Top tips for tackling a corporate crisis: Advice from GC’s who’ve been there.

This article was written for Legal Week and can be found at: https://www.law.com/corpcounsel/2018/10/18/top-tips-for-tackling-a-corporate-crisis-from-gcs-whove-been-there/?kw=Top%20tips%20for%20tackling%20a%20corporate%20crisis%2C%20from%20GCs%20who%27ve%20been%20there&et=editorial&bu=CorporateCounsel&cn=20181019&src=EMC-Email&pt=DailyAlert

Legal Week recently spoke to Rolls-Royce general counsel Mark Gregory, Tesco GC Adrian Morris and former BT GC Dan Fitz about how they dealt with being at the centre of a corporate crisis.

1. Be prepared. “You can only learn on the job once. We went through a journey; we realised that although [as a company] we do this incredible stuff that really is rocket science, our data systems were not as sophisticated – but the Department of Justice and Serious Fraud Office expected everything would be on hand.” – Mark Gregory, Rolls-Royce

2. Make sure you know who’s working on the crisis. “You can’t have everyone focusing on it, as there’s still a business to run. You need a tight group of decision-makers.” – Adrian Morris, Tesco

3. Put together a team to help you out. ”Lawyers love fire-fighting and crises and all that kind of stuff, but you need to move as quickly as you can from crisis mode into having some element of control. You have to have that group of communications, IT, legal, HR, security people all working together.

Being organised gives you the best chance of picking up on all the issues and not looking like an idiot in front of the board when something goes wrong.” – Mark Gregory, Rolls-Royce

“Appoint a non-lawyer project manager. These things are long haul. There’s the initial crisis stage where our expression was: ‘Your job is just to identify and shoot the crocodile nearest the boat.’ That stage is about staying alive and keeping going when you have multiple stakeholders reaching in and demanding immediate answers.” – Dan Fitz, BT

4. Invest in decent information management systems. “The sooner you can do this the better. Information can be the difference between liability and not, between reputational harm and not.” – Dan Fitz, BT

5. Know who your stakeholders are. “Sit down with your team and a couple of external advisers, have a Black Swan on different types of crisis and work out who your stakeholders are and who you would go to for advice.” – Dan Fitz, BT

6. Stay calm. “Finding calm in a moment of crisis is really important – the intensity, pressure and stress on everyone is high, so you have to be able to calmly step back. Don’t panic – under pressure there’s a risk of rushing decisions, but you have to be able to make good decisions.” – Adrian Morris, Tesco

7. Work out the messaging in advance, both from a legal and comms perspective. ”If you’re too worried about the potential legal exposure, you’re not going to manage your reputational exposure very well, and vice versa. You can’t just wing it. You need a lot of people around the table – you won’t please all of your stakeholders though.” – Dan Fitz, BT

8. Ask someone who’s been there and done it for advice. ”You want to come out of this with a company that’s intact and worth something. One of the things we did early on was reach out to Tesco, who had just had their own accounting scandal.

We asked Adrian Morris: how can we have a good crisis? He shared his experiences and we learned from that. We didn’t learn everything we needed to know but through your network, through outside counsel, find someone who has been in a similar position and you’ll find most people are willing and able to share quite a lot.” – Dan Fitz, BT

9. Don’t let it distract everyone in the company from the day job, but don’t let them forget about it either. “You want people to get on with their jobs, because it is all-consuming. Once you’re out of the crisis days, actually very few of the executive committee need to be involved in it from day to day, and the most important part of their job is to be out there in front of the rest of the employees, being positive. 

You need people to think about other things without forgetting that the case is ongoing, for two reasons – one, you need to drive cultural change; and two, if they forget about it and then you suddenly start talking about it again because of a disclosure obligation, then people are surprised all over again. It’s a difficult balance you’ve got to strike.” – Mark Gregory, Rolls-Royce

 

The article was written for Legal Week and can be found at: https://www.law.com/corpcounsel/2018/10/18/top-tips-for-tackling-a-corporate-crisis-from-gcs-whove-been-there/?kw=Top%20tips%20for%20tackling%20a%20corporate%20crisis%2C%20from%20GCs%20who%27ve%20been%20there&et=editorial&bu=CorporateCounsel&cn=20181019&src=EMC-Email&pt=DailyAlert

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