Is your company prepared for a disaster? In an interview with Philip Jan Rothstein, Founder and President of Rothstein Associates Inc. and Rothstein Publishing, we learn more about the field of Business Continuity Management and the critical need for every business, regardless of size, to be prepared for and recover from a potential disaster.
Did The Cow Do It?
Think about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, or more recently the catastrophic events of 9/11, or even the cascading fallout from dozens of corporate blunders and scandals caused by bribery, greed, collusion, lack of ethics, violence, and even stupidity. Now, put it in the context of your own business.
If disaster strikes, can your business weather the unexpected? Are you prepared for “business as usual” in the event of a crisis?
As any business owner can attest “business as usual” is seeded in a company’s ability to identify and respond to any number of potential threats to its business – whether natural or manmade.
Daily headlines bring the subject out of the textbook and into the minds of everyone from the CEO to your customers, to your employees and their families. Fires, floods, explosions, hurricanes, terrorism – all imaginable and unimaginable events that can wreak havoc with your ability to do business.
Three decades ago, the advent of computers brought a new risk factor to businesses. While executives were being enticed by the dazzling potential of this new technology, a young computer whiz named Phil Rothstein turned his attention to the potential chaos that could − and did − happen when the computers went down.
The Roots of Success
Rothstein launched his career at the cutting edge of the technology revolution, witnessing the disasters that inevitably paralyzed companies when the computers stopped computing.
“During the 1970s and 1980s I was working primarily on Wall Street,” says Rothstein. “ IBM was becoming a highly recognized brand, computer games were making news, banks used computers to read checks, and the ’floppy disk‘ and word processors were beginning to transform office functionality. It was before people knew how to spell http:// <http://> or had even heard of Amazon.com.
“The terms Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Management (BCM) had yet to be created, but the impact and potential disasters that the new technology could cause were staggering. For a computer geek like me, the challenges facing businesses were absolutely exhilarating – much like, I’m sure, how the ’kids‘of Apple, Google and Facebook felt decades later.”
In 1984, Rothstein started Rothstein Associates Inc., a consulting firm to focus on disaster avoidance and recovery within high-tech business environments, to offer strategic organizational planning and to help restructure or consolidate entire data centers.
“The demand for these services was substantial,” says Rothstein. “Soon we were working with international banks, an explosive manufacturer, a gaming casino, universities, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, public utilities, major insurers and even publishers.
“Before long, our clients were asking for help finding books and other documents on the subject. We scoured the earth for everything written to help educate CEOs; CFOs; CIOs, Security, IT and HR departments; communications teams and other senior management professionals.”
In 1989, the publication of The Rothstein Catalog On Disaster Recovery became the foundation for Rothstein Publishing. Amassing a title list of 1,000 books, research reports, software tools, and videos from all over the world, the young publishing company distributed 50,000 copies of the 24-page printed catalog internationally.
The Growth of an Industry
Through the 1990s, as the IT disaster recovery industry grew, it generated increasing government regulations requiring business continuity and disaster recovery plans for public and private sector organizations. Simultaneously, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery evolved into cross-functional processes applicable to any size business and any industry.
Business Continuity Management (BCM) helps to identify a broad range of potential threats to an organization and the impacts to a company’s operations if those threats happen. However, BCM is not something you plug into at the time of a disaster. Rather, it is a process of continuous, evolving activities to be performed daily to maintain service, consistency, and recoverability for customers, suppliers, regulators, employees, and stakeholders.
Today, Philip Jan Rothstein is a globally recognized entrepreneur, publisher, small business owner, consultant, columnist, contributor to more than 90 books, and an expert on the subject of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.
Named a Fellow by The Business Continuity Institute (BCI) in 1994, Rothstein joined a stellar list of brilliant minds beginning to make news in the Boardrooms of Europe. These global pioneers quickly collaborated with Rothstein to create the first of a series of book projects that became the bibles of the industry.
Rothstein authors are global thought leaders in their fields – developing industry standards, guidelines, best practices, and creating of some of the most important books, informational CDs, and templates ever published about Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, Risk Analysis, and Crisis Management.
Among them are: Andrew Hiles, Founding Director and first Fellow of BCI; Jim Burtles, Founding Fellow of BCI; Julia Graham, Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute and Fellow of BCI, and Rolf von Roessing, International Vice President of ISACA and former member of the Board of BCI.
Jim Burtles’ newest release scheduled for May – EmergencyEvacuation Planning for Your Workforce: From Chaos to Life-Saving Solutions – promises to be a critically important addition to the BCM market. Driven by the lessons of 9/11, Burtles has invested 10 years in writing the first-ever book on the strategy and tactics required to “get everybody out” during a disaster.
Rothstein Publishing’s newest authors include Jim Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, recently named to the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Crisis Management and Communication; and Vali Hawkins Mitchell, PhD, LMHC, a certified traumatologist, who breaks new BCM ground in the area of Emotional Continuity. Mitchell’s The Cost of Emotions In the Workplace is one example of how Rothstein helps authors to bring new insights and best practices to the forefront of the industry.
How He Does It
“When you have your own business,” says Rothstein, “it is very easy to stick within your comfort zone. The world is changing around us at warp speed, and as independent business professionals we have to keep up the pace!
“BCM is a very specialized area of business, yet the principles of it are critical for any type of business whether you make widgets, operate a bakery, or manage a construction crew or a team of landscapers. As an entrepreneur, you need to stay informed and think forward.
“We do this every day with our authors. We work closely with each one to encourage them to infuse their own unique perspective and professional experience to their books so we can provide real, usable and applicable advice, best practices and guidance to the reader. We are constantly expanding our publications list. We help to cross-promote our authors and their expertise through conferences, webinars, and speaking engagements. I write a weekly blog… and by the way, we are always on the lookout for new authors!”
But What’s With The Cow?
Rothstein answers with a grin. “Simple – we were cheap. When we created our first catalogue, our talented graphic artist, Sheila Kwiatek was instructed to keep our design and production costs down, since we didn’t know what kind of response to expect. She came up with a clever juxtaposition of some 19th-century, public-domain clip-art of a cow, a lantern, and an explosion – and, voila! Mrs. O’Leary’s cow (i.e. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, for those of us too young to remember) became our unofficial mascot. Over the years Daisy has evolved and proudly serves us and our industry as a reminder of the value of preparation, planning, prevention and avoidance measures which can reduce the need, trauma, cost and disruption during disaster response.”