To mark the 25th anniversary of Benoit Racette‘s career, the Commères agency, collaborator for the communications of Benoit Racette Services-conseils Inc. met with Benoit himself to learn more about his stimulating career path and how the field of business continuity has evolved in recent years.
Here’s a look at an exciting career that’s out of the ordinary!
How has the industry evolved over the past 25 years?
Prior to the 2000s, companies were mostly concerned with IT problems and emergency measures. The concepts of business continuity were not very well defined and known either. The lack of knowledge of available training and certifications for professionals working in this industry was certainly one of the main causes. There was also a severe lack of awareness among businesses, agencies and government organizations: many of them were not familiar with the concepts of risk management and impacts in case of disruption of operations. In addition, they were not adequately prepared for other types of risks, such as health crises, business disruptions of any kind, or natural disasters.
Awareness certainly began with major events that shook society as a whole. These include the 1998 ice storm, Y2K, 9/11 and SARS in 2003. In addition, with the accelerated development of technology, international norms and standards, and increased regulation, we are witnessing a great evolution by companies. In addition, insurers are increasingly demanding that organizations have a complete and up-to-date business continuity plan in place to limit losses and better identify and manage risks. The arrival of several training courses and certifications since the beginning of the year 2000 also allows professionals to improve their skills in business continuity and in all other areas of resilience.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also been a rude awakening for many organizations. Practices have evolved at a rapid pace, allowing business leaders to question existing business continuity measures and ensure that they minimize risks and vulnerabilities.
What are your best suggestions for keeping up with changes and new trends in business continuity?
For any business manager, I would say that you need to get informed on the subject in order to know, at the very least, the basic notions. If not, take training courses with recognized organizations (the key!), allow your employees to obtain certifications and develop their skills on an ongoing basis, join associations that bring together specialists in the field, attend conferences and events, network, participate in workshops, etc. In short, in my opinion, it is very important to find the right balance between theory and practice. Just like in any other field, knowledge is of little use if it is not applied.
Finally, I would advise keeping an open mind by seeking out additional knowledge in the field of resilience and by using experts in the field who can advise you appropriately.
Why is it important to have a business continuity plan for any business?
For several reasons! First, the business continuity plan allows you to prioritize the most critical elements to be maintained when there is an interruption of operations. It allows a better control of the risks while mitigating their consequences and impacts. In addition to reassuring your employees, partners, customers, suppliers and insurers, the business continuity plan is a powerful tool for business development and constitutes a competitive advantage for an organization.
What factors motivated you to pursue a career in this field?
I started diving into business continuity by pure coincidence in 1997. The company where I worked asked me to prepare contingency measures for Canada Post rotating strikes. I was then asked to do the same thing in case of power outages and other exceptional situations. I was also involved in Y2K preparedness efforts and other contingencies. In all of these cases, I also had to coordinate and/or manage several out of the ordinary situations. It was after the tragedy of September 11, 2001 that my passion and desire to pursue a career in this field was awakened. Let me explain: more than ever, this tragic event made me understand the importance of this aspect for a company. Realizing the consequences that situations like this can have on a company’s operations, I was mandated to develop a complete business continuity plan for the organization where I was working at the time. This was completely outside of my normal duties, but I was up for the challenge!
What are you most passionate about in your work?
Having my own consulting firm for the past 7 years, I enjoy accompanying my clients and helping them to further their thinking about business continuity. The fact that I am an entrepreneur also gives me many exciting challenges. On a daily basis, my work is very varied since I have the chance to work with organizations from all sectors, which makes it very rewarding and stimulating! Even after 25 years in the business, I am always learning and renewing myself.
25 years later, what would you like to say to Benoit who is starting his career?
Good question, I have so much to say. I would simply summarize by saying to seek out relevant training and certifications in the field and related knowledge in all areas of resilience to have a better understanding of it. I repeat this often, but it is the most important thing! Secondly, to get involved in the coordination and management of real crises in order to gain as much experience as possible and take it into account in your professional practice. Also, do not hesitate to network and participate in activities/conferences/workshops with other experts in the field. Finally, accept the challenges that come your way and do not look for the perfect path, because it does not exist. It is necessary to learn, to make trial and error, not to hesitate to share experiences, to listen, to remain humble and to climb the ladder as needed to gain experience and, above all, to surround yourself with the right people who can guide you in this adventure!