Get your business back on track after disaster strikes

Businesses affected by Storm Katie need to prioritise and be pragmatic to minimise the financial impact of bad weather.


Businesses affected by Storm Katie need to prioritise and be pragmatic to minimise the financial impact of bad weather.

She might go by a friendly name, but Storm Katie brought a serious chill to many UK businesses over the Easter weekend.Trade was down on the high street as shoppers stayed away, and other firms were forced to shut up shop altogether after winds of up to 100 mph battered premises and caused terrible damage across England.

Downed power lines left some companies with out electricity, buildings were wrecked by falling trees and masonry, and heavy rainfall resulted in flooding in some places.When unforeseen disaster strikes, how can SMEs start trading again as soon as possible, and keep cash flowing?

Assess the damage

If there is material damage to your business premises or stock, contact insurers as soon as possible to lodge a claim, the Association of British Insurers advises. Assess what can be salvaged or, if items are a risk to health, what must be thrown away. Where buildings are damaged, arrange temporary repairs, keeping all receipts for insurance purposes. This is the moment when having business interruption cover could make all the difference, as it should include the expense of hiring temporary premises, if your usual workplace is out of action. Insurance of this type can also help with the cost of repairs, lost business, hiring temporary staff, and new equipment.

Communicate with customers as soon as it’s feasible to do so to reassure them that you’re still operational, or at least manage their expectations about how long it will be before you’re fully functional again. Reputational damage can follow hot on the heels of business disruption if you’re not careful, so minimise the risk of losing goodwill or any of your client base.

Planning and back-up pay off

Organised company owners will have devised a business contingency plan should an unexpected event interrupt business, such as an IT or utility outage, extreme weather, fraud, or terrorist attacks. This will give clear guidance on how to protect people, supplies, and company information, as well as elements essential to the running of the business. An alternative work location may be specified, and a timescale for recovery of core business operations outlined.

Sadly, few bosses make time for this valuable exercise, even though about four in ten businesses will never recover from a disaster without such a plan, according to past findings from the London Chamber of Commerce. However, since more small businesses have embraced cloud technology, much vital company data is now stored remotely, meaning fewer SMEs should suffer from loss of essential information. Contact the cloud service to ensure your operation can retrieve key documents and continue to function.

What financial help is available?

Some local authorities offer businesses financial support to get back on their feet after natural disasters, with the recent devastating series of floods in the UK, in particular, seeing a lot of SMEs applying for grants and business rates relief while they got themselves back to normal trading levels. It’s also worth considering negotiating with any creditors for longer payment terms in the circumstances. Most will understand the situation is beyond the control of a mere mortal business owner, and may grant a period of grace.

However, it’s still probable that a disaster-struck company may need to organise some sort of bridging finance until they are trading again properly. Business overdrafts, short-term, unsecured loans, or invoice finance, are all forms of funding that can be quickly organised, may be ways to get hold of much-needed money to maintain a healthy cash flow. Bosses who keep a cool head, ensure liquidity in their business, and plan for any future disruption should find that even a disaster needn’t lead to a crisis.

Alex Littner is the managing director of Boost Capital.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.