We are pleased and proud to present you with the 2016 DRI International Industry Newcomer of the year winner, William Kearney!
The Industry Newcomer of the Year award recognizes up-and-coming business continuity leaders with no more than two years of business continuity experience. Recipients must demonstrate originality and ingenuity, as well as an understanding of the wider impact of business continuity within an organization.
Kearney, an ABCP, does all that and more. With a distinguished career in the military and law enforcement — his last position in the law enforcement community was with the anti-terrorist branch at New Scotland Yard – Kearney applies his unique skills to business continuity in a way that is both effective and inspiring.
Kearney is Cameron International Corporation and One Subsea’s Global Crisis and Business Continuity Manager. Cameron has some 20,000 employees in 300+ locations worldwide. Kearney is responsible for developing, maintaining, and testing Cameron’s business continuity program to comply with international standards. He supports all business plan activities necessary to enable the organization to manage a crisis event as well as meet compliance requirements for BC planning. Additionally, he provides guidance to incident management teams preparing to deal with major incidents affecting the organization.
He’s also a really interesting guy with a diverse background and passion for business continuity. How did he go from working in anti-terrorism at Scotland Yard to heading business continuity for a $10 billion global manufacturing company?
After finishing school, Kearney said he “went on walkabout,” living in France and Germany, teaching kayaking and skiing until he had a “midlife crisis at 28 and joined the police service” where he ended up “looking after people like Diana and the Queen.”
From there he struck out on his own “looking after very high net worth individuals” all over the world, which eventually led to Kearney being asked to manage the International Police Advisors Mission in Southern Iraq and Baghdad. This was the first ever British Government Public-Private partnership for international police training with Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I) forces, whose duties involved mentoring and training the newly formed Iraqi Police Service in all aspects of policing.
A series of challenging positions in security and risk management followed [Kearney’s LinkedIn profile actually makes for very interesting reading!], with Kearney ending up as Cameron’s Regional Security Manager based in Dubai where he spent two years before being promoted to Global Crisis and Business Continuity Manager.
Along the Way
Kearney led Cameron “from zero to a full internal corporate BC program in 18 months” and credits his established network, senior management skills, and intimate knowledge of BC legislation and practices with that achievement.
At the start, he realized that he needed to sell the need for BC to the board and educate the employees on why they should participate in and support the program. How did he win over the board?
“First of all, I needed a baseline,” he said. “Before I went to the board, I needed to say where we were or where we were not. So, I crafted a questionnaire and sent it out to all of the plant managers and all of the business units.” The responses put the baseline at “basically zero.”
Kearney then interviewed all of the division presidents before taking his case to the CEO. “I wanted to garner their support for the project and ask them face-to-face what kept them awake at night.” He said that exercise provided him with a “view of a higher strategy” that helped focus his BC strategy.
With that, Kearney took it to the top – the CEO. “Being an ex-detective, I realized the importance of evidence,” he said. “I could go to the CEO and say you haven’t go this and you haven’t got that, but if I could evidence the fact that they haven’t got it and the concerns of his presidents, then it tends to focus the conversation a bit more.”
The outcome was not only support for BC but also the appointment of a senior vice president in each division who acts as Kearney’s point of contact and is charged with responsibility for business continuity.
While taking a top-down approach, Kearney also sought to gain grass roots support. “I went out on a road show where I presented at the facilities, especially the huge manufacturing facilities, what business continuity was.” His dual aim was to get “everyone in the company understanding what exactly business continuity is so there are no misconceptions” and training employees in a way that their knowledge would transfer with them as they moved from site to site within Cameron.
Key factors in Kearney’s success so far:
- An existing network within the company built while he was a regional security manager. “I can use them to spread the message and chase people up.”
- An understanding of human nature. “Everyone is really busy all the time, and you’ve got to make it as easy as possible.”
- Putting BC in terms of dollars and cents. “I don’t like being seen as a cost center. If you’re seen as a cost center, the management find it hard to buy into it. But if you use it as a business enabler, then they buy into it.”
“The key thing we’re facing now is supply chain,” said Kearney. For example, Cameron has three factories in Romania that have 90 percent of their materials coming from Russia “and when they started the tit for tat embargoes, suddenly it became a business impact.”
Kearney is taking a two-fold approach to supply chain – helping suppliers who don’t have plans develop them and “nudging” suppliers toward BC by tightening SLAs.
The goal, he said, is to get everyone in Cameron “thinking ahead and thinking out of the box. Forget earthquakes and flood. We have all of that, but let’s start thinking of other things that can affect the business rather than the standard acts of nature. When they really delve into it, you’ll be surprised at what they come up with.”
And how is this adrenaline junkie finding business continuity as a career?
“Exciting! You have to be the type of person that can on the Monday go to an audience of 40 or 50 people and sell something on your own personality…and on the Tuesday you have to sit in front of the CEO or the president and do the same thing but on a completely different level. That’ll give you a bit of pressure; you still get the little butterflies.”