It can’t happen to you, right? Not so quick.
After moving to a beachside home in Florida just a few weeks before Hurricane Matthew, it came as a surprise when I received an email from my CPA asking if we knew what to do in the event of a hurricane. Yes, I knew we had just moved to hurricane country and that it was currently hurricane season, but this is something we were going to prepare for as soon as we got settled. We weren’t settled yet. So my first response was NO!
My plan was to stay focused on client work. I could not let my clients down. Then I thought about her question a bit more. We were not prepared for boarding a house, a business and evacuating. We weren’t even unpacked yet. Thankfully, she also sent two documents for my reference. One for personal preparedness and the other for business preparedness. Looking at the documents, I knew I had some work to do.
Why Emergency Preparedness Matters:
It’s easy to think that you don’t need to worry about an emergency pertaining to your business. That’s something that happens to other business owners. Well, I along with many other business owners, can vouch that it can happen to you! Digest the following statistic and think about whether you are willing to risk the future of your business to chance.
"Almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster"
~according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) article Protecting Your Business.
Making the Call to Switch to Emergency Preparedness:
So when do you make the call to put a hold on day-to-day operations as you prepare for an emergency? Much like investing in the stock market, this will vary person to person. How much are you willing to risk? When does the long-term risk of loss to your business outweigh the benefit of completing day-to-day operations? That is a decision you will have to make. Just be sure not to allow short-sightedness to cause you lose sight of your long-term vision. I made the decision to switch my energies to emergency preparedness that day. Once we were prepared and evacuated, I could then resume focusing on client work, knowing that my family was safe and that my business preparedness plans were complete. This would allow us to provide the best service to the most clients and give us the best chance to be quickly up-and-running once the storm had passed.
Communication is Key:
It is important to communicate early with your clients so they can make any necessary changes to their plans. I sent an email to all clients stating that we were implementing our emergency preparedness plan and of the potential impact to their workflow. You’ll find that most, if not all clients, are understanding. You can also utilize your social media platforms to keep your customers updated as to your status. This is the perfect time to put your marketing skills in action!
We experienced moderately little downtime relative to the scope of the natural disaster and all our clients were aware of and understanding of our situation. Even with loss of power and under mandatory evacuations, we were fully operational within days. We do have the benefit of being a service based business, but with that also comes the necessity to have the appropriate systems in place to maintain operations when your primary systems are not accessible. While we do not have the complications of inventory and/or a large volume of documentation, all businesses would benefit from having their administrative systems in order.
In hind sight, I had been preparing for years for this event, and didn’t realize how prepared I was. In my next blog, Preparing your Business to Weather a Storm or Other Emergency, I’ll share details about some of the steps I took to prepare – both over the years and at the last minute, along with resources you can use to prepare your business for any emergency. In the third part of this blog series, Using Social Media to Communicate with Your Customers during and after an Emergency, I’ll discuss how to use social media and email marketing to keep your customers informed and to draw them back in your doors afterwards. I’ll also address how YOU can help small businesses succeed after an emergency.
Unfortunately, sometimes even with all the preparations, it’s just not enough. Nothing is guaranteed; but with proper planning, together, maybe we can reduce the statistic of businesses not reopening after a disaster.
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