EM Weekly: 19 Business Continuity with Dr. Lisandra Pagan
[TODD DEVOE] Hi, and welcome to EM Weekly. This is your host, Todd DeVoe. And today, we have the author, and somebody who has some really good insights into business continuity, Dr. Lisandra Pagan. And she is going to talk about her book. So, Dr. Pagan, how did you start getting into business continuity, and specifically, why did you decide to write your book?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Well, Todd, first of all, thank you for having me. I started my first business in 2003, and after a disaster, I lost everything. So, I went back to college for an education and tried to figure out what happened, what was my problem, and I thought it was marketing, I thought it was… I didn’t know a lot about sales. And in an agricultural program. So, I decided: you know what? There’s something else here that nobody thought about, and I realize it was because I didn’t have a plan B. I never planned. I made a business proposal, it went to the bank, I got the financing, everything was perfect, but everything was so positive on that proposal that I never considered time down, losses, natural disasters. So, I decided: ok, I’m gonna do this, because I realize that I’m not the only person. When I read the statistics, that 90% of the businesses closed, I’m like: wow, why is nobody doing anything about this? So, I decided, I’m gonna go for it, and I’m gonna try to help people to keep their businesses running. And then I started working for the department of agriculture, and an emergency response program, and I got involved into ICS, and all that, and I said: ok, that’s the perfect combination! Emergency management with business continuity, and that’s how I get started.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s pretty cool. What kind of business did you own prior to… and also, what kind of natural disaster hit your business?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Well, I used to live in Puerto Rico at the time, so I had an agricultural business. And there was a period of 20 days of rain, mudslides, and my business, my agricultural production, literally was under the dirt for an entire week or two. So, when we tried to recover it… it was a mudslide, so when we tried to recover, everything started back bacterial diseases, because of the time under humidity. So, there was no way to recover, we had to burn everything and start over. But at that point, you know, I didn’t have any money to start over, so I started taking loans, which is the only option when you have a business and go through a disaster. So, since it was a federally declared emergency, I didn’t get a disaster loan, I got a traditional loan. So, everything just snowballed into it, and it’s just so difficult to recover, that I decided… you know, I need to help people to prepare for the disaster. So, they can recover quickly and just keep trying, keep going before it’s too late.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, that’s really important. Especially small businesses and farming, for most of us, it’s stuff like small business. When I was in my undergrad, I did a study specifically on the Whittier Narrows earthquake, that happened in 1987. And I found that minority women-owned businesses, and most of them were nail salons and beauty salons, but once they closed for more than 3 days, they never opened back up. And you’re right, it was about a 90% failure. And it’s because those clients move on to other people. It was beauty salons and ice cream shops. Those were the ones that were more devastated.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] That’s what I tell everybody. Like, your clients are not gonna wait until you get it together. They need to get services, they need to get products, and they’re gonna find somebody else. So, you need to prepare for any kind of interruption, even if it’s for a couple of hours, so you can bounce back quickly, and don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, because if you plan ahead of time, you already have the answer. You just have to implement, move on, and if it doesn’t work, just… start again. But you keep moving, you never stop to think. You already have the decisions made, and that’s what the book is about. It’s just making those decisions before the event shows up, before you face this challenge, before you’re forced to stop doing business for a while. So, when you have to get back on to your business activities, you have a guide. You already have, as I said, a compass that will guide you in those difficult moments, and you don’t have to start making decisions, trying to find suppliers, or trying to find who’s gonna help you with this, you already have all that in your plan.
