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How to Protect Your Small Business (as Much as You Can) Against a Tornado

Small Biz Ahead

Every small business owner faces risks, but some may face a few more simply due to geography. Businesses located in “Tornado Alley” fit that bill. This geographical region—which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska—sees and average of more than 1,000 tornadoes a year. Small business owners can’t ignore this risk—being unprepared can be costly. No one can stop a tornado, but owners can take steps, like obtaining business insurance, to ensure that if the worst happens, their business is protected from long-term impact.

Have the Right Insurance Coverage

Anyone who lives where tornadoes are common needs insurance. But small business owners need to make sure they have enough. Tornadoes require more than just damage coverage. There are unseen costs you might not consider, like the cost of removing debris, the fee for an engineer to assess structural damage or the loss of profits due to business interruption. The latter has a major impact on businesses after a tornado.

What if you’re a retail business with local suppliers or customers who were affected by the storm? What if tragedy strikes and a key employee (or even you) is hurt and unable to work? It’s important to have an honest, in-depth conversation with your insurance representative about what you’ll need to protect your business in the days—even weeks—after a tornado.

Proactive Measures to Ensure the Safety of Employees and Customers

The first thing to address in your tornado preparation plan should be protecting what’s most valuable: the safety of the people around you. Small business owners need to sit down in advance and account for everyone who is their under their responsibility.

Long before a tornado ever touches down, small business owners should know:

  • Where employees, customers or visiting clients will seek shelter if a twister strikes
  • If their in-building shelter will fit everyone, and if not, the closest alternative location
  • If your business has drivers, how can they protect themselves
  • Who will be in charge of an evacuation if you are out of the office

Create a Post-Tornado Continuity Plan

Your plan should cover not only what must happen before and during a tornado but also what to do in the aftermath. This is especially important if your place of business was destroyed or severely damaged, and suddenly you and your employees must temporarily relocate to continue operations. A few things you should incorporate in your continuity plan:

  • An accessible off-site location for your employees to work
  • Employee access to computers, software, VPNs and backups if they’ll work remotely
  • A call tree so everyone can check in on the well being and safety of colleagues
  • Employee understanding of their responsibilities, both in terms of continuing work and checking in with others, if communication has been compromised

Having a continuity plan in place will ensure that work can continue as seamlessly as possible

with a minimum of disruption.

Keep Your Business Data Backed Up and Secure

If you want to protect your business, protect your data. Records of invoices, accounts, receivables, payable and more need to be safe. A few things to keep in mind are:

  • Save everything to a cloud server. “Backing it up off-site is a very important thing,” says Michael Aumack, a spokesman for with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
  • Considering external hard drives for file back-ups you can take with you for extra security.
  • Make sure you have important information handy, especially your insurance policy and cloud provider’s contact information, so you can quickly get your business on the path to recovery.

“When you live in a high-disaster area, it becomes a way of life,” Rose says. “The more you do, the further it increases your ability to be able to take the impact and recover from the storm.” Being prepared for a tornado should be just another part of conducting your business when living in “Tornado Alley.”

Back to Basics Business Checklist

Small Biz Ahead

This achievable small business checklist will help you cross your Ts and dot your Is so you can reach your annual goals.

Get Your Finances in Order

  • Review your revenue goals. Where do you stand now in relation to the goals you set for the year? What action do you need to reach the end line by December 31?For Gail Hill Williams, a business development consulting executive with ACI Consulting Group in Danbury, CT, it’s imperative to start now to reach her company’s financial goal.“We know that the lion share of our business revenue comes in the last quarter, so I evaluate our business by looking at where we are in billables year to date and what billables are outstanding,” she said. “I also look at what we need to bill to grow our business at least 20-30% over the previous year.”
  • Do a tax check. Get your records in order and review your plans to take advantage of tax deductions and credits. Meet with your tax professional to ensure you’re up to date on the IRS’s ever-changing programs that may help lower your tax liability.
  • Plan to maximize your tax deductions. Make any big equipment purchases before the end of the year in order to take advantage of tax write-offs for 2013. Also budget contributions to tax-deductible retirement plans for you and your employees.

Ramp Up (or Streamline) Your Operations

  • Follow through on operational goals that you’ve set for the year but haven’t accomplished yet. For instance, would a new order processing system or workflow improvements yield new efficiencies? What training opportunities might help your staff be more effective in their jobs? Identify and implement practical measures that would improve your day-to-day business operation.
  • Take an inventory of materials you’ll need through year end. Office supplies are typically on sale during the back-to-school season. It’s a good time to stock up on essentials.
  • Prepare for the possibility of extreme weather ahead. September and October are at the heart of hurricane season with winter not far behind. Shore up your business for weather ahead.
  • Plan for the holidays. Holiday time is a busy time of year for many small businesses. If it’s your peak time, begin preparations for holiday promotions and sales now and get started on your efforts to hire seasonal staff. No matter what the nature of your business, you may want to budget for gifts for clients and employees, make arrangements for your staff party, and plan for all the other perks that make the season bright.

