Friday, June 13, 2008

Business, Interrupted
Omaha has gotten pounded by storms over the past few weeks. Last Thursday night, we had tornadoes and high winds. Sunday morning, I was awakened by tornado sirens at 2:30 a.m. (two tornadoes damaged the suburb areas of Omaha, causing $20 million in damage). And then on Wednesday night, we had more tornadoes (including a twister that killed four Boy Scouts at a training camp less than an hour north of the city), plus marble-sized hail, and enough rain to start a river running down my street.

Weather is an issue wherever you live. From earthquakes and wildfires in California to hurricanes in the South, to tornadoes in the Midwest, there's a high likelihood that sometime during the course of your business ownership, something will happen that will interrupt your business.

In Nebraska and in Iowa, saturated ground can't handle any more rain; flooding is already a problem.

A couple of years back, I wrote an article for Resume Writers' Digest about this subject. Rather than dig it out again, I'm just going to give you the highlights of what you should do to make sure you're protected.
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance. You should have a separate business policy to cover yourself -- and it should include business interruption coverage. In the event of an extended event, it will replace some of your lost income. Make sure you also have adequate coverage for your business equipment. Some personal policies have a "cap" on the total amount of computers and similar equipment covered (could be as low as $2,000-$3,000). If that's the case, add a rider to your personal policy to increase your coverage.
  • Inventory your home and office. Most people are unaware that if you have a claim -- especially an extensive one -- your insurance agent will need a list of all of your possessions, including purchase dates and serial numbers. Not only will having this information readily available increase the likelihood that you are reimbursed for everything you lost (who can remember everything you own in a time of disaster?), but it will also speed up processing of your claim. I recommend hiring a member of the National Association of Home Inventory Professionals to do this. (Otherwise, it's one of those items on your to-do list that you "always meant to" get around to, but didn't.) Make sure you keep a copy of your inventory offsite too (mail it to a friend who doesn't live near you, or a relative). Keep it updated -- check it at least every six months and add new purchases.
  • Back it up. This is another subject I've talked about before -- and honestly, I'm not as good about it as I should be. So make it automatic! Subscribe to an online service that offers automatic backup capabilities. For the stuff that can't be backed up online automatically, make it a habit to back that up on the first day of each month. And be sure to keep a copy of your backup offsite!! It will do you no good to have a backup in your basement if it floods and everything is destroyed.
  • Buddy up. I've talked about this concept before in terms of having a professional will, but it's also vital in an emergency. Partner up with a colleague in another part of the country who would be able to take your calls and handle new business and projects while you're in recovery mode. Keep an emergency list of contacts, including your buddy and the phone number (and passwords) you'd need to transfer your phone service and give your colleague access to your e-mail and website.

No one likes to think about this kind of disaster affecting your life -- but if you're in business long enough, it's inevitable. In the past week alone, we've dealt with wind damage and power losses. In the past, an ice storm knocked out our power for 12 days.

So take a cue from the Boy Scouts -- and BE PREPARED!

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