[TODD DEVOE] I did some business continuity government planning on the city side of things, and I’ve done a couple now with a couple of universities, and everything has its own challenges. But what I really like about your book is… it’s not a book that you read from cover to cover, it’s a workbook. And it’s step by step on how to get your plan. By the time you go through this book, and if you fill out the areas correctly, you’re gonna have a solid continuity business plan for you. So, I highly recommend it, and we’ll talk about how you can get this book a little bit later. What successes have you seen with people that have used your book, or something like this, to plan out their business continuity for small businesses?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Well, small business owners, usually they don’t have a budget and they probably know that nobody has budgeted for this! So, it’s very important that they have a decision-making process, a set of steps that they need to follow. And one of my clients, she’s got a hair salon, and I found that funny when you mentioned early, it’s usually hair salons. I work with restaurants because restaurants in three days they lose everything. So, I work with restaurants, and I work with small business owners. But my client, she said like: I don’t know what to do if I cannot work for three days straight. And we live in Florida, if there’s a hurricane, we could be for a month without power. And I said: ok, so we need to plan what you’re gonna do. And after we planned her strategy, she’s got a generator, and she’s got a pool with a water filter, so she can use the pool water if the needs to wash hairs, or remove hair dye or whatever she’s doing. And the other thing is like, we plan how to recover from that time that she was not able to do business. So, she will also have a plan on how to make quick money with sales, with hair specials, so she can bring people in after an interruption. So she does not feel that impact of losing two, three days because on the next day she’s gonna recover. And that’s how we work with that. And she was so pleased with this because she said: I can use this for anything! If I go on travels, and I go on vacation, and I need to recover from that time that I wasn’t producing any income, I can come back and just implement one of these strategies of making quick sales, and quick strategies for making money on the spot, like two or three clients a day, because she will have a sale, or she will have a special going on, just to bring people in. And she will have her meet ends by the end of the week or the month, just because she was able to bring that quick cash.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s important, to be able to recover fast because you’re right. I mean, especially with cash-based businesses like a restaurant and/or hair salon, and stuff like that, they can get under pretty quickly, and not have enough flow coming in, that’s the most important part. I really like the format of your book, and I like the fact that it even talks about… for the business owner, what happens if you die. How does your family go on, you know? I mean, you really took the time to look at all those things.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Oh yes, this was… I was in Miami when I did this, and I was sick. I was sick. And I had been working with it in my mind for months, but I didn’t know how to put it on paper. So that weekend, I had extra time on my hands, I was lying in bed, and I just started typing. And I show it to a friend of mine, and she was like: oh my god! I don’t even know how to develop a plan, and just by reading this, I can do it! Without you being there just telling me… you know, if I really understand my business and the processes of my business, I can do this. And I was like: ok, so that’s great. So, we started testing with different small businesses, like a carwash business, or a food truck business, and they were all able to complete it. I said: you need to put the work, it’s not a book that will tell you what to do; you have to put the work on the book. So, that’s why I said: you know, it’s not a book, it’s a workbook, because you’re gonna be working…
[TODD DEVOE] That’s true. There’s lots of space here, too. It’s really neat. Some of the things I noticed in here too, and if you wanna attack like the big words and whatnot, it’s the SWOT analysis is in there, but not made in the same way, so it’s not overwhelming to people who don’t have that background with them, and have that organizational management background. And it’s really easy to go through, and anybody… I mean, even if… you were saying that before, even if you don’t own a business and you wanna do something from your own home, this is something that you could really pick up and use, and plan at your own house. This is a simple thing of, God forbid, you have a fire in your house and you lose your home, and you have something like this written down, it’s a good starting basis. Who is your audience that you’re looking for specifically with your book here?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Business owners. I’m actually targeting business owners because I believe, and this is something very, very personal, I think it’s a passion of mine, these small businesses are very important for their community. So, if they can recover quickly, and they can continue to offer employment to their employees, because if they fail, there’s a lot of people that’s gonna suffer as well. So, I thought: you know what, I’m gonna do this, and with the book, and if you read, there’s a part where I offer a free consultation just to get them to have a plan. It’s like, I’m begging you: have a plan! Please!
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] I’ll help you! Just take the time and make sure you have a plan for your business. I also do a little bit of corporate consulting to restaurant groups. And that part is really what pays the meals, because obviously, with a small book, you don’t survive. I’m just doing… and as I said, I can help 1,000 business owners, which was my initial goal, with this simple book. Now, if you want me to help you personally, then I can do consultations, and I work with restaurant groups, and with businesses. But if you wanna go on your own, you can do a basic plan just by following the steps in the book. And I thought, you know, that will have a reach that I cannot even imagine how many people can get their hands on the book and help them to save their businesses because we’ve seen that… I think it was in Matthew, 200,000 businesses were affected by Hurricane Matthew. I had the statistics for one of them, it was 19.9 billion dollars in 2004, in the hurricane season in Florida. Just in Florida. And from those, 5 million businesses were affected. 40% never re-opened.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] So, if we can help those small business owners, that only provide a service, or a product to their communities, they’re also a source of employment, they are a source of income for the family owner, for the business owner. We’re gonna help the society as well. So, that’s what I thought initially, yes.
