The crisis in Greece - ​I have a cunning plan

Blog post   •   Aug 06, 2015 14:58 BST

Being a business continuity professional is indeed quite interesting and adventurous, either if one is an in-house professional or a consultant. As an in-house professional one gets to come across all odds happening in the business and might have sole responsibility for the critical business continuation.

Taking that as a given and adding a bit of spice, can become quite tricky though; when seas are calm it’s a routine more or less, but when things get tough, it’s a challenge to keep management happy while continuing critical operations at the same time.

The Greek case lately has made some critical points obvious that in all other situations were not. Many professionals thought it was a local thing; some others did not think so, and they were right. The impact of a Greek default would have cascaded effects to all businesses within or outside Greece.

If one is a professional doing business in Greece, then there would be significant impact due to the capital controls imposed by the Greek Government on 30th June, because there would be no obvious way to pay the suppliers residing outside the country, leading to a lack of goods or services sooner or later. Something that did in fact happen. The professional had to work closely with the CFO in order to plan for a potential case of Capital Controls way in advance, having correctly interpreted the upcoming situation through intensive horizon scanning, way before the crisis hits the door.

Then there are the measures needed to be taken in order to make sure that the corporate security is at a certain level, because riots can come up at any given time throughout the day, as people are very unhappy with queues at the banks and there is an increasingly popular idea that large corporations as well international organizations helped bring the country to its knees. That would include both physical and cyber security, within the business continuity management context.

Another critical aspect is human resource management, both in terms of morale and payroll. If people do get paid through a bank transfer but are not able to withdraw their money, will they come to the office tomorrow? Why do businesses really think their employees would remain loyal when they are not getting paid?

When the business were getting thousands of emails about cancellations, in order to maintain a high – or just a desired – level of growth and income, proceeded with firing people, or significantly decreasing their salaries, it means that the BC professional working for them would also be financially impacted and their loyalty would be tested – not to mention the BC budget that, in such cases, instantly becomes a luxury to some.

Many SMEs doing business in Greece, are not even equipped with electronic POS systems in order to accept credit or debit card payments, leading to even deeper problems as they could not accept individual payments. No one in the past really imagined what the world would look like if people are not able to withdraw more than €60 per day (but that’s another story), so this brings us back to the logic of planning about the impact, and not against certain scenarios.

If one is doing business as a BC professional outside of Greece but with Greek companies, there are additional issues that need to be taken care of. Suddenly the cost of goods or services seems out of place, being way too high for the local market. Meaning they have to readjust to the situation regardless of the contract itself – if they want to get paid that is!

Then, if they are doing business with international companies there would need to be a way of getting paid through global procurement and accounting, or else they would need to have already opened a local account to get paid for their services.

The general logic and strategy in such cases must always be based on being proactive rather than reactive, demonstrating increased flexibility, out of the box thinking, in order to avoid surprises; and open communication with top management in order to be able to support the business operations at all times without having to imagine what can go wrong, but proceed with specific, down-to-earth realistic solutions and arrangements in place. Their planning should be as “cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford”. Tested as well. Otherwise it’s like it never existed. And we don’t want that – do we?

John Zeppos FBCI
Managing Partner – Resilience Guard GmbH