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There’s the upside, where you get to make the rules and reap the profits. And there’s the down side, where bad things happen outside of your control and you have to make them right. Are you up for the challenge? Read on:

Disaster Readiness and Recovery

Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere and often without much warning. The big ones — hurricanes, pandemics, a disgruntled employee with a gun — get the greatest attention. But the smaller ones can wreak havoc on a workplace too. Suppose you lose power for a day or two? Or the copy machine overheats and the breakroom fills with smoke? Or 25% of your employees call out on the same Monday morning because either they have the flu or their kids do? Any one of these scenarios has the potential to shut your business down.

Floridians are certainly no strangers to disaster. Although no one could have anticipated the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, anyone who has lived and worked in this state for any length of time has either experienced a hurricane or knows to expect one. And if the storm happens to be a Category 3 or above, the destruction can be catastrophic. History tells us that an estimated 25% of businesses affected by such an event never reopen at all.

Preparing for the Unexpected As a business owner, you may not be able to prevent disasters of this magnitude, but you can certainly mitigate their effects on your business by taking proactive steps in advance. Here’s a list of actions you can begin to take now:

Know the potential hazards you face. Hurricanes, floods, lightning strikes and sinkholes top the list of natural disasters in Florida; fire, toxic chemical spills, civil unrest, gun violence and terrorism are the most likely man-made kind. Even if your business is not directly affected by one or more of these, your supply chains and utilities may well be.

Create a contingency plan. What if the roof blows off your workplace or it’s leveled altogether? Could you operate out of a nearby warehouse? Office space? Your own home? Perhaps you could share space with a supplier. The time to choose an appropriate space and determine what equipment and other resources you will need to continue operations is now. Back up all computer files and store them off-site or on the cloud.

Protect your most valuable assets — the people you employ. Develop an evacuation plan that includes access to shelters, hospitals and other emergency services. Post emergency phone numbers in prominent places. Maintain up-to-date emergency contact and essential medical information for all employees.

Conduct a safety inventory. Regularly clean and test smoke detectors and fire alarms; change batteries at least once a year. Have first-aid kits on hand. Make sure all fire extinguishers are operational and fully charged. Keep a ready supply of all types of batteries used in your business. Consider purchasing a portable generator to provide emergency power.

Review your insurance coverage now. Do you have enough coverage to get your business back in operation at the earliest possible date? Does your policy cover the replacement cost of buildings, contents and essential facilities? Are you insured against wind, floods, business interruptions? If not, maybe you should be.

Pre-plan for repairs. Don’t wait until a storm has passed to start shopping for repairs; become a “preferred customer” now. Start building a network of reliable repair services and suppliers well before you need them to avoid being placed on a lengthy wait list when you do.

Create a “records-to-go” box.
Place important documents and supplies in a water- and fire-proof box you store in a secure, off-site location. Include things like: disaster recovery plans; emergency contact lists of employees, suppliers, vendors and key customers; insurance policies and agent information; backups of computer files; bank records; a list of the bills that regularly need to be paid; and emergency cash.

Recovering in the Aftermath

So the storm has passed, the virus is contained and life is at last returning to normal. You’d like to resume business operations and bring your employees back to work, but your insurance adjuster says it could be weeks before your claim is processed. Where will you find money in the meantime to make necessary repairs and pay your staff?

Look to the Florida SBDC Network for help. In times of disaster, SBDCs all across the state serve as the business community’s primary contact for processing and submitting the paperwork for Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans. For a business physically or economically impacted by a hurricane, pandemic or other disaster, a bridge loan is the “first step” to receiving short-term, interest-free funds.

As its name implies, the bridge loan provides quick access to working capital by helping a business “bridge the gap” from time of impact to the time when longer-term solutions, such as sufficient profits, federal disaster assistance or insurance proceeds, become available. Bridge loans are activated by Florida’s governor following a disaster and funded by the state of Florida. And as its name implies, this is a loan, not a grant. You will have to pay it back.

 

Cybersecurity

Cyberattacks against big-name companies garner a lot of media attention, but small businesses might actually be in greater peril. According to the latest “2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)” from Verizon, 43% of all cyber-attacks target small business. Perhaps even more alarming is that only 14% of small businesses are prepared to defend themselves against such attacks. To avoid becoming a victim, start making high-tech security a top priority. Learn all you can about cybersecurity and take preventive measures now. And if you still lack confidence in your digital security capabilities, hire an expert. With digital incidents costing businesses of all sizes $200,000 on average, it will be money well spent.

If you think that your business is too small to attract scammers, think again. Anti-virus software provider McAfee estimates that 480 new high-tech threats are introduced every minute.

If you need help, contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network for assistance. Attend an FSBDC workshop on cybersecurity basics for small business and/or connect with an FSBDC counselor near you for one-on-one guidance in structuring a cybersecurity plan tailored to your specific needs.

Onsite Recovery Assistance
In times of disaster, the Florida SBDC Network deploys its Disaster Mobile Assistance Centers into communities with the greatest need so that affected business owners can receive on-site assistance close at hand. These assistance centers are staffed by FSBDC 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.

 

Inspired Technologies, Tallahassee
Recovering from a disaster or cybersecurity attack is never easy, but partnering with a firm like Inspired Technologies could make it less stressful. With 40 employees and clients in 30 states, Inspired Technologies, founded by CEO Craig Goodson, offers a full range of tech support: cloud services, AV design and installation, network security and disaster recovery. And it’s growing — the Tallahassee-based company plans to break ground on a new 50,000-sq.-ft. facility in 2021. “Working in the state capital makes it easy to communicate and showcase new IT and solutions designed specifically for government,” says Zack Dunlap, director of business development. “It also gives us a chance to prove that our company can meet the needs of a state as large as Florida.”

 

Advanced Protection

Insurance is available to protect against almost any business risk. Consult with an insurance agent to determine which of the following types of insurance you will need, then compare terms and prices to decide 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 fire, smoke, wind and hail storms, civil disobedience, vandalism and other such events.
  • Home-Based Business Insurance is a rider added to your homeowner’s insurance that offers some protection for business equipment and liability coverage for third-party injuries.
  • Business Owners 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.

ADDITIONAL OPTIONS

  • 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 (NFIP).
  • 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:

Patents 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 uspto.gov for information and filing instructions.

Trademarks 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.

Copyrights 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.

COVID-19

Protect Your People

The due date for applications for the Paycheck Protection Program, an SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, has been moved from June 30 to August 8.

Visit https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program