Are you a firefighter or Smokey Bear?

Posted on April 19, 2024 by Brad Hayes

We all have a certain style when it comes to dealing with a crisis. We are either the person who waits for an incident to happen – natural disaster, fire, international pandemic, shipping delay, an errant email sent to 8,000 customers with seven typos (in the first paragraph), or an incident involving a customer that involves bodily harm – and jumps into action. Or we are a planner, someone with a crisis plan outlining all the above and more, with step-by-step instructions for what to do when, and with whom, and have plans for prevention and mitigation – basic risk management. You are either a firefighter, putting out the flames at your feet using extraordinary measures or you are Smokey Bear, methodically working to prevent the fire in the first place.

It is the same when it comes to your IT. You are either fighting the fires – with time and money – too busy putting out the fire that there is no time for an ounce of prevention. Or you are working the plan to prevent the issues, putting in place a strategy for IT, its growth, and services, and allowing your people time to put in place the plans to prevent any fires.

Smokey Bear’s catchphrase is, “Only you can prevent a forest fire.” Old Smokey was on to something there. He was telling us to have a strategy when we went into the woods, to think things through, have a plan, manage the risk to protect the forest, the wildlife, and the land itself. I am an advocate for the same in IT managed services. It is well worth the time to create a strategy around your system, its growth, integration, and eventual sunsetting. You are then in control, executing the strategy, and managing the future of your business. You are Smokey Bear, saving the forest.

Or you could just execute a drill in incident management when you don’t have that strategy in place. You will forever be putting out flash fires, brush fires, wildfires, and five-alarm infernos that just might take your business with it. You are merely executing a drill if you are not working from a strategy. You are a firefighter, up to your boots in flickering flames.

One of the keys to executing a strategy instead of a drill is making room and time for your people to do that for which they were hired. Think about it this way – most people join a company because they want to do the work spelled out in their job descriptions. That is what they have studied, have trained for, have experience in, and truly want to do when they come in each day. If you fail to plan, those same folks don’t get to do the job they were hired for, the work that makes them feel good about themselves. If they are spending all their time putting out fires that they did not create, and none of their time on their real work, you can imagine what that will do to productivity, to the culture, to morale.

What you need to quickly learn is what keeps causing these fires and then outsource it. Is it marketing and email campaigns? Call a local marketing company. Are there bottlenecks in shipping? Supply delays? Customer complaints? Find your solution and hire it out. It will be much less expensive in the long run, and you will have a satisfied workforce, doing the work they love.

Don’t continue to fight fires. Be like Smokey Bear and plan. If you know you need a new managed service provider and you must put out an RFP in the next year, don’t put it off. Plan now to do your research, write the RFP, research potential vendors, ask business associates for referrals, and get it done, step-by-step. Don’t wait until it is an emergency because your service provider is ceasing business. You do not want to write an RFP in a panicked state. You want to prepare a thoughtful, well-researched, and definitive document. You cannot do that when you have two weeks to write the RFP, get it out, and get responses. That is a firefighter response. Work to be like Smokey.

Partner with TTG and take control of your technology expenses so you can focus on what you know and do best. Contact us for an expert assessment of your company’s needs and projected benefits.

[Editor’s note: Please see for more information and to learn how he got his name, Smokey (not the) Bear.]

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