Running Your Business when Disaster Strikes

Running a small business is full of daily challenges.  The problems small business incur are both large and small.  Businesses are not run within a vacuum.  Sometime as business owner we create our own problems.  Other times problems immerse themselves upon the business at no apparent doing of the business.

Dealing With Problems

A business owner needs to be able to deal with problem no matter the source of these problems if they wish to sustain. Disasters such as Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Cyclones, Tsunami. Mudslides, Monsoons, Terrorism, Floods, Fires occur.  They always seem to affect someone else.  “I really dont need to plan for a disaster because it always happens to someone else”.

I was that small business owner that was that someone else.

My business was struck by an arsonist…twice …  that caused almost $1,000,000 in damages… while I was bedside in the emergency room of my 10 year old son that was injured in a bike accident… while my wife was 7 months pregnant.

There are percentages and statistics available that speak to how many businesses never survive a major fire and those numbers go from 50%-80%.   We had 2 major fires withing 3 months of each other. I have not seen any numbers on those that survive 2 major fires.

I, with the help of so many managed the company thru those difficult times, ran the company for another 10 years, sold the business, the business continues to operate and I further my profession as a Business Broker.

The Impact Of A Disaster To Your Business

I would like to point out a few of my observations as I went thru this very difficult time that ultimately ended with the trial and conviction of a repeat arsonist… that ended up being a key employee.

1. You do not work thru a major disaster by yourself.  I was assisted by my wife, my family, my employees, my friends, my community, my competitors.  (One competitor allowed us to operate out of their facility during the middle of the night when their plant was normally un-occupied).- Others want to help, let them help.

2.  You think you currently multi-task as a business owner, and then you find out what you are really capable of.  Normally you are dealing with your customers, employees, vendors, facility, agencies, financial all at the same time.  Now add in restoration contractors, Media, insurance agencies, fire Marshall’s, investigators,lawyers,police chief.  Everything very fast,gets very busy, and you thought you had been busy before.  Somehow our situation became a rather big story in the media.  While dealing with the immediacy of the fire, calls were coming in from local TV, radio, Associated Press and Newspapers, and to find  5 minutes to speak with them became impossible.

I originally considered the media request s very low priority, but after getting home that nite at 10pm I had about 50 messages on my home phone of friends/acquaintances that had seen the fire on TV.  These people were part of our customer base, and had me worried that our customers assumed we were out of business. I felt it was important to get the word out that the company is not done.

Business Media Coverage

I got on the phone and did a couple phone interviews with Associated Press, and scheduled time for the local TV crews to come out with cameras and interview.  The focus of the TV news piece was on our intent to continue our business and continue serving our customers. After watching that report on the 6pm news, I think that report was instrumental in allowing our customers to see our intentions. I think its normal to seem overwhelming.

3. Look pass the disaster. Visualize your business not as it is during the disaster, but where it will be in one year.  This can be easier said than done.  may well wishers would tell me things like “that that doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”  at the moment of hearing that, during a crisis, sounds somewhat hollow, but years removed from the crisis you can see some merit.

4.  When you have a business and a disaster strikes, the line between business and personal becomes very blurred.  We are all people first and businessmen second.  Families are affected by disasters, people are affected by disasters, lives are affected by disasters- businesses get caught in the fallout of a disaster, but the importance of the business in a disaster is really a very distant second.

I am a Business Broker in Florida USA.  My 8 year old son (then) is now in college, and while he once layed in the hospital for 8 weeks with tubes, and needles stuck throughout his body , he now is bigger, faster, stronger than I (andbeing a teenager, I know he will never read some of Dads boring blog stating such), My daughter that was born 2 weeks after the 2nd major fire is  a healthy beautiful teenager.

I help people buy and sell businesses.  Buying and selling a business is SO much more than financials and industries.  It can be a life changing event.  The emotional and the personal side of buying a business is very very real.  I enjoy the financial analysis side of a business acquisition,  but I know, I really know its the other stuff that is so much more important.  I feel I understand the mechanics to a life changing event.