Aero Inside Interview with Elmarie Marais
Elmarie Marais – GoCrisis Chief Executive Officer
What is the mission of GoCrisis? What problems do you solve for your clients?
GoCrisis is a global provider of crisis preparedness and response services.
The scale of corporate crises – from data breaches, product recalls, and disasters involving loss of life, to corporate scandals, natural disasters and terrorism – can overwhelm businesses and paralyse day-to-day operations. We prepare businesses and their teams for these events and provide all the necessary resources to deal with a crisis when it happens: strategic advice, call centre and social media support, humanitarian assistance, crisis communications, recovery of personal effects and human remains, and logistics.
What makes us different, truly comes down to our people, our priorities, and our collective experience responding to most of the high-profile disasters in the last 20+ years. The GoCrisis family consists of the most incredible people, and their exceptional experience is second to none!
What’s your personal background and how did you evolve into your current role?
My career started in the aviation industry. I studied for my business degree while working as cabin crew for South African Airways. I remember my crew bag heavy with textbooks and studying under a tree in Central Park. I then moved to London and worked for Business Link for London, where I worked on a government project to create a toolkit for London businesses in preparing, responding and recovering from a disaster.
Later, I became a director for a Disaster Management company and then moved to Australia where I continued to provide independent consultancy in crisis management. I also became an incident commander for the Red Cross – I still volunteer here and at Heathrow Travel Care, as giving back is so important to me.
I have responded to many high-profile disasters and corporate crises over the years. Each incident is so different in the challenges that all the variables bring. We have a great team and I surround myself with the right people, like Robert Rowntree (SVP Global Operations) and Barbara Webster (EVP Americas), and all our staff, associates and GoResponders. I truly believe that with the right people you can do anything!
Leading GoCrisis from start-up to top crisis management provider to global brands and FSTE 100 companies is something that I am very proud of.
GoCrisis is working across various industries. When you look at these sectors, what’s your favorite to work with and why?
As most people reading AeroInside will understand, aviation is something that runs in your veins. Having said that, I have learned much from a cross section of industries (Oil and Gas, Manufacturing, Technology, Education), who all bring an excitement and uniqueness that I enjoy. Aviation for example, is so well regulated, and the industry has created much of the best practice principles that we follow in crisis management today. And Universities are like little cities with infrastructure, people, heritage, animals, and research laboratories, all adding to a complex environment when it comes to crisis management.
COVID-19 had or still has a tremendous impact on all aspects of crisis reaction. What changes have you seen throughout the industries you work with regarding crisis response?
No one was prepared for what we are living through at the moment, but it is still clear to me that businesses and people who were trained, acted quickly, and had agility in their approach had done better than others. I also think that COVID has pushed crisis managers into the future when it comes to virtual crisis leadership, communications and shocking us out of some of the rigid approaches that we have insisted upon for so long.
As a crisis manager, I also have some insight into how hard navigating a crisis can be and how hard some decisions – you are often damned if you do, and damned if you don’t! So, I do not envy the governments leading us through this pandemic.
But, like many disasters before Covid-19, people have proven to be overall resilient and rebuild very quickly. Keeping lost loved ones in our hearts, I look forward to witnessing the renewed growth.
What’s your favorite form of travel and with what airplane to which destination would that be?
By air of course. I am very sentimental towards the Boeing747, but the Airbus A380 takes my breath away too. Especially if I could jump on one to Australia to hug my mum!
Elmarie, thank you for taking your time.