Natural disasters are often overlooked when it comes to potential roadblocks for a small business. According to Forbes, more than 75% of small businesses don’t have a natural disaster plan in place and nearly 40% of them fail to re-open post-disaster due to the enormous costs and complexities of restarting. Though nature is unpredictable, there are some precautionary measures you can take, as well as some post-disaster options you should be aware to ensure your business can not only withstand natural disaster, but thrive in their aftermath.
The FDIC will encourage depositary institutions within range of a natural disaster to take reasonable steps to help those affected by the disaster. The efforts to aid in monetary relief of small businesses and borrowers follow safe and-sound banking practices and are consistent with the public’s best interest. Some of these efforts include:
- Waiving ATM fees
- Increasing daily cash withdrawal limits from ATM
- Waiving overdraft fees
- Waiving early withdrawal penalties
- Waiving availability restrictions on insurance checks
- Lightening restrictions on cashing out-of-state and non-customer checks
- Lightening credit card limits
- Allow loan customers to skip a payment
- Waiving late fees for loans and credit cards
- Delaying submission of delinquency notice
All of these efforts are asked to be considered by depositary institutions so that the community can regain financial strength and, in turn, contribute to the long-term success of the institution.
There are more steps to be taken once the natural disaster has hit in order to speed up your small business’s financial recovery. The FDIC encourages you to report property damage to your insurance company as soon as possible. If your physical place of work has been hit, it’s important to avoid throwing away any damaged goods or making costly repairs until a claims adjuster evaluates the damage.
You can also look into federal assistance programs that may be in place for the natural disaster affecting your region. You can do this by simply going to www.disasterassistance.gov and filling out a questionnaire to get a more accurate sense for what type of assistance you qualify for. You may find that you are eligible for a small business grant or loan used to cover the replacement or repair of damaged goods or property.
Another key part of keeping your business running smoothly during the time of a natural disaster is contacting your creditors proactively to communicate any financial distress and its potential impact on your ability to pay your bills, credit card, or loan on time. Typically, with notice and proof of disaster impact, your creditors will work with you to lighten your financial burden. Inefficient communication however, can lead to late fees and penalties, interest charges, and irreparable damage to your credit score.
Whereas money, personnel, and the physical workplace are the most glaring concerns for small businesses hit with a natural disaster, there are some behind the scenes factors that could be wiped out as well. Data is a huge part of any business and continues to be even if they are temporarily closed due to something like a hurricane, fire, flood, or tornado. Not only will your company need access to its client data to get up-and-running again, but your insurance information, tax returns, and other paperwork can be critical to the rebuilding process. If you haven’t already, make sure your system is backed up to a cloud or physical server that is not located near your business headquarters or that can be easily moved away from the place of disaster.
If you’re going to spend the time and money necessary to re-open, you want to make sure that your customers are still willing to buy from you once you return. You must communicate with your customers, partners, and stakeholders the moment you know there could be delays in your scheduled service or product delivery. Not doing so may result in them going to a competitor. Though the business world can be cutthroat, most people feel for those struggling due to a natural disaster. The same policy goes for your employees. With an open line of communication and financial honesty, warn those employees as early as possible that they may be receiving their paycheck late this month. There is no use losing an important resource over ineffective financial communication.
The FDIC considers most small businesses that are displaced to be in a transitory position. Though sometimes devastating, if the right steps and precautionary measures are taken, the restoration process can be much simpler. Only 8% of small companies consider natural disasters a threat to their work, meaning most are uninformed of what to do when nature strikes. Take action immediately and exhaust all your options before giving up hope.