It was late September, 1985 when everyone in NYC & on Long Island were bracing for the onslaught of Hurricane Gloria.
The Northeast hadn’t been hit with a hurricane in more than a dozen years & as expected, people were pretty frenzied.
Gloria was actually a Category 4 hurricane as it made its way northward along the eastern seaboard. And even though it was losing strength as it traveled over cooler waters, that really wasn’t comfortable enough news for most residents.
I arrived at work extra early that morning, expecting that I would be hearing from my staff on whether we were going to be open that day.
As far as I was concerned, I had heard nothing about any closures nor any contingency plans, so everything was “all systems go”.
I tried CONTINUOUSLY to get in touch with members of our Regional senior management team, but to no avail. They were all located in Brooklyn & their business day didn’t start until 9:00 AM.
There were no cell phones so you just couldn’t call someone & expect them to immediately answer.
And we were apparently still pretty well entrenched in the Middle Ages…ya know, the Crusades, Knights of the Round Table (and of White Satin), the fall of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance…as COB/Continuity of Business plans & a Risk Management mindset had yet to penetrate corporate America.
A call tree?
Did they even row them at that time?
In actuality, I was pretty pissed as they weren’t in their offices earlier on this specific day, especially since the latest hurricane tracking models had
the storm heading straight toward central Long Island…exactly where our site @ 100 Baylis Road in Melville was located!
And while we didn’t enjoy mobile technology back in those days (besides, the dinosaurs kept eating the cell towers), everyone – – including ALL my bosses – – had a TV at home.
They knew, or should’ve known, that there was a very real possibility for a real disaster!
Especially in Long Island!
(Out of mind, out of sight?)
My people were very uneasy, as was I, as the storm was sitting not too far off the southern coast of LI & heading directly our way.
All my constant calls into Brooklyn did nothing but reach voicemail.
I had mostly a female staff, many of whom had families at home. I believe that most school districts on Long Island were closed for the day.
New York City (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, etc.)? They were expecting rain.
And, of course, I had my Laurie & our 1 year old Heather at home, right in Gloria’s path, as we recently moved from Brooklyn to Holbrook, LI, about 20 minutes to the east of Melville.
All these visions flashed through my head of my people, as well as everyone else in our building, being away from their loved ones as this potential crisis came roaring straight for all of us.
I called my senior managers one last time, left them a VM message…then pulled the string.
I made a management decision to close down my shop for the day.
I contacted the CitiPhone Unit in Queens to let them know that I would be forwarding our “main gate” calls to them. In this day & age, there was no real-time traffic engineering/routing going on “in the cloud”.
The only clouds we knew of were those from Gloria.
I placed a similar call to our counterparts in Upper Manhattan regarding our auto-dialer calls from our Citicard Banking Centers (ATMs).
I contacted the other managers in the building, including HR, to let them know what I was doing & strongly recommended that they do likewise.
And then I told my people to go home.
I was very comfortable with the decision I made as I wasn’t gonna risk anyone’s lives for the sake of “the business”. This wasn’t Florida & most people, including me, had very-little-to-no hands-on experience with this type of emergency situation.
I also had the 2 most important people in my life home alone & that most definitely played a huge role in my thinking.
And, honestly, I didn’t give a damned shit what anyone else thought!
As it turned out, Gloria downgraded to a Category 1 tropical storm when it finally hit land. And while there was scattered damage across the Island, we were pretty much spared from any serious stuff.
And, of course, you can guess what happened the following morning.
All the Monday morning quarterbacks came out of hiding to voice their opinions.
Pete Fasano called me & asked me why I did what I did.
I was really pretty annoyed at his questioning my decision, even though he was my boss’s boss.
“Well, if one of you senior managers would have thought enough about us & actually called here, or got to your office early to answer one of the 10,000 calls I made to you guys, then perhaps, you could have made the decision yourselves.”
He knew exactly how I felt. I worked for him for almost my entire 7-year career and did EVERYTHING for him!
“I was worried about my people & their families. And I had Laurie taking care of Heather at home!”
I braced for the blow back as he could be absolutely vicious at times.
But I’m guessing he sensed exactly how passionate I was about the people I loved…my family.
And my work family.
“You did well, Mike. I’m proud of how you handled everything.
I’ll take care of everyone here.”
Hindsight is 20/20 & had I known exactly what was gonna happen, I wouldn’t have evacuated the building.
And as it turned out, all other Regional units in the building did evacuate as well!
But when you’re in the moment, you consider all the information at hand, weigh the possible pros & cons of each option (including the best AND worst case scenarios), ask your heart & gut for their input…then you make a decision.
I have never gotten annoyed or mad when someone made a decision that eventually turned out to be the “wrong one” or resulted in unnecessary expense or grief…
…AS LONG AS they’re able to explain to me their exact thought process that was at play in helping them to make that decision!
You can’t always control what’s gonna happen, but you can always choose the best possible option & then let it ride.
I’d rather be lucky that good.
But then again, and I know it may sound weird, I’d rather they followed a solid thought process, but somehow arrived at an unfortunate (unlucky) result.
Yeah, I’d rather be lucky than good, but over time, being good rules!
I’d also favor “avoiding the worst possible scenario” MORE than I would enjoy “choosing the most positive scenario possible”.
Minimize your losses & you’ll get to play another day!
And like I’ve always said…in sports as well as in life…I LOVE winning so incredibly much…
…but I hate losing even more.
As always, thank you so very much for listening!