July 29, 2021
By: By Jessica Larson, SolopreneurJournal.com
We learned a number of lessons from the pandemic, some of them personal and others professional. There was some overlap, but some of what we’ve learned applies specifically to business, and much of it involves being prepared in the event another emergency hits.
The numbers are stark: According to Facebook data released in May, 31% of small businesses reported shutting down in the previous few months. A SCORE survey in June of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, found that 37.3% of employers had been forced to furlough or lay off workers temporarily, while 31.4% had to cut staffers’ hours or pay.
Many of us are returning to work following the pandemic, but we may not be returning to the same kind of workplace we left. Some of us will continue to work remotely. Others will find employment with different companies.
The next crisis may or may not be a health emergency, but COVID has made one thing clear: It’s better for both workers and employers to be prepared than it is to react after the fact. And there are steps we can take that we either didn’t know about or didn’t think enough about before the pandemic to avert the kind of fallout we’ve felt from COVID.
From hurricanes to earthquakes, from Midwest tornadoes to the catastrophic fires we’ve seen in California, we’ve learned the kind of devastation that weather-related disasters can have on communities — and the businesses they serve. You might even be forced to deal with fog, which can slow down delivery times and create road hazards.
Texas wasn’t prepared for a winter freeze that left 57 people dead and millions without power for an extended period. Many businesses ground to a standstill because they couldn’t keep the power on. Whether they needed to store perishable foods in thawing freezers or finish up deadline projects on computers without power, the need for access to power became clear within hours.
That’s something many businesses have in common. Whether it’s an ice storm, a hurricane, a tornado, or a fire that burns through power lines, the loss of electricity is a common byproduct of severe weather. One clear solution is to purchase a backup generator with a weatherproof enclosure to keep the power on in the midst of any crisis.
There are other steps you can take to be prepared, too. For example, it may make sense to upgrade to weather-resistant building materials for your business, such as impact-resistant windows with bendable glass and framing lumber if you live in hurricane country.
If you’re delivering goods and likely to get snowed in, purchase snow shovels to clear your driveway, chains for your tires, and ice scrapers for your windows. Make sure your vehicle or fleet is serviced, and have extra antifreeze on hand. While you’re at it, make a full checklist of things you’ll need for a vehicle emergency kit, and supply one to each of your company’s cars.
COVID brought with it a series of unprecedented steps, from lockdowns to remote work, social distancing to masks. Some of those lessons won’t apply to every health emergency — we won’t be going into quarantine every time there’s a virus going around — but others can help us prepare for the worst.
The CDC doesn’t recommend that we continue to wear masks once the pandemic’s over, and social distancing may become a thing of the past, as well. But there’s no denying that, when we started to take more health precautions, we not only curbed the spread of COVID, we saw cases of flu (and resulting deaths) drop as well.
Many of us now recognize how many germs can be exchanged by a handshake, but whether or not the “elbow bump” is here to stay, there’s heightened awareness of some steps we should have been taking all along: like washing our hands frequently for at least 20 seconds in warm water or using hand sanitizer, and disinfecting surfaces to reduce the spread of germs.
It’s a good idea to continue those precautions regardless of whether we’re in a pandemic. An office flu outbreak can be devastating to employee health (and that of their families) and productivity, too.
Financial challenges can be disasters in their own right for business, or they can be secondary crises caused by things like a pandemic.
Is your business equipped to deal with the financial fallout from a crisis, whether it be a pandemic, a shift in the markets, or something as simple as more competition and/or innovation from a rival?
As with your personal finances, you need to budget for emergencies and have a safety net to fall back on in tough times.
Having an emergency fund will keep you from having to run up debt to stay afloat; in fact, it’s a good idea to pay down as much of your current debt as possible. This will help boost your credit rating, which you can use to make needed investments rather than using credit to plug holes keep and the doors open, all while you dig yourself deeper into debt.
Another good way to prepare yourself for any crisis is to reinforce your customer relationships. Make it clear you’re there for your clients and patrons. Innovate to connect with them more effectively, whether it be through digital ordering and delivery, easy payment methods, or good old-fashioned community involvement.
That kind of human preparation can put you in a good position to make it through crises, whatever form they may take.
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