The meetings followed
a predictable format. First,
we celebrated acts of kindness
that people had done for us
in the preceding 24 hours.
• The ;remen who did
what they could and took
such good care of our
• Encouraging calls and
notes—many from our
members—that we had
• An offer from Freeman Decorating, the company
that sets up meeting rooms and exhibits for the PEI
Convention and the NACS Show, to provide desks,
chairs and other furniture for as long as we needed.
With our spirits lifted by those encouraging stories,
we’d then switch gears into our “real” work. To keep
the focus on the future, we started with what we called
“business as usual”—discussions and assignments on
the membership services that needed attention that
day. Only after those matters were addressed did we
turn our attention to the recovery itself. Retrieving
personal effects. Working with the ;re investigators
and adjusters. Purchasing and replacing various items.
At ;rst blush, putting the business-as-usual matters
before the recovery may seem counterproductive. Doesn’t
every minute not spent on the recovery delay the time
when the organization can get back to full speed? Not
at all. Keeping up business as usual said—loudly—to
our members that we were still here and that their needs
Several weeks after the ;re, one member told me,
“I knew your building had burned down. But you sure
couldn’t tell it from the way the PEI staff kept working.
Really, I didn’t notice any difference.” Hearing a comment
like that was a huge win. Exactly the kind of impression
we wanted to create.
Focusing ;rst on business as usual is also important
internally. It encourages your staff to look to the future,
not the past. And keeping your thoughts on others, not
yourself, is somehow healthy during a time of crisis.
LAUGH WHEN YOU CAN
Recovering from a disaster is a long-term proposition.
You have to let people be sad. You have to let them work
through their own emotions.
“Keeping up business as
our members that we
were still here and that
their needs came first.”
Almost-daily sta; meetings in the ;rst couple of weeks proved to be
helpful both emotionally and practically.
You Are Here
But Where Do You Want to Go?