, or water damage. Even if you don’t occupy a physical building, is your “soft infrastructure” at risk from a crisis of some kind? 


Depending on your organization, the technology that could be impacted by a crisis will vary greatly. Whether a hardware threat like damage to specialized equipment or a software threat like a security breach, it’s important to understand what kind of technology is at risk, specifically for your organization.


While you might clearly understand your team’s mission or services, what types of crises could influence your day-to-day operations? Crisis of some kind is inevitable for any long standing organization. But learning to adapt and bounce back is critical. In fact, the Small Business Administration (SBA) reported that 90% of businesses that don’t reopen five days after a disaster of some kind fail in the long run. With that, it’s key that you have a plan to return to operations, not only effectively, but also quickly. 

Brand Representation

Regardless of if your organization’s crisis is big or small, your brand is always at stake. In a crisis, it might seem like the least of your worries. But if you plan ahead, you can know how to respond well, preventing even further damage to your brand’s reputation. 

How can you use these five categories to begin building a practical crisis management plan? Start by writing out the ways they interact with your organization. For example—what people are key in moving your mission forward? Employees? Customers? Volunteers? Business mentors? Donors? If you were to focus on business, what key operations are essential to your mission? 


If you have a small enough team, it may be worth bringing the whole team together to brainstorm. If not, choose a team to help you prepare. The biggest question to ask is, “What kind of crises are most likely to affect our organization?” 

Wildfires will be more detrimental to a brick-and-mortar shop in California than an e-commerce company based out of New York City. Security breaches will have a greater impact on financial institutions or cybersecurity agencies than they will on barber shops. The types of crises that your organization is most at-risk for will vary based on your location, industry, customer base, brand culture, operations, and many other factors. 


Once you’ve determined which types of crises are most probable for your organization and team, the next step is to evaluate the impact of each one. A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) is a way of understanding how a particular crisis will affect each element of your organization. There are a lot of different ways to evaluate the impact, but if you’re looking for some direction, check out this guide from ready.gov to understand more about BIAs and see practical examples.

why crisis management is important


When you’re finally building your plan, here are some questions you should have concrete answers to: 

  • Which crisis are we specifically preparing for? 
  • How will we keep our organization’s people (staff, customers, volunteers, etc.) physically and psychologically safe and minimize damage? 
  • Who are the people on our team designated to taking action in the case of this crisis? Have we communicated their roles and responsibilities to them? 
  • In what ways can minimize damage to or replace our facilities, equipment, or soft infrastructure? 
  • In the case of a crisis, what technology is available to us to continue working toward our mission—even if that is in a limited capacity in the short run? 
  • How will we adapt in order to continue operations? 
  • Who will be responsible for communicating updates to those inside our organization? Outside our organization? 

Each crisis is unique. So, whether making backups of important files, taking pictures of facilities and equipment for insurance, compiling relevant phone numbers, or any of the other ways you could prepare, make sure to have a concrete plan that answers who, where, what, and how. It’s possible to understand why crisis management is important and how to build a plan, but at the end of the day, it comes down to being prepared enough to lead your organization well. 


At Anna Montgomery & Co, we like to say that we’re planners who love change. We’re all about the plan, but know that—in the end—leading your team through a crisis is about being able to adapt when needed. Practically speaking, it’s recommended to review a crisis management plan about once per year. 

why crisis management is important


At Anna Montgomery & Co, we’re excited about seeing mission-driven people learning to cultivate trust and communicate honestly. While it often seems like crises and other smaller disruptions are distractions, sometimes they are the places where trust and honesty are cultivated among your team. This is why crisis management is important, especially for leaders of small businesses, nonprofits, and other mission-driven organizations. 

For more starters, check out this resource on Low and No Cost Preparedness from ready.gov!