“I am so grateful! The staff is all safe and evacuated out, the Cafe is all good, my basement is ripped up and out and drying. I just biked in with 33 paychecks in my back-pack and now, Crack Pie. LIVE! LOVE!”
~ Posted on Facebook by Dana Derichsweiler, Co-Owner of Walnut Café,
Today marks a week since a most-welcome, drought-defying rainfall became an unexpected deluge of massive flooding throughout Boulder and other Colorado counties. Now, the waters are beginning to recede only to reveal devastating losses and damage. Stories abound: offices and homes swept away; frightening and thrilling escapes; and family and friends still missing.
Yet, our community is renowned for its resilience and creativity. So it’s not surprising to see grief met with humor, hugs from strangers and a volunteer response that is both heartfelt and immediately effective.
To aid in the disaster recovery process PivotGuild has compiled a page of resources focused on cleanup, food and temporary housing, health, finances and rebuilding. Reflecting on this and other natural disasters during our two decades as entrepreneurs, we’ve also put together our best tips for business recovery.
1. Try to resume business as soon as you can. Owners and customers associate recovery with “normalcy.” By reopening, you will serve the collective community by providing a calming and centering message. And remember, you don’t have to be perfect; your customers will appreciate your effort.
2. Communicate changes immediately and provide frequent updates. If your services are disrupted or hours changed, let your customers know how they can continue to do business with you through your typical channels (e.g. if you advertise, place a special ad; if you email, send announcements and updates; if you use social media, make informative and personal posts.) Whatever you do, don’t be silent or become out of sight and out of mind.
3. Find temporary workspace if needed. If your place of business is damaged or unsafe, consider temporary alternatives that enable you to continue service or production. Engage your network. Ideas include: providing mobile services, co-location in another business, paying as you go in a coworking office and taking a short-term lease in an unoccupied space. Make sure customers know where and how to reach you.
4. If payments or shipments will be delayed – communicate quickly. Trust is a delicate thing. Your ability to deliver affects your credit and reputation with key suppliers, vendors and customers. Don’t assume they’ve heard about or understand the impact of the disaster. Managing their expectations with timely and specific communication can actually enhance those relationships. Communication will also give you the opportunity to renegotiate terms and set reasonable goals together.
5. Document your losses and any recovery expenses with data, receipts, photos and video (with date stamp). Whether it is lost equipment, inventory, vehicles or interruptions of service, you will need to provide factual information in order to support tax filings and obtain relief from insurance companies, government agencies (e.g. FEMA / SBA) and creditors.
6. Step back and assess your current business model. Sometimes a crisis or major threat to business can create the opportunity to make positive (or long-avoided!) changes. Are your revenue streams consistent, diversified and growing? Is your marketing paying off? Are you meeting your goals and making the impacts you envisioned? If you are in need of a “Business Model Makeover” this could be the time to do it. Contact PivotGuild – we can help.
7. Empathize with your customers. If you’re good at what you do your customers will have “emotional” investment with your brand. So when a disaster strikes – demonstrate empathy and compassion. Acknowledge their experiences and engage them in recovery! Ask customers to share stories or pictures. Make special offers. Support the community in ways that matter to them. Just watch your tone – creative is good, crass is bad.
8. Consider holding a special event. We all know that disasters can bring people together or isolate them. Bringing people together for a shared experience associates your business with the community in the most intimate way. It doesn’t have to be expensive and can be collaborative with other businesses, artists and services. Think tasting, eating, drinking, singing, dancing, music-making, co-creating, volunteering, raising money – anything that’s more fun (and comforting) when done with another.
9. Can you say upcycle? That’s a new way of making lemons into lemonade. If you have broken inventory OR if you need clean-up and fix-up projects completed at your place of business, tap the creatives in your community to make something new out of the old. A wall that needs to be repainted can become a mural. A redesign of promotional materials, labels, signs or packaging can become a rebranding initiative. Damaged goods and furnishings can be transformed into other products or art pieces. Don’t be limited by your own perception of “usability” and do share the fun with the media.
10. Make a Continuity Plan. If you didn’t have one before, a crisis brings into focus the need for contingencies. Use what you’re learning from this experience to be better prepared for the future. Core elements include:
- adequate insurance coverage for liability and replacement of critical equipment & resources
- updated databases of employees, customers, suppliers, creditors and other important
- access information and passwords for banks and other secure online accounts
- important documents such as deeds, leases, contracts, etc.
- contingencies for breaks in supply chain – alternate suppliers, vendors, manufacturers, distributors, transportation, contractors, etc.
Here are some examples of businesses in our community who are responding to the disaster with grace and heart.
Know of others? Please share. What are YOU doing to recover from this disaster?