Three years ago, Hoffmann-La Roche CEO and president George Abercrombie began to think seriously about what would happen if his company was unable to maintain operations in the case of a flu pandemic. As the only producer of Tamiflu, an anti-viral drug that helps treat flu symptoms, the inability of the Nutley, N.J.-based drug maker to conduct some semblance of business as usual would have dire consequences not only for Roche's financials–it could also jeopardize the world's ability to combat the outbreak. In fact, given the circumstances, Abercrombie realized his company would need not only to continue manufacturing, but Roche would have to run at top speed.

Not every company has a life or death mission to accomplish like Roche, but many face a similar reality. Experts agree that a flu pandemic of some kind carries a high probability–some call it inevitable. And, with predictions that the flu could kill 2.25 million people and force 87.75 million employees to miss work for three weeks, the question of just how to keep operations running is one likely to confront most companies at some point in the not so distant future.

Executives at Hoffmann-La Roche, a unit of the $28.5 billion Roche Group, decided not to wait for the crisis–and Abercrombie led the charge. "The ultimate success of a company's preparedness initiative depends on the CEO's commitment. Only that person can ensure that the right people spend the right amount of time driving the process," Abercrombie says now. "[You must] make the endeavor personal."

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