[TODD DEVOE] That would kind of be a cool idea for emergency managers that wanna do outreach to the small business community, maybe to the chamber of commerce, that they can buy these books and do a workshop with their small business owners. And I think that’s a huge value added, and it gets emergency management out from behind the closed doors, I guess, if you will, and now under the community. And really becomes… making those partners. Because if a disaster does occur, it’s gonna be that small business owner, you know, the guy that has a rental company down the street, and the restaurants and stuff like that, that you’re really gonna lean on during those disasters. And if you can help them help themselves prior to anything, this is a really good idea. Would you be able to do some consulting with emergency managers on how to utilize your book in that kind of way? If they want to contact you?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Yes, of course. And I thought, you know, the perfect way to teach this method to them is in a non-technical way. That’s why the book is written in that language. You don’t need to tell them about contingencies, and they don’t understand that. You have to talk to them in their language, that’s why the book is written in a non-technical way, so they can understand that it’s not the SWOT analysis, but what are the real threats to your business, and how your operations are going to be affected. So, that’s the way it’s written. And that would be easier, but if they mean, we can do workshops, we can do webinars, anything. Right now I’m collaborating with Safe and Ready, but I’m doing with them Spanish preparedness training for them.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s great.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Yes, because that’s another thing that I do, it’s another passion project. Guess I do passion projects a lot. And that’s the podcast that I do in Spanish. Just trying to normalize the need to prepare, you know? Just forgetting about the prepping, label, but helping people prepare so they don’t suffer as much when there’s a disaster.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s awesome! Let’s take a quick break here, and when we come back, I’d like to talk to you more about the Spanish outreach that you do in the podcast. We’ll be right back after these words. And welcome back from our quick break, thank you for listening to our sponsors, because those guys right there, they’re the ones that keep us going, and they’re all really good products that we look at, so… there’s nothing out there that we touch that we haven’t used or played with, or know the people, so, again, thank you for taking your time to listen. Lisandra, so, your passion project of the Spanish speaking podcast and preparedness. That’s one of the things that in California, obviously, we have a large Spanish speaking population in California as well, and we do some outreach with our CERT programs. And I have noticed, though, that our CERT programs, even our Spanish speaking CERT programs are not really heavily attended. What can we do to better reach out to the Spanish speaking community?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Well, I think that there’s some misconception on the preparedness part, and you probably heard this before. People think that if you prepare for a disaster, you are a maniac, or you’re crazy, or you’re a fanatic because there’s a label for people that prepare. So, people try to hide their efforts; even if they do it, they don’t tell anybody. So, they don’t like to go to public places to learn because people will label them as the crazy prepper. And that’s one of the things that I’ve been trying to teach people, like, it’s normal to prepare. Even if you read the bible, how many times they talk about disasters? Floods, droughts, anything. And there was always… and you can tell, by now, I’m a Christian person, and I know you have to prepare. You cannot just expect God to show up and just help you. And people need to realize that they need to do their part, plus they need to understand that the government is not gonna be there, at least on the first three days, so you have to prepare. And don’t expect everybody to take care of you, you have to do your part. So, I will say that changing a little bit the way it’s presented to people. Instead of like: ok, we’re doing preparedness training, just teach it in a different way. Probably that will help them be more open to going to the meetings. And the other thing is like, people are really busy. You have to offer them an opportunity to take the training when they have the time. I belong to a couple of organizations and I never show up to a meeting, because they’re always the same day at the same time. And that happens with everything. You have to decide which you’re going to attend because they’re always the same day at the same time. So, I would say, if there’s training available that they can consume as they have the opportunity, or as they have the time, like the podcast, they just go whenever they have the time to listen, that would be very, very helpful.
[TODD DEVOE] And I know some of the same things you’re talking about, people just don’t wanna have that label. I think that TV show, what was it? The Prepper Show?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] That was the start of the labelling of people. Because if you read about the… Last Day Saints, I don’t know what’s the name of the church. That people, they’re self-sufficient for a year, they have enough to live for a year without needing to go out. And they prepare really good for any emergency, or any situation. I tell them, I tell my audience, even if you lose your job, or you get sick and you’re in a disability, you don’t have to worry about food, because you prepare! You have a supply of food, water, and your basic needs are covered for 30, 60 days, whatever the time you have in your storage. And there’s nothing wrong with it! And I said, you know, we need to normalize the preparedness so people can open their minds to start taking action, and be a little bit more proactive in their efforts for emergency preparedness.
[TODD DEVOE] You’re right. The Mormons, that’s what you’re thinking about right there, with the years’ worth of food that they get. That’s funny, I got invited to talk to the Mormon church one time, regarding preparedness, I was like: I think I should be learning from you.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Yeah, they have great resources, books, anything, yes.
