Sigura Water’s Zdenek Kratky on building your contingency plan
The introduction on Sigura Water’s website leads with the philosophy that every brand must adhere to: Trust. It is the most valuable asset any of us can provide to our customers. Nobody knows that better than Zdenek Kratky. As Sigura’s VP of Marketing, he is tasked with helping the brand keep that trust—that promise—at the heart of every message it conveys. As an accomplished marketing and sales leader, Kratky has been on the forefront of building and maintaining relationships, and creating communication on myriad levels. We sat down with him to get his thoughts on what brands can do in the face of unprecedented change.
When does a crisis hit that moment of impact, i.e., when is it time to start thinking about your strategy?
Every company should have a clear crisis management plan that is part of its overall business strategy and management protocol. Crises can take on many shapes and forms. That is why immediate, well-coordinated actions are required and appreciated by employees, investors and the broader community.
“Moment of Impact” can be hard to define. For COVID-19, we are really still nearing that moment for our company, but reality is that we have been implementing multiple actions—internally and externally—as we work through our Pandemic Preparedness Plan and the various stages that are outlined.
Why is it important for a brand to keep its poise and presence in the face of such change?
Consumers—your customers—look to a brand for information. They want to be able to trust that you will be there to support them during good and bad times. Being proactive, transparent and honest is a significant driver of loyalty. People will forgive and help hose who treat them with integrity and purvey honest information—not selling gimmicks during times of crisis management.
What are the most critical actions to take now?
Communicate. Develop contingencies. Plan for worst case scenarios. You must always understand how you might fail. When you do, you will be more likely to succeed. You have to manage cash flow, listen to your employees, consumers and customers, and benchmark other industries’ reactions.
Why is it important to maintain open communications with your employees and community/customers?
It builds trust, shows commitment, and shares pain, care and empathy.
What is the role of leadership? What is the best top-down strategy?
Leadership must be open and supportive. Employees look to leaders for what to do. At the same time, pro-active and consistent communication and sharing all available information relevant to your company’s operations and go-to-market strategy are very helpful. It helps put people’s minds at ease, despite the chaos on the outside. Leaders must demonstrate that they have a plan; they are implementing it; they are flexible, and that they have the employees safety and best interests in mind.
What is the best piece of advice you can offer to other leaders in how to deal with the unthinkable?
Put together a task-force that includes leaders from all businesses and functions (C-level) and has an extended work group of internal experts. Organize a core task force to meet daily two times per week (or more as needed). Make safety the first priority. Financial and other considerations can be managed once safety of employees is ensured. Communicate with your employees often. Stay calm. And if you do not have a formal crisis management plan, get a good one from another company. You can build one in the first three days. It can be done.