In the next few days I will be assisting businesses affected by the bush fires through the Small Business Mentoring Service and whilst many businesses are concerned about the global economic crisis, spare a thought for businesses who have lost customers, offices, records, staff and so much more. I’ve been thinking about what these businesses are facing and I guess being a half glass full gal, I am looking for lessons that can be learnt from this disaster. Here are some thoughts I’d like to share.

* Insurance – look into insurance for your business and be brave and look at the worst case scenario. Become familiar with the exclusions. Some businesses who have business interruption insurance may miss out on receiving payments due to clauses such as ‘except in the situation where police barricades are used’.

* Buffer – work towards having a buffer of about three months in your business. When something does go wrong, rarely does it have short term consequences. An overdraft, savings, a clear credit card with a big limit etc. may be the difference between survival and closure.

* Backup – all data needs to be backup off site with a robust data retrieval system that has been tested. You may lose your computers but they can be replaced. Data, settings and information cannot. For many businesses who physically lost their offices to fire may be lucky to have their business online (as if we need another reason to go online) and have captured some client details but more importantly have a communication channel to their clients and the general public.

What’s the first step in business recovery?

Making contact with customers. Tell them you are still in business. Tell them what’s happened and let them know how they can help. This can be done via phone, letter (if have client details), media release, email or via the business website. Customers have a vested interest in businesses staying in business. Customers don’t like to switch unless they have to. So never underestimate your customers – they truly make or break your business and I’m sure like the rest of Australia and the world, when a terrible crisis affects your business your customers will be batting hard for you too.  You just need to adjust your marketing strategy to these new circumstances.