Think past pandemic • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Think past pandemic

SBA suggests entrepreneurs should be prepared for future unexpected events

Stacey Poynter
Stacey Poynter

The U.S. Small Business Administration is here to help. To date during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBA approved 3.77 million Economic Injury Disaster Loans and 3.99 million Paycheck Protection Program loans, giving American small businesses access to more than $420 billion to keep their dreams alive.

Regardless of where a disaster comes from, there are five words you need to remember — prior planning prevents poor performance. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Check your insurance. Not all insurance policies cover every type of disaster. Know what your business insurance protects against — and expand your coverage if necessary.

2. Know your risks. What are the most serious threats to your business? What will their impact be? Create a list. Review your county’s hazard analysis and mitigation plans. It will provide clues to what has happened in the past so you can be prepared for the future.

3. Know your operations. Identify business functions and processes that are vital to your survival. Write them down, then document procedures for workarounds and/or manual processes. Identify who can do what in cases of emergency and develop a training plan to cross-train your team.

4. Know your employees. Your employees are the No. 1 asset of your company. Their safety is key. Make sure you can keep in touch with them no matter what. Create a contact tree and keep it up to date. Print a hard copy in case the internet goes down. Designate a phone number and/or intranet site where employees can get status updates and leave messages.

5. Know your equipment. What do you have, where is it located, and can it be moved to a safe place? If not, where can you outsource production? Take pictures. Inventory all equipment and review every six months. Keep hard copies of all equipment invoices, sales receipts, maintenance records, warranties and user manuals. Bundle these with those pictures and keep them in a safe, dry place you can access any time.

6. Know your key customers, contacts, suppliers and vendors. Like your employees, these folks are vital to continued operations. Know how to contact them in case of emergency and share contingency plans.

7. Know your information technology. Develop a severe weather plan to protect your equipment. Use the 3-2-1 backup rule. Save three copies of your data to two types of media and keep one backup at an offsite location. As with your other equipment, take pictures, keep invoices, sales receipts, maintenance records, warranties and user manuals, and keep it in a safe off-site location. Create a separate inventory list of everything you would need to purchase or lease to perform critical business functions. Know who to contact and where to get it during a crisis.

8. Know your finances. Replenish or restart your emergency reserve fund. Build reserves with the goal of being able to cover costs for at least one year. Consider getting a business credit card or establishing a line of credit. Create a must-be-paid list of folks who won’t be lenient when their bill is due. Review insurance to make sure it will adequately cover costs and production processes.

9. Create a plan, write it down and test it. Your disaster plan should look a lot like your regular business plan and include sections covering operations, finances and communications. Need help? Contact an SBA resource partner for advice. Once your plan is in place, contact your county’s emergency management team. Ask to be a part of their next community disaster readiness exercise.

10. When disaster strikes, know where to go for help. Become engaged with your community. Get to know your county’s emergency management team, local elected officials, police and fire. Become involved with your local chamber and other small business and/or community organizations. Above all, reach out to the SBA and our partners for help. We’re in this together, so let us help you keep your small business growing strong.

Since 1953 the U.S. Small Business Administration has made the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.

Click here to read more from the June-July 2021 issue of Northwest Indiana Business Magazine.

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