New England small businesses are bearing the brunt of this year’s inclement weather, as the area has been hit with four snowstorms in just a month’s time. Freezing cold temperatures and massive amounts of snowfall have literally stopped operations in numerous cities across the northeast, and this prolonged bout of unusual weather is taking its toll on some small businesses.
Bill Vernon, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, describes the impact this winter has had on small businesses: “Small businesses were growing again and the confidence was there, the consumer confidence was back, and small businesses were starting to feel good again. This definitely interrupted it.”
In addition, the Boston Globe published a recent survey conducted by various business associations in Massachusetts that showed more than 1,600 companies found sales fell an average of 24 percent between Jan. 26 and Feb. 22, compared with the same period a year earlier. Retailers and restaurants were hit hardest by the weather, with sales falling nearly 50 percent, according to the survey. This survey shows just how much impact the snowstorms have had on businesses in Massachusetts.
If you are a New England small business owner suffering from the impact of this winter’s inclement weather, there are ways you can safeguard your business from future severe weather conditions. We’ve outlined six below.
6 Ways to Help Minimize the Impact of Winter Storms
1. Effective communication
When weather conditions are poor, and snow is heavy, some employees may need to stay home due to icy roads and other unfavorable conditions. “When people aren’t able to get to work, it has a bigger effect on smaller businesses,” said Bill Vernon, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business.While the impact of snowstorms can definitely affect your business, it’s important for you to communicate to your employees what’s expected. If possible, create an automated system that calls each person in your office at once to tell them if your business is closed, or if there are special hours, what time he or she should plan on coming to work. A simple automated system can save valuable time and resources. In addition, keep your records current with name, phone number, and address of each employee so you’re not wasting time looking for personal information.
2. Keeping up with payroll
If you’re not able to get to the office due to weather conditions, it’s difficult to make sure that your employees are getting paid. Therefore, having an effective payroll solution is crucial in keeping your valuable employees satisfied. That’s where outsourcing your payroll function can help. Many outsourced payroll providers can provide you with a quick, error-free way to ensure your employees get paid whether you're in the office or not. In addition, there are Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), where payroll, tax administration, risk management, employee benefits, and other pertinent HR services are handled for you. A PEO can be a great solution for small business owners that don’t have the time to deal with human resources during damaging winter storms.
3. Protecting your property
Inclement weather can wreak major havoc on your building and/or the surrounding property. In fact, heavy snow has been known to collapse roofs, and melted snow can cause water damage. Having property insurance can help protect you against the high cost of property damage caused by snowstorms. Take a look at your insurance paperwork and check to make sure your property is covered in the event of a major storm. Plus, even if you don’t own your building, you want to make sure the valuable contents inside are taken care of by insurance if something should happen to them. A quick way to prevent damage to your computers and other equipment is to keep them protected with waterproof covers.
4. Affordable benefits packages
During inclement weather, it’s inevitable that a few employees will become sick. Unfortunately, the absence of employees can affect your bottom line, but having a competitive wellness plan will allow them to get the care they need so they can get back to work.
5. Stay up to date
You can gain valuable insights into what other small businesses might be doing to help ease the effects of the weather crisis. Plus, you can find general information on what may be happening in your area to ensure businesses get back up and running. Trustworthy sites like the Wall Street Journal and the Weather Channel can give you tips on dealing with the impact of climate change on your business as well as what you may be seeing in the future weeks as far as the economy is concerned. According to New England Cable News, it is estimated that Boston may get up to 120 inches (10 ft) of snow before the snowstorms finally stop.
6. Dealing with profit loss
Weather can definitely take its toll on small businesses, and it can be even more so than large companies. Typically small businesses have one location and if that location becomes compromised, you will most likely see a loss in profits. When roads are bad, consumers don’t leave their homes to visit your establishment, which results in a loss of profit for your business. A study from IHS Global Insight quantifies the economic impact of a one-day related shutdown and shows the significant expense that a major storm has on businesses due to impassable roads - as much as $300-$700 million in some states. And that’s just one day. Unfortunately, the New England area has been suffering from many snowstorms this winter.
In the end, making sure your business is well-equipped to handle harsh weather is key to minimizing the impact of snowstorms. Use the essential tips above to keep your business productivity on par with other small businesses in the New England Area.
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Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design.