Watching BP and the Obama administration trying to put a favorable spin on the last 62 days in the Gulf of Mexico would be a comedy of errors that Shakespeare could be proud of if it weren’t for the fact that tens of thousands of barrels of oil are spewing out every day destroying marine life, coastal waterways, and the livelihoods of thousands of Gulf Coast residents.
One almost feels sorry for the executives of BP and their many public relations gaffs. From BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward’s, “I want my life back” comment to BP’s COB, Carl-Henric Svanberg talking about how BP cares for the “small people” it has not been good. To top it all off, Hayward was caught this weekend on his yacht – not the image you want from a company pledging round-the-clock attention to this oil spill.
With the exception of my former congressman, and fellow Aggie, Joe Barton it’s hard to feel sorry for a company that has systematically and egregiously stacked up safety violations at a rate that would make the road runner stop dead in his tracks. His apology to BP seems to have provided some much needed cover for the Obama administration’s dismal efforts of convincing us that they have been in charge this whole time.
Damned If You Do & Damned If You Don’t
Hopefully, if you subscribe to this blog then you are seeking to run your small businesses in an ethical and moral manner. If so, then other than some how not to do public relations lessons you will not find yourself in a position to explain/mislead/spin your company’s actions leading up to a disastrous event like this oil spill.
You may find yourself in President Obama’s shoes though. Yes, the lack of governmental oversight for decades help foster an environment that allowed this oil spill to happen. Yes, the clean up efforts have been lackluster and could be improved in many areas. There is a major distinction that needs to be made – President Obama did not cause the spill.
As entrepreneurs, we will likely find ourselves having to respond to something caused by one of our employees, suppliers, or an act of God. President Obama is coming under fire for taking vacation and playing golf during this spill. It seems that he has been criticized no matter what his response to the spill has been or will be.
Not Even Perfect People Escape Criticism
All of the talking heads covering this oil spill remind me of criticisms that were made against Jesus. It seems that not even Christ was able to do the right thing in everyone’s eyes. Listen to what he said …
16But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. (Matthew 11:16-19, King James Version)
No matter what we do there will always be someone who disagrees with us. Let’s hope that it is not as public as the coverage of the BP oil spill.
What Should Entrepreneurs Do in These Situations?
So what is the takeaway for the small business entrepreneur?
- Do the right thing. Had BP done that then they wouldn’t be in this situation.
- Be honest. BP is still going to be sued. Putting the best face (aka being deceitful) on it is only going to make it worse and the judgments larger.
- Be humble. The lack of humility by BP is dumbfounding. Rather than talk about the “small people” become one by putting yourself in their shoes then meeting those needs.
- Actions Speak Volumes. Forget the PR ads and get on with making it right.
- Don’t Be Defensive. People will criticize you no matter what you do. Trying to explain yourself rarely works in these situations.
Have you ever been in a situation where your company has done something wrong? Or perhaps, you have sold products that turned out to be defective (Toyota cars, lead-based toys, etc.) without your knowledge? How did you handle it?