What’s your story regarding business fire or flood disasters?

People are coming out of the woodwork on this one, so I thought I should launch a formal request to contact me with your disaster story and the lessons learned.

Feel free to use the contact page, or comment below. If you want to keep the details anonymous, please say so in your comment and I will read/compile your story but leave the comment unapproved so no one sees it.

As for your story…

  • What happened?
  • What was the impact on your business?
  • How did you recover?
  • What was the most difficult part of the recovery process?
  • What blindsided you (other than the disaster itself)?
  • What did you learn about business insurance coverage that you’d never want anyone else to learn the hard way?
  • What did you learn about your agent, their company and the claims process that you wish you knew before the disaster?
  • How long did it take you to get your business back to where it was before the disaster? (Assuming you have)
  • Did your marketing or promotions take advantage of the disaster?
  • How did your clients react to the disaster and to your recovery process?
  • Did you use public relations or the news media to get the word out, or were you able to contact each customer about the disaster and your recovery plans?
  • Did your competition help you recover, do nothing, or take advantage of your loss? How?
  • What was the key – for your personally – to facing it, brushing yourself off and turning things around?

Thank you:)

What can you learn from a business disaster?

Last week, while I was being a slacker (I was canoeing 50 miles or so around Hungry Horse Reservoir with the troop’s older guys), a friend’s restaurant was struck by lightning.

His business wasn’t physically destroyed, but it did take a pretty serious punch from smoke and water damage. Amazingly, the water damage came from a melted pipe that actually put out the fire and prevented the entire facility from burning to the ground.

Since that Sunday, his restaurant has been closed. Imagine having to close your business with zero notice for 10 days to 2 weeks during the summer – despite having a pile of catering work already scheduled.

Not ideal by anyone’s standards.

I spoke with him yesterday to ask what lessons he would take away from this.

The #1 thing that he felt he would do differently, knowing what he knows now, is to raise the value of his business interruption/overhead coverage so that he could make payroll despite being (mostly) closed and restock all perishable foods (think about what it would cost to restock an empty pantry or fridge…).

He felt confident that his facilities insurance and other coverages were in good shape and would probably take care of cleanup and build out of the damaged areas.

Because he does a lot of catering, he’s had to scramble around to friends who own restaurants or have certified kitchens, and has managed to keep that part of the business alive.

We also brainstormed a little about what to do to move forward and prevent the loss of retail, walk-in customers.

A traditional approach would require cleanup (already in progress), build-out, kitchen recertification and so on.  That could take months. In months, all those retail customers are going to already be in the habit of going somewhere else.

So how do you save them?

We’ll talk about that in coming posts, and lessons business owners have learned from other business disasters as well as strategies for keeping those customers and making sure everyone knows you aren’t going down with one punch.

One thing you should expect right off the bat – if you aren’t collecting the names and contact info for your customers – how will you tell them that you’re still open?

Could you contact your customers tomorrow and tell them that the fire wasn’t that bad and you’ll be back in the saddle in no time?

His loyalty/reward program is one way that will help him do just that. Do you have one in place?