Natural disasters can devastate communities, regions, and even entire states. But, most of the news coverage is about what happens to the masses and not what happens to one or two small business owners in the aftermath of those disasters. Rebuilding takes time, patience, and careful planning.
There are many subtleties in the weeks and months following natural disasters that were not factors when building your small business the first time around and you must take them into account when making your plans to get your business back up and running. Here’s what you must do in order to get your business up and running again after disaster strikes.
Assess the Damage
This is one of the most important first steps you can take. It’s all about gathering information and intelligence. Only after you have the facts, can you begin to create any sort of plans for rebuilding. While you’re assessing the damage, you’ll want to take plenty of photographs and notes to document the extent of the damage. Other things you should try to learn while assessing the damage include basic things such as:
- What kind of damage do other businesses in the area have?
- Is power back on now? If not, is there an estimated timeline for power to be restored?
- What about other utilities? Cable? Gas? Phone? Internet?
- Have other businesses begun the rebuilding process?
- What about residential properties? Are people coming back to the area? Will you have customers to sell your wares to?
Open Lines of Communication
Communication is the single most important tool you have at your disposal for the time being. Depending on how severe or far reaching the natural disaster may have been, it could be that your entire community is suffering and trying to deal with personal damages and tragedies. There are five groups of people you’re going to need to be able to get in touch with as quickly as possible.
4) Assistance organizations
Once you’ve touched base with at least the first four groups, you can begin making plans. As far as customers, it might be wise to at least send out notices to your email list about the plans for your business and offer sympathies for what they are experiencing too.
Keep a Clear Head about the Rebuilding Process
Natural disasters never happen in a vacuum. It might feel personal or like your business is the only one that’s in dire straits but that isn’t the case. In many cases, even if you were able to open the doors to your business tomorrow, you’d have difficulty getting merchandise, finding customers, staffing the business, and getting back and forth to work (that is, unless you’re operating a convenience store, grocery store, or hardware store as these businesses are sorely needed during these times). More importantly, people are prioritizing their shopping according to what it desperately needed. Luxury items and optional items aren’t high on the priority list right now.
It’s also important to invest in insurance coverage that takes care of the basics such as general liability, property damage (and loss), and valuable papers insurance. However, you should also invest in business interruption insurance that reimburses business owners for the loss of income that happens when businesses are interrupted due to disasters so you don’t have to face these fears while dealing with everything else that goes along with natural disasters.