Executive Commentary
Prepare for the Unimaginable Before it Happens
Barry Telford
Barry Telford
CEO, Universities West, Sodexo North America President, Sodexo Canada

Emergency drills featuring dire scenarios are standard operating procedure for schools, universities and colleges, corporations, and communities. After working through the solutions, we pat ourselves on the back and assume that we’re ready should anything disastrous happen. Then it does, and we find out if we were right.

The sobering, terrible realities faced by Dr. Chris Kimball, President of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA, and his team are outlined in the latest chapter of the 2018/2019 President to President series. It began with a mass shooting at a country-western dance club, a tragedy that touched everyone in Thousand Oaks, and ended with a bomb scare. No emergency drill ever devised could have prepared the California Lutheran campus community for the harsh reality that they endured.

Frankly, this chapter is hard to read, and it might prompt some to rationalize that this kind of confluence is unlikely to occur again. I suggest that it should be required reading for every college and university team, as well as corporations, followed by an honest, in-depth review of the planned responses to the myriad events that can disrupt and endanger lives. Sodexo is responsible for the safety of 425,000 employees across the United States, and we serve millions of customers every day. As our clients’ partners, we are responsible for ensuring that we do everything possible to support the campuses that we serve, our employees, and the community under all circumstances. And I’m proud to say that we have.

The Lynn University team in Boca Raton, FL, was one of the Sodexo teams that faced down Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that killed 135 people. Leaving their own homes and families, this Sodexo team remained on site for days to ensure that students were fed and cared for throughout the storm and its aftermath.

Over a four-week period in December 2017, our Westmont College team in Montecito, CA was challenged by both wildfires and mudslides. The Sodexo team remained on site, first to ensure the students were safe and fed while they were waiting to evacuate; then, over the next 10 days, the campus dining team found ways to lend support for the firefighting efforts while campus was closed, including coordinating food donations. Reopening the campus foodservice operations on 48 hours’ notice required a monumental effort to overcome multiple challenges, including a lack of reliable access to clean water. They did it.

Extraordinary? Time after time, this is the kind of service and dedication our Sodexo teams across the country deliver, thanks to our extensive resources and decades of global experience. We constantly refine our emergency plans, preparing for any eventuality. Our managers have access to our Crisis Resource Center, Crisis Management Plan, Disaster Response Guide and many more resources, all backed up by our Health & Safety Teams’ expertise. Our Supply Management team has coordinated with our vendors during many emergencies to bring mobile kitchens and refrigerator trucks to our accounts to ensure uninterrupted food service. And, our Facilities Management teams’ expertise helps secure their clients’ infrastructure and equipment to ensure the facility is back online expeditiously.

While our teams are dedicated to their clients’ and customers’ Quality of Life, they also support one another. The employee-funded Sodexo Disaster Relief Fund assists team members who lose their homes during disasters or suffer other life-changing events. In addition, the Lifeworks Employee Assistance Program provides support resources to assist with work and life challenges. I’m proud to work for a company that can meet any challenge and demonstrably supports its employees’ Quality of Life.

Barry Telford
 is the CEO of Universities West for Sodexo North America and the President of Sodexo Canada. A strong advocate for the new performance frontier: Quality of Life, Mr. Telford believes that great performance is driven by strong, inclusive leadership based on family and community-centered values and a commitment to serve others.   Mr. Telford serves on the Board of the Sodexo Stop Hunger FoundationToronto’s Second Harvest and the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB).

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