Dragon's Den of safety management

We all need people, materials, tools and equipment to accomplish our work for the organization. That puts us all into a role not unlike a small business owner or investor. We are either asking for resources (entrepreneur) or allocating resources (investor). Both of these roles are critical to the success of the organization.

When I think of this system — of asking for resources and approving investment of resources — I can’t help but think of two very popular reality television shows, Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den.

Every week on these programs we see business owners sell their ideas to the regular investors on the panel, in the hopes of getting them to invest in the business — in one form or another. An interesting exchange between the investors and the business owners ensues.

These shows offer some very valuable tips in understanding how people ask for and allocate resources. What is important to the investors becomes pretty clear by the process they use to get the answers they want before approving their investment.

Working in an organization is not at all dissimilar. Let’s examine the process of getting an investment from those who approve resources.

Here’s what to expect, should you find yourselves asking for resources, and some questions you should ask if allocating resources in your organization.

What do you need and what do you want?
These type of questions define the amount needed by the requester. It’s best to define the maximum needed for minimum implementation (need), and what could be useful if additional resources were available (want). As a safety manager, you might present it this way:

“To achieve minimum compliance with our training requirements for first aid coverage, we’ll need to train approximately 50 per cent of the staff at a cost of so many days’ wages and x amount of dollars in instruction/course fees. If we were to train all staff the costs would be double.”

What do I get for my investment?
This question will be asked if you don’t answer it in your presentation, so you may as well just tell them.

In the example of first aid training, the return on investment for the “need” is pretty clear: “If we invest in this training, we will get compliance. But what do I get for training all the staff?”

The requester needs to be clear about expected outcomes. In this case, the added value of a larger investment — twice as much — is the future ease of assigning the workforce to different worksites. The company will no longer have to be concerned they may be sending two non-first-aid-trained employees to a jobsite and fail to have the required first aid coverage. There is not only the legal advantage for doing this, there’s an efficiency feature making the 100 per cent solution more valuable.

The presenter also needs to express the added value of ensuring the employees feel their employer cares about their well-being and knows that first aid training also helps them keep their family safe after hours.

What is your expected return on investment?
Robert Herjavec, one of the regular investors on Shark Tank, reveals what a good investment is: “A great probability of a healthy return on the capital — and the likelihood of capital being returned.”

The clearer you make those points in your request, the better your chances of getting the investment.

Typical return on investments fall into one or more of three categories: legal, moral and financial. Understand and express all of the added values of your request. In the example above, tell the approvers when the training will completed so they can start to feel the return on the investment.

“If we start next week, we can have 100 per cent of the staff trained by the end of the month and scheduling difficulties around first aid coverage on our crews will start to diminish within two weeks of the start of training. We also anticipate that employees will appreciate the opportunity to learn first aid and be happy they are better able to help their family and friends should they be injured at home.”

Be prepared to offer the answers to as many anticipated questions as you can in your presentation. What do you want the investors and others to do in your plan? What is the experience of others doing similar things? What/who are the competing forces working against your idea?

If your role in your organization is to obtain resources by presenting recommendations or budget requests, please consider watching one (if not both) of these TV shows as an essential part of your training and education in “selling ideas.”

You will be happy you did and avoid the wrath of the “sharks” and the “dragons” in your organization for being ill-prepared in presenting what you need and want. While it’s extremely entertaining to watch it happen to others on TV, it’s not so good if it happens to you.