Business Currents_NEWSLETTER

When it comes to storms that businesses face, the weather as well as the storms caused by the environment come in many forms. Forecasting, planning, preparation and action are key to weathering the “storms” we experience.

Of course in our part of the country hurricanes and tidal flooding are more common place. We have all been affected by storms of various magnitudes. This year marked the earliest an F-named stormed was recorded during the hurricane season. That may be a sign of more weather-related challenges and trouble to come.

Speaking of trouble to come, the ongoing trouble the business world is facing during the COVID-19 pandemic is another perfect storm. It has shut down businesses, kept customers away, shut off supply chains and destroyed many businesses. And the most important and serious concern has been the everyday reminder of the toll and loss of human life. Just like traditional storms, this pandemic storm continues to affect many people and entities in so many different ways. During and after storms, some people and businesses are affected physically, some mentally and some both.

My daughter Grace shared her perspective with me recently. She is a recent college grad of James Madison University (go Dukes!) and has been affected in many ways as part of the graduating class of 2020. She is not alone. She said to me, “Everyone is saying we are all in the same boat and while that may be true, we are all riding different waves.”

Grace’s statement resonated with me as I reflected on the words and the accuracy of her thoughts. We are all in this together, but based on what we do, where we do it and how we do it, we are all experiencing things differently and at different times.

Certain businesses, both large and small, are experiencing the best and most profitable year ever. Others are facing record lows of earnings and revenues and as stated earlier many of those will not survive, despite on-going community support and assistance programs.

I have found throughout the years that planning, preparation and action are three areas of importance when it comes to dealing with what has been occurring in our region as it relates to storms and weather emergencies. How can a business prepare for a weather emergency and an ongoing pandemic crisis? Here are a few thoughts and suggestions:

• Develop a plan: A disaster preparedness plan should include detailed information on how you will manage your business in the event of a weather disaster. The written document (stored offsite as well as onsite) should include information on who is responsible for doing what, important items you need to run your business remotely, and a list of supplies, equipment and software to make sure you can both operate your business and access your data. This is, of course, assuming it is possible to still do so in the event of a storm or weather emergency. It should go without saying that the safety of you, your employees and customers should be your top priority. The element of safety should be a major part of your disaster preparedness planning. Erring on the side of caution is always a best practice when talking about and planning for something as unpredictable and powerful as weather emergencies.

• Understand your coverage: When it comes to all forms of insurance, the time to discuss your coverage and policies with your agent is before the storm or weather emergency. In addition to things like property and casualty insurance, you may want to talk to your broker about business interruption insurance and the reasons to add this coverage to your business owner’s policy.

• Be prepared and watch/listen to the weather (and COVID-19 related facts, figures and protocols) forecasts: A big mistake many people make is they are caught off guard by weather emergencies. While it seems like common sense, many people are so focused on the business at hand that they are not paying attention to potential weather-related threats. The sooner you know about a storm, the sooner you and your team can prepare as much as possible for the worst situation. Having additional time to prepare for a weather emergency could be the difference in weathering the storm with less impact to your business or business operations. Along with your normal sources of weather information, utilizing a weather radio is a good way to get the latest information pre-storm.

• Take action to return to business normalcy as soon as possible (and put protocols and plans into action): Do what you can and seek the assistance offered and available to help get your business operating post storm. Having worked alongside disaster relief representatives from the Small Business Administration for a good portion of my work in business consulting taught me something worth sharing. While proper planning helps to protect employees and lessen the financial impact to businesses, the major help needed is assistance to re-open the business as soon as possible. This action helps to support the economic recovery of the community that surrounds the business in the storm-affected area. Speaking of the Small Business Administration, the organization offers emergency preparedness training with a self-paced overview of SBA’s disaster assistance programs, resources and regulations on its website, sba.gov.

You can also receive local business counseling to determine the best way to prepare for emergencies and the next step when disaster strikes. These services are constantly being updated and tweaked, and all COVID-19 related relief and programs are accessible through a number of trusted resources. These include your county and state resources and through the Small Business Development Center, SCORE and the Women Business Center, all funded in part by the Small Business Administration at sba.gov. For more emergency preparedness advice, see ready.gov/business or contact SBA's Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (TTY: 800-877-8339) or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

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