Hurricane Irma devastated Puerto and created a humanitarian disaster rarely seen in the United States. While the federal government’s response hasn’t been the best (based on infrastructure challenges, over stretched FEMA, leadership, etc), we’ve seen the private sector companies like Tesla and Alphabet step up to be partners in crisis response. While these projects are small in comparison to the larger needs, they are a step in the right direction and serve as models to how companies can work with customers in challenging times.
- While crisis sucks for those who are involved, it’s a great opportunity for companies that have solutions ready to help. Natural disasters are an extreme example, but consumers, businesses, and governments all undergo crisis of varying magnitudes and need the help right away.
- Crisis often means the breakdown of barriers to entry for new participants. After destructive hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the normal distribution networks for electricity, internet, and water were destroyed. Not only was there a sense of urgency to get those services operating as quick as possible, the downtime provided an opportunity for distributed solutions like Alphabet’s stratospheric balloons nicknamed project loon, or Tesla’s powerpacks powering a rural hospital to jump in as a solution. As a founder, be on the lookout for key areas where an incumbent’s strength becomes an inherent weakness.
- Understand the long term value when you successfully deliver a solution in a crisis situation. Compensation is important but the larger priority is proof of concept and a customer that’s fully invested in the success of your deployment. Crisis situations can be used as a transformational case study and will speak more within an industry than a clever advertising/ marketing campaign. Some short-sighted companies will look at a crisis situation as an opportunity to increase the cost of services or products. I believe the value derived from assisting customers in a crisis situation with a long term view in mind trumps the short term gain from exploiting crisis to drive revenue.