Step Up Your Marketing Efforts

  • Check in with your best customers just to say hello and let them know you’re thinking of them. Make it a point to fulfill a daily contact quota, such as five calls per day.
  • Develop two or three “big picture” campaigns to reach prospective customers and generate leads. Try something new. For instance, if your business typically does direct mailings, see what kind of results an email campaign delivers. Offer product and service demos or incentives.

Remember, the early bird gets the worm. By staying ahead of the game now, you’ll be better able to meet whatever changes (and challenges) come your way.

What recommendations do you have for a business needs checklist? Share your ideas in the Comments section below!

These materials provide general information, and should not be construed as specific financial, insurance, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult a qualified advisor for individual guidance in these matters. The Hartford shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, punitive, or exemplary damages in connection with the use by you or anyone of the information provided here or for link to or use of any website referenced herein.

5 Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hiring Someone

Small Biz Ahead

For most small business owners, the decision to hire their first employee is not a small or easy one. Many small business owners are hesitant about adding a new hire to their team,and that is understandable. It’s a big decision and there are a lot of things to consider. We thought we’d help with the process by offering up five key questions to ask yourself before deciding to add a new member to your small business family.

1. “Can I take on this extra work myself?”

When your business starts taking off and your nine-hour day is getting stretched, the thought of hiring an employee can easily pop up. But before you start posting job descriptions, ask yourself: “Can you handle the work yourself?” The reality is that starting and running a small business always comes with a few sacrifices. Having to work a little harder, and above-and-beyond early on, is one of them. If you’re only working a few extra hours, with a few additional tasks, a new hire is maybe not the best idea.

Are you starting to burn out on 16-hour days? Then yes. Hire someone.

2. “Can this extra work be covered by a part-timer or freelancer?”

Often, as your business starts to take off the extra work you face, doesn’t really require a full-time employee. Additional tasks—especially administrative—can be easily outsourced to a freelancer or contract worker. Make sure you consider this more affordable option—as long as it covers your business needs—before spending money on your first 9-5er.

3. “Is there enough work to justify a full-time employee?”

You don’t want to spend a full-time salary on an employee who doesn’t actually have enough work to be busy full-time. As a small business owner, it’s important to make sure every cent you pay is worth it. Take a moment to think about what and how much work this hire would be doing. Is it enough to keep them busy Monday to Friday, 9-5? Then it’s a good idea to add an employee to your team. If not, you may want to step back and consider Question No. 2 above.

4. “How much will an employee cost me in total?”

An employee costs more than just their salary. There are expenses like computers and office supplies to factor in. There’s also employment insurance, social security and Medicare tax, to consider. That all adds up. To understand the real cost, a good rule of thumb is to add anywhere from 18% to 26% to an employee’s potential base salary. At that point, you need to ask yourself, “Can I afford this?” before hiring someone.

5. “What do you want a new hire to bring to your business?”

When deciding to hire an employee, don’t do it based on a vague sense of need or a feeling of “Wouldn’t it be nice?” Make very clear to yourself why you need an employee and what you expect them to do for your business. Write it down. This will help confirm (or not) that you really do need an employee. It also has the added perk of outlining the job description that you might have to eventually write. Spelling out very specifically what your expectations are for your new employee, will then help you find your dream candidate.

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Small Biz Ahead

Small Biz Ahead

Small Biz Ahead, brought to you by The Hartford, is a digital destination where you can discover insights and advice to help you manage and grow your small business. We scour the web to bring you current, relevant content from well-known publishers and combine it with our own original content on topics such as talent management, technology & innovation, and risk management. It’s all designed to help you and your small business succeed. Play on.

The Hartford: Protecting Livelihoods

The Hartford applauds small business owners. You are the visionaries of this country. You are the backbone of our economy. You are the creators of jobs. Fueled by a vision for the future and a passion for hard work, you have borne the risks to forge your own path – to define success on your own terms. You take pride in the service you provide to your customers – it’s part of how you distinguish yourself – and you expect the same from those who serve you. You are an integral part of your community. Employees are like family. You’ve built a business to the point where it merits protection – an accomplishment that deserves our respect and recognition.

At The Hartford, we admire the men and women who start and operate small businesses —and we seek ways to promote their growth and prosperity. We know that owning and operating a small business is inherently risky – and we are committed to doing our part to mitigate and minimize the financial and emotional impact of unexpected loss. We understand that every business is unique, and we develop insurance solutions tailor-made for the businesses we protect. But most importantly, we understand that when we protect small businesses we are protecting livelihoods and legacies.

When you choose The Hartford, you choose a company that seeks to earn your trust and confidence with every interaction – a company that will be at its best when you need us the most – a company that has been making and keeping its promises for more than 200 years.