Floridians, at least we natives, know that hurricanes are a fact of life (some newcomers have to experience one to understand such storms). And while we are all sometimes a bit complacent about hurricanes or the other disasters that befall others who live in other locations (as I write this, Boston is suffering record snow storms), small business owners must consider disaster or contingency planning to be a part of the job. This topic seems ancillary to running the business, selling the product or service, or doing “the real work.” But, it is not ancillary when disaster strikes because “the show must go on.” We long ago learned that clients in an area not stricken by a storm has little understanding of the impact a hurricane has had on our daily lives. Certainly their cases progress and go to mediation or trial even if we have no electricity. Even some of our local clients have faced the reality of trials without electricity when a freak, surprise mild storm worsened (Hurricane Irene). It hit on a Friday during which we were doing last minute jury research and the judge refused to delay the trial which then started the following Monday! Some of the trial team could not go home over the weekend due to road conditions and had to spend the night in their office. All of this is to say, disasters/hurricanes happen. As someone who was once a boy scout, I say, “Be Prepared.”
So, how to be prepared? Well, just as we are taught, prepare a hurricane kit (or snow kit, or flood kit, or earthquake kit) for the office. Ours includes letterhead, envelopes, etc. With laptop computers we also have the ability to take machines and work remotely. But, more than the kit, we have a written protocol as to what to do to prepare during hurricane watches and warnings. This protocol, written years ago, has been updated over time but it serves as a checklist to prepare in the event of a weather threat. Further, it serves to help employees know both what to do before and after a storm, but what else is expected of them in terms of communication and making sure the show does go on. Then there are the generators, and other supplies that help ensure that the show can go on. In all, businesses must be prepared to take the necessary steps to keep the work flowing under adversity. This requires proactivity, not reactivity.
Several years before David and I owned our business, Magnus, I worked at a large litigation consulting firm that had offices in every major city in the U.S.A. One of the offices was located in Philadelphia, in a large downtown building that burned to the ground one night. Unfortunately for my employer, no one had considered that disaster would strike and, as a result, no one had any duplicate files, off site storage, or any kind of back up plan. Everything in the office was lost. Nothing was ever replaced. (And, as an aside, the office never reopened and the building was never rebuilt.) That somber experience led me to plan for disasters because, of course, they happen when one least expects it. In my career, I have had to fly out of the Miami airport days after Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida, to another part of the state that was untouched by it and where my client never appreciated the difficulty in traveling from Miami; I have been stranded by hurricanes and other storms while working out of town on more than one occasion, meaning I was unable to return home; and, as the only person with electricity following a hurricane, I had to use my home as my employer’s headquarters, to allow work to proceed without interruption. As a small business owner, we have learned to be prepared (including having ample supplies to secure our office contents in the event of a hurricane or other disaster). We have a formal, written disaster plan and when, not if, disaster strikes, we will be ready!