Rubbish week for: Mexico

What happened

Swine flu happened. That equates to a death toll in the hundreds (no one's sure exactly how much - the government slashed the figure from 176 to 101 earlier this week) and estimated losses of US $57m in Mexico City alone because the eerily empty capital had to insist on the closure of all but strictly essential businesses.

And, as the world worked itself up into a super-frenzy, the added kick of mass cancellations of holidays and business trips over to Mexico didn't exactly help the GDP.

Why

Although no one's entirely sure where swine flu has come from, Channel 4 put out a suggestive report exploring the possibility swine flu originated in a town called La Gloria, where hundreds of thousands of pig carcasses were left rotting underground for years and the gases emanating from the carcass-vats have caused the flu. Apparently, for years nobody listened when the locals kept complaining the gases were making them ill.

Then, due to a lack of infrastructure and money, there simply wasn't enough medicine to distribute to the Mexican people to save lives or stop the spread.

Were they to blame?

The real problem here is too little, too late. No one can blame the Mexican government for not having the financial and medical reserves of say, the US. But had they listened to the people making complaints in the first place and investigated the problem thoroughly, it may have been a different story.

Since the major outbreak, a quicker plan of action was needed. There was obviously a lack managerial decisiveness from the government. If a bit more money was spent to isolate the problem in the first place, it could have prevented the more severe losses of life and business in the longer term.

How to avoid doing the same

Listen to your employees. If they are saying there's a problem, investigate it. Don't, whatever you do, ignore it and hope it will go away. Respect their complaints - if nothing else, you make them feel their voice matters.

It's much more advisable to spend a bit of cash isolating a problem quickly, getting the supplies and infrastructure in place at some expense, than to watch that initially small problem mushroom at great cost further down the line. You can't be expected to be prepared for every fateful eventuality, but you can splash a bit of cash to fix things early when something does go wrong.

Take executive decisions quickly, and consult external peers at an early date when you don't know what the best course of action is yourself. It's much better to ask for help with humility than to watch business shut down completely.

Smarta sympathy score: 9/10

We're not the World Health Organisation, and we don't really know what Mexico could have done better. The pig carcass vat complaints should have been listened to, but the country's going through something truly awful.

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