Hurricane Hermine recently passed through Tallahassee and should be a reminder to every business owner that planning for the unknown is so important, no matter your location.
Many businesses in north Florida thought Tallahassee was immune from hurricanes because it had been 30 years since the last one hit. Tallahassee escaped unscathed on so many occasions, but this time Hermine, a Category 1 storm, caused significant disruption for much of the city because of power losses and the communication challenges that brings. It is impossible to communicate without power.
In the hours and days after Hermine, you could look around town and tell which firms had emergency plans that were successfully implemented. Many had generators on location so they could restore power and resume normal operations.
Those companies that did not have contingency plans are doing all they can to stay afloat, but the picture is not pretty. Many are struggling to get their doors open. Others are struggling to keep up with excess demand, and that can be taxing as well.
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Those companies that did not have contingency plans are doing all they can to stay afloat, but the picture is not pretty.
For example, contractors and roofers likely have been having their phones ringing off the hook. Many restaurants, too, likely are seeing more business than usual, and aren’t equipped to handle the demand.
The day after Hermine hit, we were without electricity and, like many others, tried to find an open restaurant. When we did, we found one that was so out of control, customers were leaving in droves. Servers were not coming to tables because they were unsure which were their responsibility. Customer service was severely impacted because a lack of planning left the restaurant unequipped to handle the unexpected demand. I overheard many customers as they were leaving saying that they would never return to that restaurant again.
With the storm and its impact still fresh in so many minds, now is a good time to develop an emergency or disaster plan that can be implemented quickly should a disaster impact your firm.
The following are important to consider in your plan:
▪ How will you communicate with your staff and who will do the communicating?
▪ How will your staff communicate with you?
▪ What are the criteria that will determine whether you stay open or remain closed?
▪ Can you continue to exist and operate without power?
▪ If you have no power, how will this impact your staff if the employees have to operate in buildings with high temperatures?
▪ What will happen if your technology fails and how will you remedy the situation?
Important to note about planning for emergencies: You are not going to know what is going to happen or when. Whether it is a hurricane, computer failure, unexpected demand or another major event, you will rarely have warning, but you can – and must – have a viable plan to address any challenge your business might face.
I have found the best way to do this is to develop a series of scenarios and get staff to help create the plans to deal with them. This will help with buy-in as well as ensure all levels of the organization have had input in the planning process.
Now go out and make sure you have plans in place should a disaster affect your business.
Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant and Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.