The Crisis Counselor
by Jeffrey R. Caponigro

Seldom does a business book make good reading while both informing and serving as a hands-on instruction manual. That’s what Caponigro has done with this book about insulating the business - or any undertaking - against the inevitability of crises. By way of “The Crisis Counselor mindset” he sets forth a series of activities and management steps that are designed to help any organization prevent, manage, yet thrive on business crises.

“A crisis is any event or activity with the potential to negatively affect the reputation or credibility of a business. It is typically a situation that is - or soon could be - out of control.”

This book has nine chapters. Each commences with a brief do-it-yourself check-list, followed by a score evaluation. Then the author gets into the meat of the chapter’s subject, and this is interspersed with capsule case histories, to more graphically illustrate the theme of the chapter. Then follows a “closing thoughts” paragraph, and a concluding paragraph of “tips to consider”. This formula keeps up the reader’s interest and invites the book’s use as an instruction manual or guide in tailoring the content to the specific needs of any organization.

The Crisis Counselor mindset insulates the business by means of the following activities, each of which is thoroughly examined in its appropriate chapter, using the method previously described:

· Identifying and assessing vulnerabilities.
· Preventing a crisis from occurring.
· Planning for a crisis.
· The crisis itself (dealing with it effectively).
· Communicating during and after a crisis.
· Monitoring, evaluating and making adjustments.

The capsule case studies, each about one page in length and followed by a synopsis of lessons to be learned, make for interesting reading in their own right, and who could resist headings like: “Baseball club covers all its bases”; “Embezzlement strikes charity group”; “Saying ‘no comment’ without saying it”, or “The fruit & vegetable market and the murders”.

“So, who should be The Crisis Counselor in an organizaton?”

Caponigro states that any business owner, executive, franchisee, sales person, marketing or public relations professional could take the leadership role, or it could be a shared role in a larger organization. The ideal would be for everyone in the organization to become schooled in and manage by The Crisis Counselor mindset; however, there needs to be a catalyst if this mindset is to become part of the day-to-day management of the business or organization.

“How prepared does our business need to be? How much is too much?”

According to Caponigro the management of the organization will need to make that call; and a vulnerabilities analysis will serve as a strong guide and warning signal for answering this question.

The author goes through all the reasons usually thrown up as to why a crisis-management plan should not or cannot be undertaken by an organization, then gives compelling reasons why it should be done as well as suggesting various means of achieving this objective. Without naming it as such, his examples reveal the dead hand of bureaucracy often encountered in larger organizations, against which the common-sense management practices he describes provides the antidote. He looks for an organization to “achieve a system of checks and balances that make it difficult for problems to go unnoticed; (establish) a culture that encourages a supportive and loyal organization; (create) a bank of goodwill that helps avert problems altogether and can make the difference between damaging crises and well-managed ones”.

Too often the business planning process comes unstuck when organizations lack a proper comprehension of the differences between objectives, strategies, and tactics, or how to set tangible measurements. To his credit Caponigro addresses this failure with useful definitions for each together with meaningful wording and measurable examples that can be useful when constructing the crisis-management plan.

“Estimates of Fortune 1000 companies of the early ‘90s with formal crisis-management plans have ranged from about 5-10 percent.”

An interesting statistic that begs the question as to definition of the crisis-management plans and whether or not they extend beyond the high-profile situations to deal with employee layoffs/downsizings, corporate lawsuits, negative media coverage, damaging rumours, product defects or quality problems, poor employee morale and others, that fall within the scope of The Crisis Counselor.

“A business needs sufficient amounts of goodwill stored up to act as insulation when it needs strong support from those who are important to the success of the business - employees, customers, investors, suppliers, politicians, community leaders, the news media and others.”

In his concluding chapter that puts it all together, Caponigro does not lose sight of the fact that the reader may want to contact him through the Internet or through his company’s website with questions or suggestions for future editions of The Crisis Counselor.


The Crisis Counselor: The Executive's Guide to Avoiding, Managing and Thriving on Crises that Occur in all Businesses is published by Barker Business Books Inc., Southfield, Mich. For more information: Jeff Caponigro at (248) 355-3200.


Copyright 1998 - Ian Bullock. All rights reserved.

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