[TODD DEVOE] Right. Yeah, I grew up in upstate New York, and we always get ready for snowstorms, and we knew the snowstorms were coming. And I know that obviously in Florida, and in the Gulf Coast, we know when the hurricanes are coming, and people rush out to the stores to buy the stuff.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] They wait until the last minute.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah. But the problem with California, and even with Oklahoma, and those areas over there, we don’t know when the earthquake is coming. And in Oklahoma, and Texas, and Kansas, those places, and Missouri, they don’t know the tornados are coming, you know?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Yeah, and that’s true, especially with the earthquakes. But there’s so much that people can do to prepare before it actually happens. And one of my episodes is about what to do in case of an earthquake if you are inside the house, if you are outside the house, if you are in your car, what are you supposed to do? Because people don’t even… they don’t have a clue. And I didn’t have a clue either! If I was in the car, I’d probably get out of the car and just start running, I don’t know how I would have reacted. But then, you know, we need to talk about it, we need to just practice, and we need to just make it part of our lifestyle. Instead of having an organization drill, let’s have a family drill!
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] So yeah, I think it’s just that label, what really keeps people from taking action. Because they don’t wanna be labelled, especially if you’re a minority, you don’t wanna have an extra label on your back. Like, oh, she’s Hispanic, she’s a woman, she’s a prepper. Oh, my lord, help her!
[TODD DEVOE] I never thought about it that way. That’s funny. An emergency manager or student would like to reach out to you regarding your podcast, or to give at least people… I speak a little bit of Spanish, I could never teach a class in Spanish, right? So, if I wanted to get my Spanish speaking people a resource, how can we find your podcast?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Well, my podcast is found on iTunes, it’s called Preparate, which is really easy. And I also have a website, which is supposed to be the blog for the podcast, but I don’t do show notes. I only offer resources and the podcast episode, which is PrepHispano.com. I can email that to you if you don’t know how to spell it. But I also have my…
[TODD DEVOE] We’ll put that…
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] personal web page, and my business web page, so there’s plenty of ways to contact me. I’m very social, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Pretty much everywhere.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, if you can send me that information, regarding your links and how we can buy your book and everything, I’ll put that… I do show notes, so we’ll put those in our show notes, and people can find them right down below, so they don’t have to take notes during this podcast. That’s awesome.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Yes. It’s very easy to contact me, and I’m always either on my phone or my computer, so I’ll be listening and just paying attention to everything that happens, and as I said, I’m open to help anybody that needs help. That’s why I offer a free consultation, that’s why I offer a free virtual coffee business, where we can discuss their needs, their concerns, what is that really bothers them if they’ve already faced a bit of interruption, and they don’t know what to do, we can discuss that. But you know, people really need to start paying attention, preparing, and don’t wait until it’s too late because there’s some point… it’s like, with the insurance companies, once you have, your policy will take 30 to 60 days to kick in, so you cannot contact me the week before the hurricane, when it’s already by the Bahamas, to say: hey, I need a plan! So yeah.
[TODD DEVOE] Right. Yeah, no kidding. It’s funny to see how people just react that way sometimes, and I… it saddens me sometimes when they wait for the government. And I know you said earlier, you said three days, but I really think that it’s two weeks that we’re talking about for a major catastrophe. If it’s a local emergency, that’s one thing, but if we have another… Hurricane Sandy… sorry, superstorm Sandy, or hurricane Katrina, are two really good examples of when it takes us a little while to mobilize because it’s so overwhelming, that’s hard to get out there for the individuals. A couple more questions here, before I let you go. One is, if somebody is a minority, woman, or both or whatever; how would you encourage them to get involved in the emergency management field? Cause that’s one thing that we’re trying to do, is outreach to all the communities so everybody is represented. And so, when a disaster does come, we can speak the languages that we need to speak. How can we reach out to that community, and get them involved in this business?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Well, it’s like in business, you need to know who your customer is. Well, when you’re working with the community in emergency management, you need to know the customs, you need to know the culture, you need to know the community as well. So, if there’s a minority community, you need to understand them, and what are their needs, what are their barriers, and you need to provide for that, right? That’s the way you plan for a successful response and recovery if you want to have a community that it’s prepared. But I found that a lot of times, there’s not that knowledge of the community, as a whole, and probably there’s not taken into consideration that there are gonna be other groups; Vietnamese, or Asians, and they speak a different language. So, if you a part of one group, and you have that language already, and you understand the culture, well, that’s your in. That’s the way you go in. Because we need to realize that it’s a diverse population, and we need everybody, if we want to help. So, that’s your in. If you’re a woman, you can go and help… let’s say, you wanna help women. And if you are Hispanic, you wanna go and help the Hispanic, because it’s natural to you, you understand them, you understand their language, so it’s gonna be easier for you to develop a plan, of a strategy that will work with that type of community, because you understand that. So, I’ll say, we need diversity; a lot. And that’s your in. If you’re part of a group, even if you are part of… I don’t know, maybe a religious group, or the LGBTQ community, well, that’s your in. Because we need everybody if we wanna plan for everybody.
