Name: Patrick Dunn

Age: 57

Title: President

Company: Cushnoc Resiliency Advisors, Augusta

About: The company helps clients plan for, respond to , and recover from what-if? situations that causes an unplanned business interruption.

Website: www.cushnocra.com

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Convincing small business owners that they need to have a business resiliency plan. They want to roll the dice. They tend to think disasters can’t happen here in Maine.

Patrick Dunn

But disasters are happening all the time. I might have a client meeting that may last 30 minutes, so I ask what could happen in  30 minutes? Your company’s bank account could be drained by a hacker. A traffic accident or a snowmobile accident here in Maine could incapacitate or kill an owner or a key staff member.  A fire could destroy your building. You could have an active shooter situation. It’s convincing people that “what if” situations can occur in Maine and will eventually occur. I spend a lot of time educating people. Once I tell them the previous examples I gave, they are more open to it, and they tend to think about it.

I like to use the Kennebec River as an example. You know it’s going to flood. I hate to say it, but a disaster is good for business. Not that I want a disaster; no one ever wants to have a disaster, but you need to have something to remind people. For example, the California wildfires and and the California floods happening right now are an example of what can happen. You don’t hear about the things that happen in the back rooms because companies don’t want to put out a press release saying they had a disaster. They want to keep that private because they want to protect their reputations. Disasters can cause financial and reputational impact.

You have to lay it out in terms of things that have happened here in Maine, not so much things that can happen world-wide like an earthquake. They are very rare here in Maine. People can’t relate to them.

I have been doing this kind of work for almost 20 years now. (A lot has happened during that time.)  You hear about cyber-security breaches all the time now. People must have a lifetime worth of of credit checks on their accounts now because pretty much everybody in the U.S. has been affected by a breach.  They are becoming numb to it, but at the same time, it’s at the top of people’s minds as well.

If it’s not happening in your backyard, you don’t think about it all that often. We don’t get the fires to the extent they have them on the West Coast. We don’t have the hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast. We get the aftermath, but we don’t get the brunt force of them. So we have to think of some other things that can happen. Active shooters can happen anywhere. Cyber attacks can happen anywhere. Maine has a lot of fires. It’s an older state, with older buildings. A lot of the buildings that businesses are in are old factories and old mills. There’s oil seeped into the wood, and if a fire catches in a building like that, it’s going to go quick.

People don’t realize that if you don’t have a plan, within six months, 90 percent of business that don’t have disaster recovery plan or a plan of some sort will be out of business. That’s because they don’t know how to recover, they don’t have the capability to recover and they don’t think about it. When I talk to people, I ask them, “What kind of business owner do you want to be? Do you want to be the kind that cares about employees and the community?” There are also those who only want to take a check and run. A lot of people think if they have an insurance policy, that’s all they need. But you have to have a combination of a plan and the insurance policy to continue operations.

Who has influenced you the most in business?

I have a friend, Liz Fontaine, in Belgrade. She has the magic touch. I confer with her often just to  bounce ideas off her.  She’s more into real estate, but she’s got a good business sense.

In my career, it’s kind of  conglomeration of people. In business continuity and disaster recovery, it’s a small, tight-knit community nationwide. We all rely on one another for questions and bouncing things off one another.

You need to have someone who can relate to what you are going through. Starting your own small business is tough. It’s challenging. You need someone who has gone through the same things, the ups and downs. I like to associate with people who are smarter than me and more successful than I am. Liz is one of those people. She has owned several companies here in Maine. She’s owned a printing company and now she owns Lake Home Group in Belgrade.

Another one is Robert Patenaude. His family has Patenaude Family Dentistry in Augusta.  He and his wife Carol are in small business. We have dinner out quite often and we talk about business problems in generic forms. It’s good to have those people in your corner to relate to you.

What’s your biggest fear? 

It’s keeping the client flow, constantly finding new clients. A lot of my clients are out of state right now. Building the Maine business, it’s a fear, and it’s a challenge. It’s a fun challenge, doing education. I do enjoy that aspect, teaching people about disasters and business continuity and why they need to be prepared.  It all kind of rolls in together to keeping the client base rolling.

It’s all about networking, whether it be a Chamber (of Commerce) event or a formal networking group. Wherever you’re at, you need to be doing some form of networking.

You hear stories about people who don’t know what to do. You have to go out and talk to people. It’s all about relationship building, especially in the consultant field.  Putting it in sales terms, you are doing a lot of farming, you are not doing a lot of hunting in cultivating people. That’s my advice to anyone in the consulting and professional services field.

 

You have to have a long lead time. I have worked in large, multinational companies where the sales people don’t get it. They want to be rewarded on the quick sale; they are focused on selling the next widget. A consulting sale may take two or three months to sell.

What was your biggest misconception about being in business for yourself?

I thought it would be easier getting clients than it is. It’s more challenging than I thought. (To overcome that) I do more education and tweaking or adjusting the message I give during my sales pitch until I get one that seems to resonate with people. It all goes back to finding what works and what resonates with different customers, whether they are in finance,  state government or manufacturing. I thought people would be more enthusiastic.

What did you learn from being University of Maine mascot Bananas the Bear? 

I learned to always be gracious and be friendly to people. It  wasn’t just being Bananas the Bear, it was appearing at events as Bananas and going to alumni groups. I learned to be a good communicator. When you are in the costume, you’re using a lot of gestures and over-exaggerating and things like that. I learned to communicate non-verbally as well as verbally when I have to speak before groups. It’s also knowing your audience.

For four years, nobody knew who I was except for a few fraternity brothers. No one knew. So I could do pretty much anything within reason. It was fun, I learned a lot and I had a great time working with a lot of people. I got to know the Class of  ’42 pretty well; it was a particular favorite of mine.

My biggest influence when I was Bananas was Miss Nancy from “Romper Room,” Nancy Dysart.  She happened to be  the alumni director at the University of Maine. She became like Mom No. 2 to me and a mentor and helped me come out of my shell. When I went to Orono, I was a shy kid from West Gardiner, leaving home for the first time. She kept me involved with a lot of student activities. It was from 1980 – 84.

 

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