HR Monthly Australia: Business Resilience

Tirian directors interviewed by Fiona Sexton for HR Monthly Australia May 2003

Tirian: Surviving Bali

HRFor organisational development company Tirian, the Bali bombings were just one more crisis the small business, owned by Australians and with an office just 8 kms from the sites of last October’s bombings, had to face. “After the 1998 riots in Jakarta, September 11 and the East Timor crisis, we had a headstart on managing crisis,” says Andrew Grant, director of Tirian. The company, in operation for seven years, creates staff development programs for multinationals including Cisco, Deutsche Bank and Accenture, and also has offices in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Tirian does not have a crisis management plan as such, explain Andrew and co-director and wife Gaia, but rely on set contingencies when the difficulties of working in Bali, such as regular telecommunications failures, thwart day-to-day operations. Good succession planning is the most important, explains Andrew. “Tirian operates as a virtual team; so if we are out of action in Bali for any length of time, general managers in Hong Kong and Singapore can take up the reigns.”

Tirian's Bali base lost considerable international business after the bombings, but the company is now focusing on building business outside Bali. “The bombings were a reminder that we should never put all our eggs in one basket,” says Gaia. She adds that in times of crisis, Tirian is forced to be much more short-term in its planning. Once, they would have up to 70 days to develop a programme – now, unstable HR budgets and frequent travel bans slapped on multinationals’ expat staff mean they may have as little as 10. Tirian is run on lean fixed costs, as at any time operations may have to be scaled back, having just 10 permanent employees, and up to 40 contract staff. “We lost $US100,000 of business in the week after September 11,” says Gaia.

by Fiona Sexton