Back >
< Back
Contains 0 items
Subtotal: $0.00



‘Just Rain’? Nope.

Just rain.” That’s what the local meteorologists said. No hurricane. No tropical storm. Not even a tropical depression in sight. When the forecast is “just rain” in south Louisiana, it means you might have to postpone mowing your lawn for a day. You can probably skip watering the flower beds. You take a rain poncho with you to the LSU football game. You wear old shoes to play golf. But you do not purchase extra canned food or bottled water. You do not rush to the station to fill your vehicle with gasoline. You do not take extra money out of the ATM in case power is lost for an extended period. You do not check the generators. And you certainly do not waste 1 minute worrying about rain in an area of the United States that gets more than 60 inches of rain in a typical year.

‘Just Rain’? Nope.

Prepare Your Business Before a Disaster

By Fran Carville, CRM, Carco Awards/CarcoAwards.com

Just rain.” That’s what the local meteorologists said. No hurricane. No tropical storm. Not even a tropical depression in sight. When the forecast is “just rain” in south Louisiana, it means you might have to postpone mowing your lawn for a day. You can probably skip watering the flower beds. You take a rain poncho with you to the LSU football game. You wear old shoes to play golf. But you do not purchase extra canned food or bottled water. You do not rush to the station to fill your vehicle with gasoline. You do not take extra money out of the ATM in case power is lost for an extended period. You do not check the generators. And you certainly do not waste 1 minute worrying about rain in an area of the United States that gets more than 60 inches of rain in a typical year.

Just rain.” More than 2 feet of rain in less than 48 hours. More than 30,000 people rescued from their homes. More than 150,000 structures with water damage. More than 35% of businesses submerged in water. More than 100,000 vehicles under water. Thirteen fatalities. Interstates flooded and closed for over a week. Schools closed for 16 days. Major river crest at 46.2 feet (flood stage is 29 feet). Power outages. Entire communities that had never seen flooding before inundated with water. People evacuated by truck, boat, and helicopter. Evacuees in shelters opened in exhibition halls, universities, movie studios, and churches. Water up to rooftops. A catastrophic flood, causing 20 parishes to be declared federal disaster areas. Damages to exceed $2.5 billion.

Just rain.” Some business owners found total destruction. Up to 8 feet of water, inventory ruined, and nothing to salvage, many are questioning if they will ever reopen. For those with some damage, the cleanup process is underway, but recovery will be hard. For those lucky enough to have no physical damage, there are still many questions—will customers and employees will return? And all small business owners in the area wonder if consumers will have any extra disposable income for anything other than rebuilding.

Prepare

While most already have disaster plans in the event of a catastrophic event, I found several items not on the list that are now becoming apparent for the first time to many small-business owners in our area. So I thought I would share a few of these items with you, in the hopes that our businesses remain healthy, no matter the circumstances.

