Earthquakes, floods, tornados, hurricanes… Mother Nature has not been kind to us lately. As a home-based or other small business opportunity or franchise owner, you may be particularly vulnerable to the elements. In fact, an estimated 25% of the thousands of businesses that are adversely affected by disasters each year never reopen according to BOLT (Business Owners Liability Team), a national insurance agency that exclusively protects the owners of small businesses. The American Red Cross puts that percentage even higher.
Fortunately there are some rather simple, relatively affordable and very basic steps every home-based or other small business or franchise owner can take to increase the likelihood that his or her business will be among those that do manage to get back on their feet. Here they are:
- Learn about your insurance options―Business interruption insurance reimburses you for expenses that continue to mount despite a shutdown in operations and also protects the profits you would have made if the disaster had never happened. Many smaller businesses may already have a provision of this kind in their insurance policy and not even know it, but packages can vary based on the policy as well as the premium being paid. So it’s well worth meeting with your insurance agent to learn more about this vitally important resource and plan for what you’ll need BEFORE disaster strikes. And remember, hazard insurance does not necessarily include flood insurance or earthquakes! Your policy may require a special rider to cover events of this magnitude.
- Back it up and keep it safe―If disaster strikes, everything you’ve worked so hard for can be lost in an instant, starting with your computer and all your files. That’s why it’s so critical that you back up all of your work to an off-site location, preferably one far away from your immediate geographic area. In addition, critical information about such things as taxes, payroll, inventory, insurance information, financial records, supplier and alternate supplier information, and personnel should be kept in an alternative and safe location.
- Plan, plan, plan―Take time to create a contingency plan that will allow you to relocate to higher ground or a safer locale if possible. Mobile or virtual office solutions may provide a reasonable option. If you have staff, develop an emergency plan whereby everyone knows what tasks and responsibilities fall to them, as well as how to stay in contact with one another. And make sure you also have a plan for recovery, which includes knowing how to reach not only your employees and suppliers but alternate suppliers if necessary. Having a service identified and lined up to reroute your calls can also be incredibly helpful.
- Weatherproof your space―You can prevent or lessen the damage to your office and other work space by taking the simplest of precautions. Use a UL-approved surge protector and battery backup to protect sensitive equipment. Choose file cabinets that are designed to withstand fire, water and extreme weight. Store minimal amounts of inventory in the lead-up to a potentially disastrous event if at all possible. As a matter of routine, make sure all hazardous equipment such as your water heater and gas lines are secure and operating properly. Check that your roof is sound at least once a year.
- Be prepared if you are determined to ride it out―If you’re going to stay put in an emergency, make sure you’re equipped to handle the outcome. Keep emergency supplies stocked, such as flashlights and extra batteries, lots of water, non-perishable food if you think you might need it, a first aid kit and some basic tools and other materials to make any manageable repairs. Finally, you may want to invest in a generator so that you’ll have the option to keep at least some of your electronics operational if the power goes out for any length of time.
When it comes to business survival in times of trouble, nothing beats being prepared. Taking basic precautionary steps truly can make all the difference.
For more information on what you can do to protect your business when disaster strikes, you may want to access one or more of the following valuable resources:
The American Red Cross
Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)