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#OpenInBos: Small Businesses and the Struggle to Stay Resilient This Winter

Written by Alexandra Edelstein

The Oxford Dictionary states to be resilient is to be strong, flexible, and tough, to be able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. While small business appreciation programs flourish across the Unites States through efforts such as Small Business Saturday, small businesses in America are still fighting to stay resilient every day.

The relentless snow accumulation across the North East in recent weeks has certainly created difficult conditions for business as usual in the region. Leading up to a storm that hit Massachusetts over Valentine’s Day, the Governor of MA pleaded with consumers, “It’s been extremely hard for small businesses…we want to encourage everyone, once the storm passes, to get out and visit your Main Street businesses.” The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts companies have lost over $1 billion in sales and productivity so far this winter. They also reported (based on findings from IHS Global Insight) that a one-day storm in Massachusetts costs the state economy about $265 million, three-quarters of which can be traced to lost wages. How do small businesses stay resilient in the face of such relentless adversity that is outside their control?

Plan Ahead

The key, according to the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), is to have a plan in place well in advance. The U.S. SBA notes on its website that, “A solid business continuity plan will protect your organization and your assets while ensuring a quick recovery if a disaster occurs.” The national organization hosted a webinar in early January 2015 on small business resiliency and lessons learned from weather-related disasters in 2014, and works in partnership with Agility Recovery to host PrepareMyBusiness.org. With the moto, “Business as Usual. No Matter What,” the PrepareMyBusiness site offers resources on both disaster planning and disaster assistance.

As Storm Juno took its toll mid-January this year, The Boston Globe spotlighted a few business owners that did put a plan in place to try and beat the snow. Doug Bacon, the owner of Red Paint Hospitality Group, found himself up against a challenge facing many small business owners at the time – business as usual requires staff, and how will my employees get to work? After mulling over that question in advance of Juno, Bacon was able to put together a staffing plan that allowed his 5 Boston-area restaurants to stay open during the storm. For starters, he considered which staff could safely walk to work. For staff that couldn’t make it on foot, Bacon mobilized snowplow trucks to ensure safe commutes and even put up some employees at a nearby hotel. Bill Round, of Round’s Hardware in Stoneham, MA, planned ahead by stocking up on inventory he knew would be in-demand as the blizzard hit, knowing that it would later be difficult to acquire additional inventory as his vendors struggled with storm-related woes as well.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Program Accreditation and Certification Program, PS-Prep™. In describing the program, FEMA states, “Whether your organization can be affected directly or via the supply chain, it’s critical to have a plan in place — a plan that can protect your employees and your organization and enhance your overall ability to be resilient.”

Be Opportunistic

American Express published an article in the midst of the North East’s recent onslaught of snow titled, “Small Businesses Shovel Up Opportunity in Winter Storm Juno,” highlighting how with a little ingenuity, businesses can find themselves in the perfect position to capitalize on bad weather while others are taking themselves out of the game. Businesses can offer special promotions or discount opportunities to attract consumers that may otherwise stay inside. Boston Magazine coined the hashtag #OpenInBos as it continuously reported on which restaurants and bars were open in the greater Boston area during the recent series of winter storms. There is now a new trending hashtag in Boston, #DigOutDineOut, which has been recognized and applauded by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association CEO and President Bob Luz. One restaurant in Somerville, MA hosted a Tiki Blizzard Brunch and promoted it with #OpenInBos over social media, prompting a local news source to write about the event stating, “We can’t think of a better way to weather Winter Storm Neptune than by indulging in a brunch buffet – Tiki Cocktail in-hand.” During a recent winter storm in New York City, NY Eater encouraged open businesses to “tweet your snow-day status” and published Snowy Night Specials featuring businesses that were offering incentives to those willing to brave the storm.

As snow hit the ground in the North East, online retailers across the country also took advantage of the conditions and began offering Snow Day related discount codes prompting Bloomberg Business to report during Storm Juno, “Online retailers could be winners, and some are trying to be.”

Know your Business

Above all, in order to stay resilient, a business owner needs to know the specific risks for their business. The SBA and Ability Recovery advise, “The more you know, the more you can help reduce your business’s risk and quickly recover in a disaster situation.” On PrepareMyBusiness.org, the partnership dedicates an entire section to education and they host monthly webinars to help business owners gain skills around topics crucial to resiliency planning.

ICIC is a national partner with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, an initiative that helps small businesses across the country gain the education, capital and support they need to be resilient and realize their full potential. The business management education portion of the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative helps business owners develop a five-year strategic growth plan as they gain the resources and skills to make informed decisions and overcome challenges. The program’s curriculum covers key areas such as cash flow and expense management, developing and forecasting financial statements for growth, understanding customer needs to maximize target markets, and diversifying revenue streams for sustainability.

PrepareMyBusiness states, “Following a disaster, statistics show ninety percent of companies fail within a year unless they can resume operations within five days.” By planning ahead for the worst, being opportunistic when others are not, and having the business know-how to stay a steady course, business owners can work to get the odds on their side and not leave success up to chance.

To learn more about the PrepareMyBusiness initiative, visit www.PrepareMyBusiness.org.  To learn more about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, please visit www.10ksbapply.com or register for an upcoming informational webinar on March 6th or 26th (registration link).

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