A Goat Named ________?

By February 17, 2014September 3rd, 2014Industry Commentary

It’s the thing business owners of firms of all sizes fear—having your name in the news associated with something bad!

Take for instance the recent news regarding the coal-ash spill in Eden, North Carolina. How many of you can name the firm associated with the Dan River spill? How many of you can recall the town of the 2008 spill that brought coal-ash containment to the headlines of every news media? Do you remember the name of the owner of that plant? Or how about the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? If you are like me, I can name all three without hesitation.

A large part of the reason I can name all three is the amount of media exposure they are given. Without the media, I would not even know some of these things happened. In today’s world, any incidents involving the environment garner massive face time exposure—all of which is predominately negative exposure for the company associated with the incident. How many companies can you name that have been linked with some type of disaster? And, how long ago?

If we were to take a behind the scenes look at some of these disasters, you would probably find that the company assuming all of the headline exposure is not the one solely at fault. The owner likely hired a slew of subcontractors; design engineers, contractors, manufacturers, to name a few. Each one was brought on to solve a specific piece of the puzzle the owner needed in order to complete their business. One or all of these subcontractors may have played a role that led to the disaster: perhaps the design had a major flaw that was overlooked; the materials were subpar but no one caught it or realized it; the contractor took shortcuts to get the job done, etc.

The owner is ultimately responsible for their project site, which includes proper vetting of all subcontractors to assure they will get any project constructed to the highest quality possible. If there were problems within the subcontractor supply chain, it will ultimately be discovered through investigation and forensics—likely resulting in lawsuits and litigation.

And while the subcontractor may be forced into accountability for their portion of the incident and associated clean up, they rarely get the face time exposure the larger firm received. Even if the subcontractor were to be forced out of business, the lasting negative exposure the site owner already received may not be compensated for.

So, what does this have to do with me you ask? No matter what role you have, let these things serve as a reminder of the importance of the very task you are doing. I know that not every potential disaster can be planned for—and with so many changes in technology, we sometimes find things acceptable years ago are less than ideal as we move forward. But if you keep in mind these disasters that have been ingrained in our minds by the media, let it serve as daily motivation to do the best job you can each day!

Before I ever heard of any containment failure, I always had the mindset that I would do my best to make sure every project I worked on was completed to the highest quality possible. I understood that I did not want to be found to be the one responsible for missing something that caused a landfill liner to leak, a slope to fail, and so on. And I also now understand that I do not ever want to get the negative face time exposure that could come with failing to live up to my own daily expectations.

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