Ever since World War II the U.S. government’s weather service has given official human names to tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). Everybody knows that. But am I the only one who didn’t know we were anthropomorphizing winter storms?
It turns out the Weather Channel has unofficially been naming winter storms since 2012. “Jonas” was the most recent winter wallop by Mother Nature, and it earned a moniker due to the magnitude of forecasted disruption. We now know the forecasts were pretty darn accurate: record snows, hurricane force winds and up to 60 million people impacted. Sadly, there was loss of life, and the yet-to-be-determined economic impact will surely be great.
But we knew that storm was coming. Almost 13 years ago a single outage in the electric grid cascaded across eight northeastern states, putting 55 million people and thousands of businesses in the dark for days. The Great Blackout of ‘03, was a catastrophic reminder that we’re all one nosy squirrel in a transformer away from an instantaneous, put-you-out-of-business event.
As business owners we can be forgiven if we aren’t hip to how storms are named. But shame on us if we don’t prepare for disasters like Jonas and the ‘03 Blackout. Sadly, surveys reveal most small business owners believe they will have a business interruption event in any given year, but way fewer say they’re prepared for one. If the latter group sounds like you, use these tips as a starting place. Start now.
Operational: What would you do if your building became unavailable to you or your customers?
- Instead of desktop computers, purchase laptops with docking stations that allow key employees to work and connect remotely, both internally and with customers. Make sure the laptops have Wi-Fi and a mobile modems in case your broadband connection goes down. This costs a little more, but it’s good connectivity insurance.
- Adopt applications in the cloud as alternatives for any installed programs that may become unavailable.
Financial: Most small business working capital is tied up in operating cash flow. What would happen if your cash flow was interrupted?
- Purchasing a business interruption rider on your property and casualty insurance policy that will pay you cash upon the acceptance of a claim. Be sure to read the fine print - all policies are not created equal.
- Maintain a close working relationship with your banker so you won’t have to introduce yourself to the person you’re asking for a disaster loan.
Data: More of your assets are now in digital form and less physical. Are you prepared to protect your data as comprehensively as your building, equipment and inventory?
- Assign one person to be in charge of keeping all computers enabled with proven digital security and keep it current on all units.
- Regularly copy critical data from your hard drives and store it offsite, plus protect your data with a cloud-based data backup and recovery firm.
Don’t become the next named business disaster.
Write this on a rock … The only people who never experience a business interruption event are those who don’t have a business.