the incredible power of these two words…

There are or will be times in your life that you simply don’t know how you’re going to make it through a situation. Either by choice or by circumstances, you’ll face something that you’ve never faced before.

That is exactly what happened to me four months after I became CIO (Chief Information Officer) in 2012 – a data breach. Just the sound of that makes me cringe to this day.

In the technology world, there is nothing more important than network security and protecting all credit card information. PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) didn’t even exist until 2006 and has become a major area of the business in just the last few years.

It’s hard to believe that when I was at United Supermarkets of Oklahoma and we put in our first scanning systems (1987), we didn’t even take credit cards. In the grocery business, the margins are so low as a percentage of sales, that we couldn’t even consider paying the 4% to 5% surcharge that credit card companies charged in those days. (It’s now under 2%, and is our biggest expense behind labor)

Our main payment tender at that time other than cash was personal checks. When a customer wanted to pay from a local bank and they didn’t have their own personal checks with them, you’d just pull out one of the blank check pads that we had at all the check stands for that local bank and let the customer fill it out. (Unbelievable, right?) Needless to say, we had a pretty big problem with “unknown account” checks being returned.

One of my funniest stories about blank counter checks was when we had just moved to Altus, Oklahoma and I was assistant manager at the Bunker Hill United, (around 1982), when a customer walked into the store and asked me if we had any ‘duke checks.’ Not knowing there was a small town west of Altus called Duke, I paused for a minute and said, “No, we have Corn Chex, Rice Chex and Wheat Chex, but no duke Chex.” I thought there must be a new variety of cereal we hadn’t picked up yet….lol!

Needless to say, a data breach is a very serious business challenge and when it happens, you have no choice but to call in the calvary. Everyone that could possibly help you with the process of identifying the intrusion, stop the intrusion, evaluating what, if any, data was stolen, alert your customers via press release, get a new PCI Compliance certification done and put new processes in place to ensure it won’t happen again.

One thing I was reminded of during all this was that thieves will always be one step ahead of technology. Back in the early days of electronically taking credit cards, the raw data was just in a text file on both the POS system and also in the credit card processing system at the home office. From the beginning of taking credit cards in the 80’s, we were partners with a payment company that encrypted all credit card data from the point the card was swiped, all the way through to the processor for approval. Hence, no credit card data was ever exposed. We were safe. Right? Yes, in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. In 2012? Not so much. The thieves and hackers had gotten smarter.

For the first time in my career, I was having serious conversations with all the major card companies; American Express, Visa, Mastercard & Discover. I was also having conversations with the Secret Service. Seriously, the Secret Service. Cyber Crime is the single most concerning issue across the world in all retail businesses and is considered one of the top three issues of all executive teams and boards.

We created a war room with over 20 members from all areas of the business involved and had been working around the clock for over two weeks at this point. One morning as I was driving to work, my mind racing with all the details of trying to develop my game plan to conquer this event, two words suddenly came to my mind…

Rise up. I immediately thought those two words again; Rise up. Those words began to swell up something inside of me. I thought them again; Rise up. I said them out loud; Rise up. I said them out loud again; Rise up.

Then I began to shout them; RISE UP. Again; RISE UP. Again; RISE UP.

Hidden Power In These Two Words

As I entered the office that morning, I had POWER!

New power. Strong Power. Overcoming Power. Conquering Power. Power to destroy this ugly thief that had invaded our lives. Power to get the knowledge to help us lock out the bad guys. Power to assure our customers that their data was safe with us. Power to make sure this never happened again. Power to give the team the direction and leadership they needed to solve this.

You can think them. You can whisper them. You can speak them out loud. You can even shout them! Whatever way you choose, there is power in these two words.

The data breach wound up being so minimal that it wasn’t even on the radar of the major card companies. We don’t believe that any data ever got out and based on feedback from all the companies involved, this was the shortest most professionally handled breach they’d ever encountered. It was a massive team effort that everyone involved in walked away with major learnings.

At the time, we didn’t truly realize how minimal it was, until the major breaches that came in the years after that. In 2014 there were 350 breaches in 11 countries costing companies an average of $3.79MM in losses.

This is a world wide problem: World’s Biggest Data Breaches

World’s Biggest Data Breaches

There are a ton of business learning details about the breach, but this topic isn’t about the breach, (it’s a public fact).

This topic is about facing your fears when potentially giant obstacles come your way.

The LEGACY learning nugget here is that when you’re willing to admit you need help;

Get it. Anywhere you can. Anyway you can. But get it.

Sometimes it’s simply in your own mind, you just have to discover it.

Since then, whether it’s having a tough conversation with a team member, the few moments before giving a speech, finding a solution to a major business challenge, going into a board meeting or making funeral arrangements for my parents – those two words, Rise Up, continue to give me power.

Or, said another way in this context – Power equals Courage. Power converted to courage will change your outcome. I guarantee it!

If today you find yourself facing something that absolutely scares you to death or has you wondering how you’re going to conquer it; I encourage you to think these words, say these words, shout these words.

Rise up, my friend, RISE UP!