This week, most of the country has watched while hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc up and down the east coast. It’s been difficult to watch images of Manhattan streets underwater and ruined homes and businesses in New Jersey. All this devastation was particularly important to insurance agency owners as they aided in the claim process. Outside of insurance, this week has provided lessons that are seldom learned in other circumstances.

One of the standout phrases during the coverage of the disaster was a comment made about the various local and national political leaders charged with managing the crisis. The proximity of the impending election has added to the focus on political leadership and many have aired their views on how it has been handled. The standout phrase was that ‘we learn more about ourselves in a crisis’. It’s a great point that holds true in every walk of life.

A Crisis Can Teach as well as Destroy

The images and reports about Sandy have centered on New Jersey and New York City. The city is more than just the epicenter of this disaster. It’s a place where many people have already had to learn about themselves. We all recall how the city pulled together in the aftermath of September 11th. They provided a great example for what is required after this most recent disaster.

Most insurance agency owners will never have to deal with crises like terror attacks or natural disasters. You will have to deal with your own crises, which could amount to anything from a lost client to severe financial challenges. The way you deal with those crises will tell you a lot about yourself. It will also help you to understand how to make the smaller business decisions.

Priorities and Courage

Your priorities will be a major factor in any decision making process. They can also be one of the most difficult factors to define. It can be hard to decide on which goal is most important, or which employee is most valuable when you can afford to avoid the choice. In a crisis everything becomes more focused. If your business is under financial pressure, priorities become a lot clearer.

A crisis can also tell you a lot about courage. There has been plenty of courage around the east coast in the face of Sandy’s raging winds. Insurance agency owners need to show a different kind of courage when dealing with a business crisis. You need to show the courage to stick with a decision you know to be correct, or the courage to reverse your own decision if it’s failing.

Using the Learning

The depth of this learning will only be truly apparent in the aftermath of the crisis when you’ve been through a real crisis and you have come out the other side. No matter the outcome, you will have learned plenty about yourself. You will be stronger because of the experience. There are few substitutes for experience, and bitter experience can have a stronger formative effect than positive experience.

Deciding on which employee to promote, or what business lines to focus on becomes a lot simpler after you’ve faced financial challenges. In the past several years, few agency owners have not faced the challenges from the soft market and economic downturn. When you make day-to-day business decisions, it’s easy to get stuck in the minor details. With clear priorities in your mind and courage in your convictions, those details become a lot less distracting.

Our thoughts are with those in the east coast, who are battling their own crises at the moment. When they come out the other side, they will be prepared for anything.