Practice Tsunami Planning

Cataclysms hit businesses every day: the loss of a key client, lawsuits, a public relations nightmare (think Dell’s exploding laptops), and sometimes even gaining a large new client. When AT&T secured exclusive rights to support Apple’s iPhone on its wireless network in 2007, Steve Jobs said he’d be happy if they could grab one percent of the global cell phone market, or about 10 million units for 2008. Instead, Apple sold closer to 43 million—25.1 million in 2009 alone—and acquired 14 percent of the global smartphone market. And AT&T’s network simply couldn’t handle the traffic. The result? Lots of very unhappy customers. Unhappy vocal customers who were very savvy to the impact of social networks.

Once a quarter, our company’s management team spends a day with me envisioning our “What If” scenarios. These “Tsunami Planning” sessions tackle global scenarios that have the potential to completely overwhelm our operations. Recent topics have included: how to respond in the case of a major natural disaster, the impact of quadrupling the business overnight, and the loss of a key executive.

While natural disasters and other acts of God remain remote possibilities, if the economic crash of 2008/2009 has taught us anything, it has taught us that the economic cycle is going to remain dynamic, despite what Alan Greenspan thought. So, in early 2008, before everything had really tipped over and recruiting was still booming along, DT was rolling out strategies for growth, while at the same time planning for a major reversal in new business. As a result, we were able to weather what was a significant downturn, and even roll out new products and services, while several competitors went bankrupt.

The purpose of a Tsunami Planning session is not to come up with what you know, but to explore what you don’t know. If you are just going through the motions and listing our action steps, you’re not planning for tsunami: it should be a painful and difficult process, and the result is peace of mind.

I haven’t gotten hit by that proverbial bus yet, but we have a plan for it in case it happens. And that’s a good feeling.

Kim Shepherdhttp://www.dtoolbox.com/
AS CEO of Decision Toolbox, Kim Shepherd leads the company’s growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships, alliances and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources community. A recognized thought leader by HR organizations nationwide including the Human Capital Institute, Kim is a regular speaker at national and regional events on various business models. Kim joined Decision Toolbox in 2000, and brought her unconventional approach to the company she had admired as a client. Today Decision Toolbox is 100% virtual, with more than 100 team members working remotely across the U.S. This company is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise. This unique business model has played a key role in the company being awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Decision Toolbox was also named one of the "Fastest Growing Private Companies" by the Orange County Business Journal in 2012. In addition, they have been named 3 years running to the INC 500/5000 List of Fastest Growing Private Companies and have been a 7-time recipient of the HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen for Midmarket and Emerging Markets. Calling Kim unconventional is an understatement – her former endeavors include 10 years as a TV and Foreign Correspondent, a stint at Club Med and a near miss at a spot on the Olympic ski team. Kim is an active member of the Adaptive Business Leaders Executive Roundtable and the National Association for Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter). She served on the Executive Board of Trustees for Girls Incorporated of Orange County and is also the Board Chair for Working Wardrobes. She is also a former member of Impact Giving. Kim is the recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter) 2013 Innovator of the Year Award, the 2014 Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year, and the 2015 Family Matters Award from WomanSage.


  1. Damage control. How I detest damage control. Damage control from poor plans. Damage control from poor leadership and management. Damage control when people feel their not accountable for their own behavior.

    I detest damage control. And because I detest it so much, I now look at things from three perspectives for “what if” scenarios.

    1. Glass half full = likely best case and best of the best case
    2. Glass half empty = worst case failure
    3. Enough water in the glass to drown you = prioritized points of failure

    I usually “choke” on some water I’m drinking when I bring up the 3rd point.