You are based in Boca Raton, Florida, which got hit hard by Hurricane Irma. How did you and the rest of the firm’s personnel make it out of the storm?
I think we were very lucky. We didn’t sustain much damage. … Most of our team came away unscathed. I think most of the interruption [had to do with a loss of] power and that extended from hours to, in some cases, five days or six days.
A lot of folks evacuated from the state prior to the storm hitting South Florida. How did the firm prepare for a situation in which your staff would be far afield for several days or weeks?
As you said, we’re based in South Florida, so we have to worry about hurricanes. Funny enough, we also have a New York office, which was impacted by Hurricane Sandy, [so] it’s not just being in South Florida. With all of our offices, you just don’t know.
I would say we’re pretty diligent about preparing for all disasters. We have a disaster-recovery plan, which is something we distribute among the team in advance of a disaster. … And that plan has a checklist of what you do pre-disaster and also a checklist of what you do post.
What are some of the components of that plan?
You have to make sure your systems are in an appropriate place. We have our systems in a bunker, basically, that can supposedly withstand a Category 5 event. Failing that, they’d click over to another location.
The people, that’s really important. We send around a memo saying, ‘These are the steps you need to think about taking.’ And it’s not just, ‘Here’s how you prepare at the office.’ It’s also, from our experience — from those of us who’ve been in Florida awhile — tips on how to get ready at home.
We then set up a disaster-recovery number. And this is very important because what we ask of our team is for them to tell us where they are, where they plan to be during the storm and then — more importantly, after the storm — what’s their status?
Do they need help? Do they have power? Give us a read on how [you’re] doing. And that’s important because that gives us a map of how many people have left the area with their families, how many people are safe.
There are critical teams — people who need to be present just to run the day-to-day operations of the firm. If we’re doing a deal in London, we need to make sure that gets funded, so the senior person or accountant who’s responsible for funding that deal becomes critical.
How was that plan set in motion with Hurricane Irma?
[With] hurricanes, you’re aware of it a few days out. So we were watching it over the Atlantic and … an email circulated saying, ‘Hey look, we need to get together and talk about whether we’re going to need to use the business-continuity plan.’
That put in motion a set of procedures that we’d take as a next step. We elected to close our office on that Thursday and Friday. … We actually closed our office on the Monday after the storm as well.
We were back up, fully functioning, by Tuesday … but we sent an email to our team basically saying: ‘Look, if you make it to the office — great. But the roads: Traffic lights are down. Power lines are down. Your safety is the first priority.’
Be safe. If you make it to work — great. If not, come when you can and please make sure you check in with that hotline.
I’d imagine your investors had questions about the situation. As someone who manages the IR component of Sun’s business, how did you personally handle that?
What I find is, in situations like this, the best of people come out. People reached out and shared their concerns and well-wishes, and this was no exception to that.
I’m on the team that has to go somewhere where I can ensure I can continue to work. So I went to Atlanta and, thankfully, I was able to be there and respond to all of the emails that were coming in from investors when they were reaching out to express their support.
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Photo of Scott Edwards courtesy of Sun Capital.