10 Ways How To Prepare And Survive In Business During A Natural Disaster
You have always been a smart businessperson. You know that natural disasters can strike anytime, and you must prepare for them. Natural disasters can cause severe damage to your business, so it's important to plan ahead for them.
There are many disasters we face today - hurricanes, storms, flooding, tornado, fire, and earthquakes. According to Outforia.com there are 24 occurring natural disasters.
Natural disasters include all types of severe weather, which have the potential to pose a significant threat to human health and safety, property, critical infrastructure, and homeland security. ~ DHS.gov
Natural Disasters Infographic by Outforia
No matter how good you are as a businessperson and manager, there will always be circumstances beyond your control that can affect your business.
Disaster prep should start when you open the doors of your business. If you do not have a plan, it is always good to start now. You will not be in a logical and clear mind during a disaster because all your attention will be on your family and friends. So you have to make sure your business has a disaster plan.
Preparing for the worst can help minimize the risk of your business not functioning.
There is a lot of general information for business, but this article is specifically for small solopreneurs and eCommerce entrepreneurs.
As a small business, you either function out of your home, small office, or retail location. The planning steps are the same for any business.
How to think about disaster preparedness
What would happen if your entire office (home) or warehouse was flooded or burned to the ground? Think about everything you would need to keep things moving forward seamlessly.
Here are a few ways to prepare:
1. Keep technology going
Our world is run on technology and the internet, and as a business, it is how you communicate and run your business.
Have an alternative way to access your internet. In natural disasters, the power will be out before crews can get to fixing lines. Investing in a generator or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system.
Suppose your internet provider is down in the area, research alternate locations you can use as a base. Although a hotel or coffee shop, the normal go-to, will only have limited wifi access. Look for alternate spaces where you can operate, e.g., office suites in a different area.
2. Be in the Cloud and Back it up.
When running a business, the data you have at your fingertips is crucial to everything you do. It's how you can serve your customers, keep track of your financial records, send documents back and forth with clients, and communicate with employees. Without access to this data, would cripple your business—it wouldn't be able to function.
One of the worst situations I've seen during my IT career is businesses that don't have backups. Even today, a quick survey of my eCommerce clients shows that none have thought about backing up their online store information. Instead, people assume it's on the internet and that their hosting company will back it up automatically.
Not so, your eCommerce store is hosted on an eCommerce platform. Shopify, for instance, does a platform-wide backup for Shopify but not an individual store data backup. No website platform will back up your data for your website.
Most businesses store data in a cloud, which can slow down your internet if you have large files or a lot of people using the same internet. If you have servers in the office, always take one set of backup drives off the property.
Make backup copies of all critical records, such as accounting and employee data, customer lists, production formulas, and inventory.
If you have an online store, it is a good idea to have a backup of the information about your products, images, orders & customers. I mention this because what happens if the servers of your online store, which you have no control over, are hit with a disaster? Is there a backup and recovery plan for the servers?
3. Communicate with employees and contractors
Even as a solopreneur, you have people assisting your business, for example, a VA, social media, or fulfillment person. Staying in touch with everybody is an excellent way of ensuring everybody is okay and fosters great relationships.
Develop a quick and efficient way of keeping employees and contractors informed. It is normal to have communication information for your employees; at the least, you should have a telephone number and email for your employees and contractors.
A good habit is creating a group chat on Facebook to connect with employees and communicate with them normally. Not everybody checks their emails in situations, but everybody is on Facebook.
I have created a Messenger group for my Shopify clients that also end up in my workshops. Great way to communicate and stay in touch.
4. Communicate with customers
Don't forget about your customers. Hopefully, you already have a system or several ways you connect to your customers. Keep them in the loop about what is going on, if you are functioning, and if not, when you will be back in business.
If you have orders you cannot fulfill, see if you can find another opportunity to fill the order from the competition. Then, your customer will remember your efforts, not the competition.
This is the time to be the best about customer service!
Donna from The Missing Piece Puzzle Company says"
1. Customer service is first on your list if you have any orders!
2. Communication is imperative if you cannot deliver...people understand, and you might make a new friend."
5. Develop a contingency plan for your supply chain
Come up with a list of backup vendors or suppliers in case your primary ones are shut down. Consider alternative work sites so that you can keep operating.
Remember, if you are a vendor, your clients might have to choose another alternative vendor to keep their customers happy. Know your industry so you can help your client to find new vendors that hopefully don't replace you. Be all about helping your clients!
"Also, identify key suppliers, shippers, resources, and other businesses you must interact with daily. Develop professional relationships with more than one company if your primary contractor cannot service your needs. A disaster that shuts down a key supplier can devastate your business. "- fema.gov
6. Inventory - think ahead.
I am against carrying inventory as a small business unless you are a retail store. Inventory will tie up your cash which you could have used for marketing and advertising.
Although, if you are creating your own products, there is no choice but to have some inventory in stock.
Donna, the owner of TheMissingPuzzle.com, orders her printing paper by the pallet load. It saves her a lot of money by buying bulk. So when the Pandemic started and you could not import from China, she was one of the small online puzzle companies to weather the storm because she did not run out of printing paper.
In another situation, Matt, the owner of MysticKnotWork.com, ensures he has a lot of materials on hand during the summer and Christmas season for his retail and online store.
Find out which Post Offices are still working or are opening up again. Here is a list: USPS.
During the Harvey disaster in Houston, transportation ground to a halt. As mentioned before, a list of alternate suppliers and vendors that can fulfill your orders.
8. Review insurance policies.
Consider insurance on your physical site (are you renting, do you own your furniture/IT equipment, what's covered).
It's smart for any business owner to take out property insurance policies, which cover the cost of replacing damaged or destroyed equipment or buildings. But also consider business interruption insurance, which covers lost income if your business is forced to shut down temporarily.
Take pictures of your retail store or office regularly for insurance purposes. This is a good proof or record if you have not itemized your hardware.
Keep good records of new purchases and copies online (you need these for taxes anyway).
9. Protect vital business records
Today most company documents are online, but there are still original documents. These need to be kept safe. Make copies, have them notarized, and save them online.
Keep your most essential documents in a safe that has been tested and listed by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) as resistant to fire, heat, burglary tools, and torches. Your local bank has safety boxes available for rent.
Part of your records to keep safe are birth certificates, marriage and divorce paperwork, passports, and citizenship certificates, to name a few personal documents. Most of your documents are easily attainable again, but collecting all the bits and pieces requires a huge effort and time.
I live in a hurricane zone, and all my documents are in a go-to bag packed in a plastic container (I live on a boat) so that it is easy to grab, and I have everything together.
10. Make a list of ideas
Every business and each owner's circumstances are different. Create your own list of important steps to take to prepare for a disaster for your business.
I will keep this list updated on how to prepare for any situation. I wanted to bring a different perspective to all the general lists I found online in my research.
There will also be some ideas from other business owners soon.
Back-Up Apps For Shopify:
Bulk update data
Bulk update specific fields while keeping existing data intact. E.g. update Product inventory by the SKU number. Schedule and auto-repeat.
Daily Automated Backups
Did you know that Shopify can't help recover your data? Rewind automatically backs up your store every day. Just set it and forget it.