  1. Insurance. Everyone thinks their insurance will cover every single thing that goes wrong, but it is important to know everything about your insurance—every single thing! If this means a yearly face-to-face review with your agent or an attorney, make it a priority. This is not about disaster planning; this is about disaster recovery. Many in Louisiana learned after Hurricane Gustav in 2008 that insurance companies had added a clause for “named storms” and the normal deductibles went out the window. (This is now the case in more than 20 states.) Many learned that “loss of business” insurance only paid if you could not get into the structure. Many flood insurance policies do not cover loss of business due to flooding. Web sales may not be covered, even if your server is down for days. (During the floods, one major carrier was submerged and the area was without Wi-Fi, Internet service, or cell phone service for days.) Are you covered if your online store is down for days?
    An annual review should include exactly what is—and is not—covered. Are you covered for full replacement costs or does your policy give the insurance company the authority to decide what they will pay? Have you increased your coverage if you have added equipment or made improvements in the last year? Are you covered for identity theft? Does your flood insurance have a separate section for contents? (Many do not.) Does your insurance folder have photographs of your contents to verify your claim? What about completed orders that will never be picked up or paid for, due to the cancellation of events? Do you have an updated inventory list in a separate location? What about your health insurance policy? If you or a principle in your company had a horrible health issue, could you afford to pay for what the policy will not cover?
    Insurance is expensive, and we all hope that we will never need to use it. I imagine all of those flooded businesses operating outside of the 500-year flood plain are wishing they had invested in a $500 flood insurance policy. Of course, you can be overinsured, but knowing exactly what you have is so important to keeping your business healthy.
  2. Financial Health. Many in our industry were devastated by the Great Recession of 2008. Businesses closed, downsized, or reinvented themselves. Many that closed had not done their due diligence when planning for a financial crisis. Have you? Everyone should have a contingency fund line item in their budgets and commit to meeting or exceeding the number. No matter how good your insurance is, it will never pay for 100% of your losses. Unless we find a crystal ball, we do not know what the economy holds or what consumers will do.
    Many businesses in Louisiana are now finding that they need financial assistance after being flooded. Suddenly these business owners have no collateral to put up to secure a loan (unless the bank wants soggy inventory or a moldy structure). These well-established businesses suddenly find themselves being rejected for a loan because they had no plan in place and no contingency funds. How do they convince a lending institution to loan them money without being able to show how they will recover? Only those who have a recovery plan and a healthy bank account will be able to walk away with the money needed to rebuild and reopen. Consider taking your information to your bank and asking the branch manager if your business is financially sound enough to qualify for a loan in case of an emergency.
  3. Your Staff. The biggest asset many service-oriented businesses have is their employees. It is important that everyone associated with your company has a clear understanding of your disaster plan and what their role is. But what about your employees’ disaster plans? One challenge that many businesses in Louisiana had after the floods was that employees’ homes were flooded, their vehicles were destroyed, and their children were out of school. Many were displaced and lost everything.
    Although you cannot mandate that your employees have a disaster plan for themselves or their families, you can offer information. Have someone from a local university come and talk about the basics of personal financial planning. Invite an insurance agent to your business and offer employees a chance to review their policies with the agent. Give employees a list of websites or local, free events available to help in planning. Employees are under no obligation to plan for hard times, but providing opportunities to learn could be beneficial to them and to your business.
  4. Customers. When any type of disaster strikes your company, it is important to keep your customers informed. According to Ines Pearce of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “If customers and suppliers don’t hear from you, they may assume the worst.” What if your store is closed? Will customers know it is only for one day to take inventory or will they just go elsewhere? What if your website is down for a week? Do you have a plan to stay in touch, so that no business is lost?
    Does your plan include adjusting to changes in the economy or the changes in the shopping environment? What is your plan to keep customers returning to your store, in good and bad times?

After the Rain

People in south Louisiana will continue to deal with the Flood of 2016 for a long time. Consumers will rebuild their homes, with new government guidelines. Businesses will reopen and market to get their customers back. The economy will recover, as consumers get back to “normal.”

I have lived through many horrific hurricanes, but other than Katrina, I have never seen devastation like what this flood brought to my city. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the area of this country that proudly touts itself as the Sportsman’s Paradise because of the many rivers, lakes, and bayous was assaulted by “just rain.” Disaster can happen anywhere, anytime, on a large or small scale.

It is just good business sense to take the time and prepare for whatever could come our way. My hope is that none of you will ever have to think about your carefully constructed plan, but better safe than sorry.


Fran Carville, CRM, is an Awards and Personalization Association past president, educational speaker, 2008 Speaker of the Year, a member of the Hall of Fame, and winner of an Award of Excellence from the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Fran and her husband, Tom Carville, CRM, own Carco Awards in Baton Rouge, LA.

Awards and Personalization Association

The Awards and Personalization Association is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the Awards and Personalization Association is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

Learn More

© Awards and Personalization Association
Contact Us
Awards and Personalization Association
8735 W. Higgins Road, Suite 300

Chicago, IL 60631

info@awardspersonalization.org
847.375.4800
(Fax) 847.375.6480

Connect with Us