It’s not clear if it’s harder to follow a terrible CEO, a great CEO or Maria. Onboarding into a disaster is manageable. You can deal with known risks. You can anticipate some other risks. But shame on you if you don’t identify all the known and possible risks in advance. Brad Dean is joining Puerto Rico’s new Destination Marketing Organization as CEO. To say he’s got some work to do in the wake of Hurricane Maria is as much an understatement as it would be to say that Maria was not an asset to the island.

As I’ve said throughout this series, executive onboarding is the key to accelerating success and reducing risk in a new job. People generally fail in new executive roles because of poor fit, poor delivery or poor adjustment to a change down the road. They accelerate success by 1) getting a head start, 2) managing the message, 3) setting direction and building the team and 4) sustaining momentum and delivering results.

At the time of his appointment as CEO of this newly-created, private, not-for-profit charged with managing all global marketing, sales and promotion of Puerto Rico for tourism, Dean told Travel Agent Central that,


“I am honored by this opportunity to develop and introduce a new and powerful brand for the island. Puerto Rico is a special destination with wonderful people and unrivaled potential. The island’s recent past has been challenging, but the future is bright for Puerto Rico and its tourism industry. I look forward to using the transformative power of travel and tourism to help catapult Puerto Rico, its residents and its businesses forward.”

He doesn’t have a fit issue as he gets to create the organization from scratch, out of the rubble. His delivery risk is hugely correlated with his ability to adjust to the changes wrought by Maria and the effectiveness of response and rebuilding.

In any case, you have to admire Dean for taking the job. Many would have jumped on the first available flight to the mainland. This leads us to two reasons to do risk-assessment before taking a job. Reason one is to determine if you should take the job or not. Reason one is to understand what you’re getting into before you jump into the job and tangle yourself in residual debris.

Known risks

In Dean’s case, the known risks are the physical and emotional devastation caused by Puerto Rico’s criminal lack of preparation in advance, the storm itself and the unconscionable abandonment of so many people in the aftermath of the storm. There are wounds still open and others with scars that will not heal for a long, long time.

Dean can manage these risks. He knows what help he’s going to get ($25 million/year.) And he knows what he’s not going to get (any other help at all.) He can figure out reasonable targets, manage his budget and get on with his job.

Anticipated risks

Even without doing any research, Dean can anticipate that Maria and what’s happened or not happened since will have impacted the travel trade’s perception of the island as a desirable destination. He knows he has some reputation rebuilding to do. He can build some optionality into his marketing efforts, investing in assets he can use over time early on and then dialing up the media as the reality of Puerto Rico’s rebuilding is realized.

Unanticipated risks

Shame on Dean if he does not do a thorough 5Cs analysis, looking hard at his situation vis-à-vis customers, collaborators, capabilities, competitors and conditions. Dean’s risks are far broader than just the ones directly related to Maria. His customers are changing. His collaborators will form new partnerships. Some of his existing capabilities will go away. There will be new competitors. Conditions will evolve. He needs to anticipate these changes.

A lot of people are looking forward to Dean’s waltzing his way to mass, whistling on the stair and even singing in the abbey. He’s a got a lot of work to do first.