Look Beyond the Bad Luck

Disaster planning for small businesses

Another winter storm paralyzed the South this week and wreaked havoc on small businesses counting on the increased traffic before Valentine’s Day. Particularly hard hit were the flower shops and restaurants where stock was ordered well in advance in anticipation of needs that never came. Flowers stay fresh slightly longer than health-department governed restaurant food, but when the day comes and the traffic doesn’t–what to do?


Every small business is a part of its community. Many routinely lend financial assistance to non-profit organizations through special events or support the local high school athletes. Those established links may not be what’s needed when bad weather strikes. Needs in every community are so great that every thoughtful gesture and donation makes a difference.


A local church has organized a flower ministry to collect blooms from a number of different sources, rearrange them and send them out to hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes. One call to this army of volunteers would have ensured the unsold arrangements would still make many faces smile.


Small restaurants that serve fresh food, unlike the chains that rely on frozen items, can’t keep food too long, but they can form a link to one or more of the shelters. When bad weather strikes, shelters for the homeless are at capacity and if the weather also causes power outages, local officials may also open family shelters. So the pizza shop that threw away 80 balls of pizza dough could have made a call and found a grateful volunteer kitchen to turn this into a win.


The lesson learned: every small business owner needs an adverse weather procedure in the disaster plan. Step one is to identify the local non-profits who could benefit when weather impacts your business. Find out who to contact and talk through a scenario that lets both parties understand what they might get and how it will be transported. Second, update the disaster plan with this information. Three, talk with your employees to let them know the link has been made and ask them the best way to make this information available-is a permanent note on the bulletin board enough or is something else needed?


While the convergence of a major winter storm and Valentine’s Day may have been a once in a lifetime event, it serves to underline the need for small business to be tightly connected to their communities.


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