The need to manage risk is the one certainty.
It’s three o’clock on Sunday morning, an hour north of San Francisco in a sleepy little town. The phone rings. It’s a neighbor whose voice is barely recognizable through the howling wind tearing into the phone. A knock on the door follows shortly. “Hey, have you seen the news?” another neighbor asks. I look up at the black night sky, illuminated orange like a jack-0’-lantern, the air dry and gusts whipping at 50 miles per hour, sending cracking tree limbs and debris wherever it pleases, littering the street.
Every television channel carries breaking news coverage of multiple fires across Sonoma County, the evacuations underway, the streets that are shut down, the freeways blocked. Emergency sirens wail in the not-so-distant surrounding city blocks. We feel a deep pit in our stomachs, understanding this may happen to us next.
Opposite the 50-mile-per-hour winds that blow the fiery uncertainty, leaving us reeling from our lack of preparation, there is an absolute certainty that seems to balance things out. In the minutes during which the emergency unfolds, I am absolutely certain of what is most important to me right now: loved ones; family photos; heirlooms; the safety of friends, family and co-workers; escape plans; pets. Immediate next steps are most important. Everything else fades in the background.
During and after the destruction and confusion, we ponder how to start over. How can we be better prepared in the future? How can we rebuild? What steps do we take next? How do we keep from having the wool pulled over our eyes? How do we prevent being taken advantage of? Most important, how do we protect against our sheer lack of knowledge or experience in such a situation?
So, the question we are left with is this: In uncertain times—which is really all the time—how is risk truly managed?
Here at CIS, we manage the risks within the development and construction of residential and commercial facilities through cost analysis, risk management, construction inspections and private lending guidance. We manage with the notion of “if it’s gray, you’ll pay.” In other words, if you leave anything in your power to uncertainty and it’s not black and white, it will come back to bite you in the future—in either time, money, legal ramifications and/or frustration.
Preparation is key—it should be first and foremost. Second is absolute clarity in the subtle power of specifics. Having methodically detailed documentation, contracts, plans, schedules, change orders and as many other details documented as possible is the difference between life or death in a firestorm—or having a business contract go sideways.
In construction risk management, the same principles that are used in business, intertwine into all facets of life. We are left with one piece of concrete certainty: The need to manage risk is necessary.
Even though I am one of the fortunate ones whose house and business remain standing, the winds of uncertainty will always blow, regardless of natural, personal or professional variation. There is and will always be an absolute need to manage risks.