Yes, it could happen here. In fact, it probably will happen here. And, like every inevitability you need to be prepared. That's what smart business owners do. They try to minimize surprises, plan ahead and always have a Plan B or C for when things don't go right. I hope there never is another terrorist attack in the U.S. But that would be irresponsible. And nave. We have a commitment to operate our companies through good times and bad. We have employees, family members, customers and partners who depend on our businesses for their livelihoods. So we must think ahead.
In all likelihood, a terrorist attack in the U.S. isn't going to bring the entire country to its knees. We live in a big country. Of course it will be disastrous--and devastating to those involved. But it will also likely be regionalized and similar to the ones in Europe. Unfortunately, like the shopkeepers in Brussels or the businesses in and around Paris your company may be significantly impacted, particularly if you're in the vicinity. So what should you and I do if a terrorist attack occurs?
Have plenty of cash on hand.
You are going to face disruptions. The disruptions may go on for weeks. It's unlikely that a terrorist organization like ISIS has the capability of bringing down our banking system (hackers from other countries have a better chance of doing this, but let's not further depress you). However, there may be banking issues, temporary disruptions or closures in your area. Keeping cash in your safe is a good idea just in case you need it in a pinch. How much? $5,000 would be a good start--but of course this depends on the size of your business. How do you do this? Each week, pull a few hundred bucks from the register petty cash and stick it away.
Have plenty of cash in the bank.
Within only a few short weeks after 9/11 both the airline and insurance industries were pleading for government assistance and reeling from a cash crunch. And these were from giant companies. What about you? It's unlikely there will be Armageddon, but a terrorist attack in your region could very well shut down business activity for days, if not a few weeks. Shopkeepers in Paris reported long periods of time without customers after last year's attacks. You will still need to pay your employees, the electric bill and the rent. These things seem to go on no matter what. Which means you have to have at least 3-4 months of emergency funds in the bank, regardless of a terror attack or just a really bad market meltdown...or both.
Check your overhead today.
If push comes to shove, what vendors can you shove to the back of the line? What expenses do you have today that can be cut back in a terror event? And wait...if they are vulnerable to your cuts in a terror attack you may want to question why you're incurring them even today. The smartest business owners today have learned from the Great Recession and are operating their businesses as if these are still lean times (and for many they are). Keeping your overhead low is how business people survive economic downturns or any other event--be it weather or a terrorist attack in their area--in the long run.
The government may force you to close if you're right in the middle of things. And you may be tempted to close if the mood is really black. But if you don't have to, then don't. People want to stay busy. They want something to keep their minds away from terrible thoughts. They want to have a purpose. And they want the company of others. Your business can provide all of that. It makes no difference if not a single customer walks through the door. Your employees can still have plenty to do--internal projects, cleaning files, inside training, inventory cycle counts, painting, landscaping...anything that serves to spruce up your business (and everyone's mood) for better times to come. In a crazy, tumultuous, scary time your business can remind people that normal days will return and that no one is cowering. The British went to work the next morning even after the Germans blitzed them the night before. So can we.
Check your insurance coverage.
If you've suffered a significant business interruption then you may be covered. But be careful. Like doing a backup of your data and then expecting to restore it and finding that the backup system broke months ago it's a good thing to check these things now. Talk to your insurance agent and ask him or her to verify what your actual coverage is in an actual interruption caused by an actual terrorist attack. You may not like the answer--many policies exclude these things which is why you want to know sooner rather than later, particularly if you were counting on insurance money to see you through those times.
Finally, stay positive.
OK, you're not coaching the Titans. You're not leading thousands into battle. But you are leading one little tiny part of the world: your business. And whether you like it or not, your employees and others around you will be watching how you respond and how you behave. Terrorist attacks have been going on around the world for centuries. There were more than 20 terrorist attacks just on U.S. soil between 1900 and 1959 including bombings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta and Tulsa that killed hundreds. And if it seems like there are more of them now, it may simply be because there are just more people on the planet...and the Internet. Regardless, look to the future and know that things will get better. Show your respect but also show leadership. Life will, I promise, go on.