The way the news media is covering Coronavirus, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re three weeks away from a zombie apocalypse. There have been just over 40,000 coronavirus cases in China, and a thousand have died. That’s around one tenth as many people as have died from the flu in China since October. The United States has 13 cases so far.
Unless you source parts from China, coronavirus isn’t likely to directly impact your small business. But the situation in China (and in the Hubei province in particular) offers a great opportunity to consider how prepared you’d be for whatever curveball comes your way. Because while it probably won’t be coronavirus, something is going to throw mud into the well-oiled machine that is your business at some point.
Will your business survive?
Three Business Risks You’ll Face One Day
It’s impossible to plan for every risk in business. There isn’t enough money, and there isn’t enough time. But you should plan for the risks that are inevitable – and here are three that are.
In the hours after 9/11, every commercial aircraft in America was grounded for 48 hours. It had never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since. This wasn’t a fact that could be processed by most business owners the day it happened – like the rest of the US, they had just watched thousands of people die in a terrorist attack on our country on live television.
In the following months, however, it undoubtedly led to many owners wondering how they might avert the impact of transportation closures in the future. Most transportation outages aren’t national in nature. But regional transportation outages do happen here in the Triangle – and when they do, they can cause chaos. Ice storms, hurricane debris and flooding can lead to road closures. Those closures mean employees won’t make it to work, customers won’t make it to your building, and shipments won’t make it to or from your office. In some cases, this can be the reality for a week or longer.
If you don’t have a plan ready to enact when this happens, you aren’t going to have the time or resources to implement one on the fly. And even if you did come up with a plan, it probably wouldn’t work, because in most cases transportation issues come with two other challenges.
Limited Communication and Limited Power
When ice, wind or rain take out roads, they generally don’t leave the wires hanging above them intact. Power and communications often face days-long outages. The North Carolina ice storm of 2002 left some without power for 10 days.
And don’t think cell phones are immune – there might not be a wire attached to your iPhone, but there’s still one running from the transmission tower to the rest of the world.
If you can’t reach your employees the morning after a storm, do they know what to do? If the office building is without power, flooded or otherwise unusable, where should they go?
If employees have phone service, should they contact customers? What should they say? These are all great questions to answer together, ahead of time, while you can still communicate with your leadership team.
Between 2003 and 2007, business debt went up each year. Lines of credit weren’t particularly hard to obtain, and when businesses needed to grow, they leaned on them with the intention to pay them back later. But between 2007 and 2008, total business debt went from growing 12% annually to shrinking 4%.
That debt reduction wasn’t because 2007 was a great time for businesses; The S&P fell 37% that year. It was because lines of credit instantly dried up. If you were relying on them to keep your business growing, you were going to be shrinking instead. Quickly.
One great thing about a budget is that it helps you make better financial decisions by forcing you to consider them ahead of time. Another great thing about a budget is that you can make more than one of them. And if you have a backup budget prepared for a year full of choppy waters, you’ll already have a plan for how to get through one when it inevitably happens. You won’t find yourself in the dire straits that so many businesses did in 2008, because if that budget is worth the paper it’s printed on, it won’t include drawing from a magical low-interest unsecured line of credit to ride out the storm.
To learn how WingSwept can help your business prepare for the inevitable challenges of business ownership, call us at 919-460-7011 or email us at Team_WingSwept@WingSwept.com.