SpaceX: Spectacular Failures and a Level Playing Field

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July 1950 | launch of the first rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla: the Bumper 2 | Image credit: NASA

July 1950 | launch of the first rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla: the Bumper 2 | Image credit: NASA

On the first of September, SpaceX, the commercial space launch company founded by Elon Musk was conducting pre-launch tests of a rocket scheduled for a satellite launch on September 3rd.  An anomaly occurred, and the rocket exploded destroying the payload (for the non-space folks, payloads destined for orbit run into the hundreds of millions of dollars).  Rocket explosions are always spectacular, and if you’re as old as I am, you recall black and white TV showing spectacular failure after spectacular failure in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  You may also have seen film footage of spectacular failures of Werner von Braun’s V-2 tests.  Spectacular failures are part of the business.

In fact, failures are part of starting any business – that’s one of the reasons that entrepreneurs frequently “entrepren” (let’s pretend that’s the verb for starting a new company) several times before achieving “over-night success.”

Spectacular Failures in the Rear View

The problem facing new companies, or companies expanding into new markets, is that their competition has already established itself and their spectacular failures are all behind them – just like the routine successes now experienced by the United Launch Alliance (a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed) have their foundations in those spectacular failures of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. this means for new, expanding or small businesses is that you’re competing on an uneven playing field.  Your competition is established, and their spectacular failures are behind them.  To succeed, you have to deliver with the same reliability as your competitors (or even better reliability).  Part of that building reliability as a competitive factor is the creation of efficient processes for “business as usual.”

Resilience is a Brand Attribute

However, for a new or small business trying to compete against established competitors, an equally important (or perhaps even more important) part is the creation of a capability to continue to do business (to be reliable) when a serious disruption occurs (that would be “business as unusual”) – or to recover to normal operations when you can’t continue “business as usual.”

Preparedness or business continuity plans, are the foundation for the capability to respond to and overcome disruptive events and build reliability, which is a factor in competitiveness. Resiliency and preparedness are brand attributes.

How can new businesses – or even small businesses – create those plans for continuing or recovering to “business as usual”?  An excellent question – especially since those companies almost never have internal experience in building preparedness plans and can seldom afford to bring in a preparedness specialist to create a comprehensive set of plans in a turnkey operation.

While preparedness is very important, new and small businesses can’t put themselves out of business by directing all of their cash flow into hiring preparedness specialists.

Fortunately, there are a number of options for those new and small businesses to create a preparedness program:

  • The company can take a DIY approach; however, unless the business has significant preparedness experience, this is not a recommended option. There is nothing in the development and implementation of preparedness plans that can’t be done by the average business – but, without in-depth knowledge and experience, the raw amount of work to create an effective and efficient plan or complete program is substantial and may, ultimately be more costly than hiring an outside company since it diverts effort for the “business as usual” work.
  • There are templates available on the Internet. Like many things found on the Internet, some of these templates will be useful and some will be useless.  The useless ones will generally be so broad and general that they provide little help on “how to” execute the various steps.  Being told to “conduct a risk assessment” is as useful as the first step listed in my old Chilton’s manual for a 1974 MG Midget for changing the clutch (that step, in its entirety was, “Remove the engine.”)
  • The business can procure a paid template from a business preparedness company. The quality of these templates can vary significantly from provider to provider.  This option necessitates significant “due diligence” on the part of the new or small business to determine the actual usefulness of the template.  The template should provide not only the “what to do” but should provide “how to do it” instructions that the company is comfortable with.  It could also include some level of expert advice/consulting from the preparedness company.
  • If the business is a member of some professional association, the business can join with other member businesses to encourage their association to sponsor how-to preparedness seminars for the association’s members.

Just as SpaceX would have benefited enormously from the broad and deep experience that Boeing and Lockheed gained through their spectacular failures, new and small businesses will benefit from the experience of preparedness companies such as Firestorm. By accessing, at an affordable level, the resources to develop and implement preparedness plans, companies are able to compete on a more level playing field with their experienced competition.

Working with Firestorm to create an affordable, workable solution is an excellent first step in developing the timeline for your company’s resiliency efforts. Let our team be your experience.



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