You Can't Stop a Polar Vortex, But You Can Be Ready for the Next One
The Scorecard survey found that one in three small businesses experienced a slowdown due to severe weather, creating a bit of a “hiring vortex." On the plus side, optimism among small business owners remains relatively high at 69 percent, which could bode well for a spring thaw.
The lack of hiring goes deeper than the inclement weather, of course. As many as 60 percent of small business owners said the cost of salary and wages is still a barrier to hiring. And one in three said they haven't been able to find qualified candidates.
Of future concern is that only three in five do not have a disaster plan in place, according to the February survey. The devastating winter storms were a stark reminder that the office is not always accessible. Forces out of your control can and will make it difficult to do business.
As small businesses, even a short interruption in business can have a significant impact on cash flow, Last month, 55 percent of small business owners told us they don’t have extra cash on hand for unforeseen events.
With this in mind, it’s a good time to develop a “disaster” plan for your small business, especially if you don’t have one. Remember, a disaster for your business doesn’t mean the world is ending, but a polar vortex, or a hurricane, or a flood, or a snowstorm can easily keep you from finishing a crucial project for a client.
Here's how to prepare for the worst:
Draft a plan.
This plan should not be sitting in a drawer at your office, it should be universally available to everyone. The cell phone numbers for your employees and contact info for clients should be readily accessible. Are they? All the processes that need to take place to keep the business up and running have to be accounted for - are they? Whether you have two employees or 50, everyone should be prepared and able to take appropriate action to do their jobs when something out of the ordinary occurs.
Take advantage of the Cloud.
It’s simply too easy in the world of Dropbox and Google Drive, and other file sharing services, to not have the necessary documents and information available online. Is it the day you’re supposed to run payroll? Do you have to be in the office to do that? You shouldn’t. Your employees are not going to want to hear they didn’t get paid on time because of snow. Make sure you can run payroll from anywhere, including your smartphone.
Don’t be out of pocket.
You can’t make it to an important meeting with a client because the roads aren’t drivable? Use GoToMeeting or set up a Google Hangout, or Skype with them. Your phones are down and customers can’t get through? Tweet them the latest information as you receive it. An employee needs a signature on an important contract? You don’t need to be there with your favorite fountain pen. Use a service like Sertifi, and call it a day.
Small businesses have been in a holding pattern for some time when it comes to hiring. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take action to make your business more malleable. If fact, now is the time to be even more vigilant about planning. After all, it’s one thing you can control.
MICHAEL ALTER | Columnist | President of SurePayroll
Michael Alter is president of SurePayroll, America?s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University.