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Selling Your Business Resumption Plan to the “Top Dogs:” It’s Not as Tough as You Think, Part 1

If you are a mid-level manager trying to “sell” your disaster recovery plan in the corner executive office, you know it’s tough to make that pitch. Leo Wrobel shows you how to lay out the project, get to your ultimate goal quickly (commitment, funding, hiring or whatever), and devise a presentation that will make your boss an “offer he can’t refuse.”
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Probably the most frustrating experiences at the workplace are those in which you have the responsibility for a problem or issue but not the authority to correct it. If there is one characteristic I have noted in my 25 years of writing disaster recovery plans, it is this one. Indeed, I thought business resumption planning involves addressing global business issues, which oftentimes are far above the recovery planner’s normal sphere of influence. To use the vernacular, “These issues are above my pay grade!”

If you are a mid-level manager trying to “sell” your recovery plan in the corner executive office, perhaps you will glean a nugget or two out of this series. You see, I have had it both ways. I know what it feels like to make the pitch, and now what it feels like to be the one pitched.

Early in my career as an analyst, I was tasked with making that “stand-up presentation” in the corner office to a bunch of scary executives and bosses. Later, in private practice as a business resumption planning consultant, I had to make presentations like these again… and again… and again. Well, practice makes perfect. Any consultant worth his or her salt knows there are some things you can do in the corner office where they consider you a genius. Sometimes they laugh and slap you on the back. Other things, however, will make them scream, holler, bang the table, and threaten to withhold your check. You learn very quickly to avoid anything that contributes to the latter and avoid a meltdown.

A Restaurant Analogy

How does one get through to a corner office executive whose attention span for your topic is measured in microseconds? It starts with establishing trust with the executive, and that’s not always easy for the technologist.

Let me answer this question by explaining it in a somewhat novel way:

    Question: Where do you get absolutely the best food in the world?

    Answer: Generally speaking, it is at your mom’s house.

Go with me on this one. I intend to make a point.

I grew up in a large Polish/Italian family. The food was good, and there was plenty of it. In fact, there was never any question that it was good. Word spread, and after a while most of my friends discovered that Saturday night was pizza night at the Wrobel’s and they all came over…often.

Having established that point, let me ask another question:

    Question: Where do you go to eat something that nobody in their right mind would normally eat?

    Answer: A French restaurant.

I have eaten some pretty bizarre entrees in a French restaurant that I would never have consciously chosen to buy at my local supermarket. But they were displayed with exquisite sauces and presentation that I ate and enjoyed them very much. Also, considering the fact that a meal for two was $250, I had darn-well better have enjoyed it.

So what does this analogy mean in terms of establishing trust with your executive boss? It means they trust outside consultants more than you. Consider the following:

  • You know the food is so good at your mom’s. You have had a longstanding business relationship with your mom. In other words, you know her food is good from firsthand experience.
  • I might not be so inclined to eat at your mom’s house because I would not have the same firsthand experience. God only knows what your Mom might serve me.
  • Both of us could probably come to an agreement on the French restaurant. After all, if it’s so expensive, it has to be good. This is, in a strange way, how management acts and why they retain outside consultants instead of trusting you.

In the case of disaster recovery, you are effectively assuming the role of mom. You know you are a great cook and that you have the right recipe. You are more than ready to dish up something healthy and good for the organization—a business impact analysis and a disaster recovery plan. Nevertheless, executive management does not have the “trust” relationship with you yet. They will be reticent to believe you know how to cook up a plan, in much the same manner that I may not want to eat at your mom’s house.

So instead management will opt for the equivalent of the French restaurant. They will hire a $350 per hour consultant to tell him or her things that you already know. Like the French restaurant, the consultant is so expensive that he better be good.

But why can’t they believe you? The fact is, they can.

The manner in which the French restaurant—or the high-priced consultant—justifies earning the big bucks is the same. They are both experts at presentation. It is safe to say that the extra expense of the consultant is not justified if your company has good cooks on staff but does not trust them. This is why you must convince management that you are a master chef. You do that in the executive presentation.

A lot of work must be undertaken before you get to that all-important presentation. Let’s explore a few tips in this article for laying out the project, getting to your ultimate goal quickly (commitment, funding, hiring or whatever), and devising a presentation that will make your boss an “offer he can’t refuse.”

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