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Dealing with unplanned crisis

Dealing with unplanned crisis

Zain Jaffer is the CEO of Zain Ventures and is a real estate and property tech investor who sold his mobile ad startup Vungle in 2019 to private equity firm Blackstone.

The recent March 2024 collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, Maryland because of a container vessel impact underscores the fact that at any point in our lives we may be forced to deal with unplanned crisis. My sympathies go out to those families who were affected by this. Outside of the lives lost, and all of them were senselessly cut short from leading productive lives, the impact to the economy of the region cannot be understated.

For example, a lot of the shipping volume of the Eastern seaboard passes through this port. Many of the cargo bound for different destinations in the continental United States had to pass through this bridge. A lot of workers who took this bridge to work now have to adjust by working from home, or dealing with it by some other means.

Another set of incidents that have happened in the past few weeks have been the safety incidents that have marred Boeing’s safety record. Boeing is of course one of the great American companies that helped America win the jet age through their 747 jumbo jets. Now it seems they are plagued with very public safety issues.

Every day accidents and incidents that can affect our lives happen. The worst thing we can do is to let our emotions get the better of us. While we are all human and need to react just to remain sane, at some point our logical brains need to kick in to assess the situation and figure out what is the best course of action to continue with our businesses, our personal and professional lives.

Humans are not meant to take it on the chin every time by themselves. That is why we have friends, family, and fellow employees. If you feel you cannot handle the situation mentally, talk to a counselor privately. Even a psychiatrist if you need to. Maintaining your sanity in crisis times is important. No one should take that against you.

Remember you are not sailing your Company ship alone. In your hands rests the fate of your shareholders, your employees, your suppliers, and your customers. They deserve someone whose mental faculties are intact in times of crisis. If yours are not, consider informing the Board if you feel you are not capable of steering your ship through the shoals and reefs. 

Having said this, work on strength of character and focus on the mission ahead. You will be distracted by people from all corners trying to criticize you, asking you to resign, pointing out every mistake you are making, and so on. If you feel however that you and your Company has done nothing wrong, then steel on with your course. But if you feel that the Company should be steered by someone else, then it is something that you should really think about. It will affect your future career, but if people’s safety is at stake, then that takes priority.

Running a company is not just for profit. It is also a form of public service. The public relies on your quality products and services. If as a leader you can no longer ensure that mission, then ask yourself if you should step down.

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