Eyjafjallajokull is not a word I ever expected to open a Business Zone blog with. In fact I can’t even pronounce it, neither (it amuses me to report) can any of the news reporters on our television or radio. Unless you have been living, well anywhere without commercial airspace, you would have heard all about Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano that is doing its best to return us to the Middle Ages.
Something I originally wrote for the lovely people over at Business Zone
However upsetting it has been for anyone stranded abroad, it’s the impact the volcano has had on business that is really concerning.
The People Factor
For those of us that work in global companies, the challenge of having people in different parts of the world was amplified by the ash. At Actinic we had team members stuck in Hungary and Sri Lanka as well as people trying to get out of the UK. Even though the airspace has been open for a few days, people are still not where they should be.
Having team members out of sync is a huge business cost. It not only impacts the bottom line of the business but also the effectiveness and productivity as other team members struggle to fill the void.
The Freight Factor
Talking to a number of small company owners last week the impact is pretty staggering, especially for businesses in import or export. While the news has focused on our reliance on imported food, undelivered mail and goods have been stockpiling all over the world. I spoke to one small business that exports 80% of their trade to Europe. Effectively everything had to stop while stock lines ran low and product remained undelivered. In the scramble to be the first to get back to normality many of the bigger corporates have squeezed out their smaller brethren, taking priority over all for their air freight.
The Exploitation Factor
We live in a capitalist society and the price of anything where demand exceeds supply will tend to rise. However, some of the actions of companies that really should know better have been staggering. Railway operators, Hire Car firms and Ferry companies seem to have been the biggest winners. Outrageous ticket prices, draconian policies and poor attitudes have been the order of the day. As business owners we can look at the fall out (no pun intended) and learn from it. Some of these businesses could have acted as saviours but instead ground out a grubby little windfall profit. Hopefully we will all remember.
The one story that really put a smile on my face was that of a London businessman, Thom Noble. He was forced to cycle onto a Norfolkline ferry, as they had no foot passenger tickets available. Mr Noble had to buy a second hand woman’s bicycle to make his ticket valid. While this may have been poorly handled by Norfolkline, the second hand bike shop in Dunkirk had a great weeks trading.
Now the airways are open again and we are all struggling to get back to normal. The one lesson I will take from Eyjafjallajokull is that we are not as much in control as we would like. While we can put all types of processes in place to mitigate against natural disaster, it’s an almost impossible task. Thankfully these things happen fairly infrequently but maybe we need to bear in mind that just because things have worked for a while, this doesn’t mean that they always will.