Thank goodness that last winter’s deep-freeze is behind us. But, predictions for the coming winter are uncertain, and every season has its regional hazards. You want to keep your small business’ doors open, so you have to be ready to punt when bad weather and other surprise calamities force employees to stay home or present an existential threat to your company.
Take a lesson from Scouts BSA, and try to be prepared. Here are some suggestions.
First, Identify Any Likely Disasters
If your business is located on or near the ocean-front, hurricanes could hit. In the northern part of the country, heavy snow can collapse roofs, and ice can create potentially-impossible travel conditions, keeping employees and shipments from arriving safely at your door. Don’t forget about non-weather conditions. Criminal activities like theft, for example, can wreak as much havoc on your inventory as it instills fear in your employees.
Every potential threat that you identify in advance is one that you can plan for. Of course, if you can take action to entirely prevent expected disasters from severely affecting your business, by all means, do whatever you can.
When Hurricane Michael devastated Mexico Beach, FL in 2018, one house remained with very little damage, looking like a safe island in the surrounding ruins. That house was built by two owners who recognized the area’s hurricane potential and decided to significantly exceed the newest building standards. This is an important lesson for every business owner.
Recognize When Business Cannot Progress For a While
You probably cannot anticipate every possible issue that can arise, but you absolutely must learn to quickly recognize when your business might face unexpected downtime — and accurately predict how long it might take to ramp up to full capacity again.
If the building that you absolutely need to operate your business blows down to the ground, you probably need to turn to the insurance that you bought for this purpose. Hopefully, you will also consider purchasing business interruption coverage, which can provide your business with some income until you become operational again.
Don’t forget the smaller issues either. Even flu season can pack a wallop if you’re working with a skeleton crew when orders have to be packed and shipped.
Identify Creative Solutions in Advance
Every potential crisis that you can predict gives you the opportunity to figure out how you will offset it.
- When damaged and unsafe premises (or even flooded local roads) make it impossible for employees to get to work, employees who work from home are in position to keep things running, as long as their own property isn’t affected.
- Cross-training adds value to all employees who can fill in when illness strikes a large number of team members.
- Offering free on-site flu shots can keep more employees in the office. You might also consider setting a policy that encourages sick people to stay home.
- Creating and disseminating a written disaster plan helps ensure that all employees know what to do in emergencies.
Planning for the worst is never a waste of time. Face it; things can go wrong, but you may barely notice incidents when your entire team is prepared.
Think of Third Parties
Business is flourishing for your company and everyone in your regional area. Natural disasters are rare, and everyone believes in creating backup plans in the event of employee loss. It’s too bad that your only parts supplier is located in a hurricane zone, and the storms are in their peak season.
Keep in mind that the disasters experienced by anyone that you rely on are your disasters, too. If you rely on outside vendors, then make sure that you know about acceptable backups, preferably in another region.
Equally important, identify ways that you can support customers that are hard-hit by an unexpected event. If you can hold onto a shipment until they are ready to receive it, or if you can offer resources to help them get back on their feet, they will think kindly of your company. You can virtually guarantee that they’ll keep coming back — and they’ll probably recommend you highly to future prospects.
Plan for More than Weather-Related Events
Never forget that bad weather is not the only possible tragedy that can strike a business. We have already discussed how cross-job training can help your operations remain on track when a bout of flu keeps half of your team home for an extended time period. But, there are plenty of other potential events that require a plan.
What if the server that holds all of your data crashes, and you can’t get to the information that runs all aspects of the business? If you run backups to the Cloud at least once a day, then you’ll lose very few records. What would you do if thieves stole your entire product inventory? Granted, you still have to deal with a massive insurance claim, but you can keep customers happy if some of your inventory is available for shipping from another location.
It’s not fun to imagine all things that can go wrong. You might even experience a nightmare or two while your mind is focused on the downsides of business. But, once you have plans in place, you might sleep more soundly than ever before.
Forewarned is Forearmed
Probably the majority of weather-related issues are somewhat predictable. You can anticipate these emergencies in advance, plan for them, and make sure that your team knows what to do. Of course, it’s equally important to recognize the full array of things that can go awry.
There’s a reason why the idiom, forewarned is forearmed, dates back to the 16th century or even earlier. Whether you need to implement an emergency plan for your small business today, or if your ancestors were concerned about protecting precious cargo from pirates on the high seas, there have always been things to worry about. Replace those worries with a solid plan, and your business can continue to thrive through rough times.