Being your own boss has its rewards. You get to make the rules and reap the profits. But there’s also a downside. Things will happen that are outside of your control and, as owner, you will have to address them. Are you up for the challenge? Read on.
Disaster Readiness and Recovery
Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere and they don’t have to be as devastating as a flood or a fire to seriously impact your business. Suppose your power goes out for half a day? Or 25% of your employees come down with the flu in a single week? And if the disaster is a major one — say a Category 3 hurricane — the destruction can be catastrophic. An estimated 25% of businesses affected by such an event never reopen at all.
While natural disasters cannot be prevented, steps can be taken in advance to lessen their effects. And the time to prepare is now.
A bridge loan helped Natubhai Patel fix the damages and replace food that was lost after Hurricane Irma. | Photo: Michael Price
I’ve never personally experienced a hurricane, but I’ve seen the damage these storms can do. What steps can I take right now to prepare for the possibility of a catastrophic storm or other natural disaster and the disruption of business it would cause?
I’ve heard that the claims process following a hurricane can take a long time and that funds aren’t immediately available. So what do I do in the meantime? How can I reopen my business and continue to pay my employees?
On-site recovery assistance
In times of disaster, the Florida SBDC Network deploys its Mobile Assistance Centers into communities with greatest need so that affected business owners can receive on-site assistance close at hand. These assistance centers are staffed by Florida SBDC consultants who can help business owners recover more quickly by answering questions, creating short-term recovery plans and assisting with the completion of loan applications.
Insurance is available to protect against almost any business risk. Consult with an insurance agent to determine which of the following types you’ll need, then compare terms and prices to find what’s right for you.
For your property
General Liability protects a business against financial loss resulting from bodily injury, property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander, lawsuits and settlement bonds or judgments.
Product Liability protects against financial loss resulting from a defective product that causes injury or bodily harm.
Professional Liability protects against financial loss resulting from malpractice, errors and negligence.
Commercial Property protects against loss and damage of company property due to events such as fire, smoke, wind and hail storms, civil disobedience and vandalism.
Home-Based Business Insurance A rider added to your homeowners insurance that offers some protection for business equipment and liability coverage for third-party injuries.
Business Owner's Policy combines all of the typical coverage options in a single package at a reduced price; generally available only to businesses with fewer than 100 employees.
Flood Property insurance does not cover damage from floodwaters, whether from rivers, lakes or oceans; however, business owners may insure their building and contents for up to $500,000 each through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program.
Windstorm Available through Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-created insurance provider, or private insurers; type of construction, size, location and proximity to water determine cost and availability.
Business Interruption Pays ongoing expenses such as rent, utilities and, in some cases, payroll when a business must close due to an insured property loss — i.e., in the aftermath of a hurricane.
For your people
Directors and Officers Liability Protects the company and individual executives should employees, shareholders, government agencies and/or others sue directors and officers over financial losses due to alleged company mismanagement.
Key Employee Protects a business following the death of an individual considered vital to the firm’s success. Similar to a life insurance policy, except the death benefit is paid to the company rather than to the individual’s family.
Workers’ Compensation Florida law requires employers with four or more full- or part-time employees to have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Sole proprietors and partners are not considered employees; corporate officers are, unless exempt.
For your ideas
Intangible assets — your company’s reputation, name recognition, know-how and/or creative ideas — have no physical existence, but they have commercial value and should be protected by one of the following:
Patent A patent is a property right granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to an inventor to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention without permission for a specified period of time. Visit www.uspto.gov for information and filing instructions.
Trademark Words, symbols, names, internet domain names, packaging and labeling that distinguish one company’s products from another’s may be registered as trademarks through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or, for more limited state protection, through the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations.
Copyright An author’s exclusive right to use his or her original writing, musical compositions, artistic designs and other works of expression is automatic when a work is created, and lasts 70 years after death. Official registration is optional in most cases; for protection, simply add the word “copyright” or © symbol, first year of publication and name of copyright owner(s) at the top of the page.
While cyberattacks against big companies get the lion’s share of media attention, it is small businesses that are actually in greatest peril, and Florida businesses may be especially at risk. According to the FBI, Florida ranks No. 3 in the nation for cybercrime incidents. To avoid becoming a victim, learn all you can about cybersecurity and take preventive measures now.
I’m a small niche business so I can’t imagine anyone would want to hack my company. Do I really need to be concerned about cybersecurity?
5 Tips to boost cybersecurity
1. Be proactive. Equip all computers with antivirus software/antispyware and update often. Safeguard your internet connection with a firewall and encrypting information. Password protect router access on your Wi-Fi network.
2. Educate employees. Establish written policies for handling/protecting sensitive data, using social networking sites and reporting lost or stolen equipment; hold employees accountable if they violate these policies.
3. Limit entry. Create a separate user account for each employee and restrict administrative privileges to trusted IT staff and key personnel. Use multifactor authentication (password + additional information) to gain entry; change passwords often.
4. Create backups. Back up critical data on all computers automatically; store copies offsite or on the cloud.
5. Control physical access. Lock computers when unattended; require employees to password protect personal mobile devices that access your business network and install security apps to prevent data theft.
In 2018, Florida SBDC hosted 455 participants at 25 cyber workshops across Florida … and more are scheduled. Check with your nearest Florida SBDC office for upcoming events and locations.