[TODD DEVOE] One of the things I really encourage my students to do when we’re doing our project is to pick their town, and how you’d plan for their town. Because I have students from all over the country that take my classes online, and some of them are military people from all over the world. And I just tell them: pick where you live, whether you live there now, or if that’s where you wanna live, or whatever. And try to look at those hazards and plan for that community. And so, I got them thinking that way, on the community base type stuff. But I really would love to see more people get involved in this business, you know, as far as emergency management goes, and that type of thing, from all over the place. Because I really do think that we need it, because these are times that you…
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Is that undergraduate degree that you teach?
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] I teach for a graduate… I think it’s (inaudible). We do disaster preparedness and emergency response, and that’s exactly how I have them go through the lesson. You pick your community, you identify the hazards, you have to go back in history and see what’s a trend, what happened, and that’s how you’re gonna start planning. And the end project is exactly that, they have to present me everything. Like, the plan, and I think the last project is a public safety announcement that they have to create for their community.
[TODD DEVOE] Oh, that’s a good idea! I’m gonna steal that.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] It’s very, very interesting to see what they come with, because sometimes I have two students in the same area, and they will do a completely different project.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s great. It’s good, it’s good to see that. Yeah, I’m stealing that idea about the PSA. That’s really… that’s awesome. All right, so I’m gonna ask you one more question here, and this is gonna be the hard one of the day. And I know you’ve got your book, so you can put that on your list of books to buy. But what books or publications do you recommend to people that are getting into emergency management, and leadership in general?
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Well, I’ve been reading about the social media era, because I think it’s very important to just integrate that in emergency management. We have to evolve with the times, and I always say that a leadership book by… I don’t remember the last name, I’ll have to include that on the e-mail for your notes, but there are so many good books for leadership, but I think we have to move a little bit from leadership and from management perspective and start looking around and see what’s happening with the social media. Because there are so many channels that we can use to our advantage. Like, blog posts are probably more effective than trying to publish an article in a magazine, people read them; podcasts, it’s very interesting, people have the opportunity to listen to whatever they want, and listen more than one time, which is very interesting as well, and the response of the people. And I think we have to move to that kind of economy. Like I said, it’s just that social media is just so big now, that we have to move to social media. So, I would say for anybody, anybody who wants to live in our social media era, the book “Crush It”, but Gary Vaynerchuk, because it’s like an overview of everything that’s happening. If you are not in social media, that’s the way to start.
[TODD DEVOE] So true.
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[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Yes, yes. Because we need to… it’s much more effective. I think it’s 13.5 seconds that a message will go around the world if you use Twitter.
[TODD DEVOE] Wow.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] So, we need to be in social media, we need to be proactive in this matter, and sometimes, we recommend: ok, let’s just plan, and have everything in writing. But people are on their phones, most of the time, or their computers. So, that’s what we need to learn how to do. How to probably take the message in a way that’s interesting, that it grabs people’s attention, and have them get involved and engaged with the emergency management community. So, I would say just “Crush It”, because you would have an overview of what’s going on. I would say any book from Richard Branson because he will change your perspective on anything you’re doing. Especially on leadership. How you’re gonna involve your employees and not have them be part of your efforts, but leaders within your efforts. And that’s very important.
[TODD DEVOE] That is important. Thank you for sharing that. That’s actually a good insight right there. Well, so we’re almost here to the end, and I do appreciate the time I had with you. It goes fast, I get involved with these conversations, and…
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Yes. It happens.
[TODD DEVOE] it goes really fast. Everybody, thank you so much for taking your time out and listening to this podcast today. We are excited to have you here, and again, if this is your first one, go back and look to the rest of them. If you speak Spanish, go ahead and check Lisandra’s podcasts, because I’m sure there’s a lot of information on that. And I really hope that you guys enjoy it. Lisandra, thank you for being here, and I hope you have a great day.
[DR LISANDRA PAGAN] Thank you, Todd, for having me.