By John Swanciger of Manta
From the recent water contamination scandal in Flint, Mich., to landmark natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, we are constantly reminded that any location has the possibility of a destructive emergency. They can strike anytime and anywhere, meaning business owners need to be armed with the confidence and appropriate plans to endure natural disasters.
(Photo courtesy of John Swanciger)
There are plenty of worst-case scenarios that threaten small business survival, but it turns out natural disasters are among small business owners’ top nightmares. According to Manta’s latest Wellness Index, 37 percent of small business owners said their business would not be able to recover from an act of God like a severe storm or fire – a finding that points to potential gaps in small businesses emergency plans. While there’s no denying that bouncing back from natural disasters is challenging, small businesses can recover if they implement the following preparation strategies.
1. Develop response plans for every type of emergency.
Since large-scale disasters show favoritism to geographical boundaries, businesses can prep by creating scenario-specific response plans. Logical evacuation routes and procedures should be created and communicated to all personnel. Emergency phone numbers and escape plans should be posted in accessible locations in clear and simple language. Scheduling regular drills can reinforce the need for cooperation if a dangerous situation arises.
2. Review your insurance coverage and policies annually.
Investing in the proper insurance coverage for your business property is one of the best ways to prepare for a natural disaster before it even hits. Small business owners should take precautions by ensuring that their coverage limits are at or above the appraised value for their building. While insurance can come with a hefty price tag, it can lead to a full recovery if a disaster physically destroys your business premises. Robust insurance packages such as business interruption, loss of use and extended coverage are recommended to protect temporary closures.
3. Determine communication procedures.
To prevent loss of loyal customers, small businesses should take immediate action by posting a closure notice outside their property and contacting customers via phone, email or social media if possible. Employees must also be informed of communication guidelines so they can reach you and other coworkers during and after an emergency. Communication responsibilities and tasks should be assigned to specific staff members. As the small business owner, you should lead communication efforts by appointing a spokesperson, a client contact and an employee responsible for contacting the insurance company.
4. Move to the cloud to safeguard company information and data.
If your business manages any sort of electronic transactions, backing up your data to a cloud-based platform is crucial. Natural disasters can wipe out more than trees and homes – they also have the power to destroy office systems and important documents. Regularly backing up files and data to a reliable hard drive can suffice, but migrating business information to the cloud is a better option since employees can access ongoing projects or important documents off-site. With options like Google apps and Slack, implementing cloud technology is now more affordable.
5. Identify critical tools to aid in business continuity.
Even when your business survives a severe disaster, you may still experience significant loss due to suppliers’ inability to make deliveries. Business owners should communicate their emergency procedures to key vendors to keep everyone on the same page. Maintaining strong relationships with employees, vendors and customers provides small business owners with the support system they need to effectively tackle the recovery process.
Natural disasters and even manmade emergencies present unforeseen challenges that can put a dent in a business. But acts of God like hurricanes or tornadoes don’t have to spell doomsday. Small businesses are capable of making strong comebacks, but full recoveries only happen when the business owner spearheads a proactive response plan. In the event of an unexpected emergency, having a clear-cut strategy in place like the one outlined above can help minimize financial damage and keep your business running smoothly.
John Swanciger is a seasoned technology executive with vast experience in team building, product marketing and strategic partner development. As CEO, he leads Manta to strengthen its current offerings, while expanding products and services for a growing customer base of small business owners. John brings more than 15 years of industry experience working with high-growth business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies, including Accenture, Hotwire and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Most recently, he was responsible for product marketing, sales, business development and partner relations as Switchfly’s chief commercial officer. John is a board director at Liftopia and received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Boston College.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.