Disasters and Disasters Averted
You might wear a seat belt because your local laws require it. You might also wear one in case you get in a collision. Sure, a head-on collision at highway speeds might end your life whether you wear a seatbelt or not, but for most daily accidents, that seat belt can save your life or significantly reduce the injuries you suffer. You don’t plan to drive off the road or get in the path of a drunk driver. But you buckle up anyway—just in case.
What “just in case” habits do you have in place for your store? Let’s look at some disasters of different scales and what you can do to avoid or minimize the damage they inflict on your business.
Fire, Flood, Dogs and Cats Living Together
If you build up your property at all, allow for numerous electrical outlets. Crowded outlets are a potential fire hazard. Make sure all electrical work you have done meets local codes. Keep at least one fire extinguisher on hand, recharge it on schedule, and replace it every 10 years. Before you mount it on the wall, check your local fire department for required locations.
Your business should certainly carry commercial liability insurance. Insurance is the epitome of “just in case” situations. You should insure your fixtures and inventory against fire, theft and other common hazards. These things happen. I know of one store that had a car drive through the front glass. Twice. You can’t prevent these incidents, but a good insurance policy can make them easier to survive.
Buying a policy once and forgetting about it isn’t enough. Keep accurate inventories. Review your coverage as your business grows. If you have $5,000 worth of computer coverage but add 8 stations to your LAN, it’s time to review your policy. If you’ve grown from $200,000/year sales to $350,000/year, you’ll want to recheck how much inventory you have covered.
You should have plans in place for backing up your data on a regular basis. Regular” means at least daily, if not live. At the very least you should save your information on a weekly basis. If your computer suffers an unrecoverable crash, losing your sales data could cost you thousands in tax liability. Losing customer records could impair your ability to market effectively. Losing inventory information could cost you endless, tedious hours of recreating a data base. Keep it all safe.
Don’t limit your protection to the big stuff. Losing vendor contact information, account numbers, and other records could be inconvenient. Keep them safe and remember where and how you stored them.
Also, your backup should be off site. It makes no sense to back up your data to a device that would be destroyed in the same accident that takes out the original.
Let’s consider some robbery deterrents. Which of these is the most important: lit parking lots, two clerks on duty, clear windows, security cameras, guns under the counter, alarms, or a lack of money? Surprisingly, robbers cite a lack of money in the store as the most important reason to cross a place off their list of potential targets.
That’s right. If you have money in your cash drawer and openly wear a firearm, you’re more likely to be robbed than if you don’t keep money in the store and have no visible security measures.
It’s in your best interest to remove cash from the store on a regular basis and to advertise this fact to the public. Strip your till of big bills, placing them in a drop safe or a time-delay safe. Make deposits daily, either after hours if your bank has a secure night-drop facility, or during the day. On very busy days, make a mid-shift deposit. Place signs on your door or near the cash register notifying the public that you don’t keep a lot of cash on hand.
Likewise, protect your people. More than your cash is at risk during a robbery. You or an employee could get shot trying to do something stupid. In case of a robbery, cooperate. Be patient and wait it out. Don’t fight. Most robberies take less than two minutes and nobody gets hurt.
Scam attempts are mostly a minor annoyance, but they could cause major problems if you don’t spot them. Don’t allow employees to obligate you to anything. Sometimes scammers will pretend to be a service provider you’re already using, either by failing to mention their name or by using a name that sounds similar to a common one. They might claim to be from “your bank” but not mention the name of the bank. Never volunteer information over the phone unless you initiated the phone call or know the person on the other end of the line.
Hallmarks of scams include speaking quickly, vagueness, demanding that you make a decision right away, and not having information about you (like asking for your address to ship you their goods). If you already had an account with them, they’d have your address.
One common scam is a company calling you to tell you that the cost of your credit card machine supplies is about to go up. They invite you to order more supplies now. These calls are never from your credit card processor. They’re cold sales calls from strangers hoping that they can alarm you into ordering their overpriced supplies.
If you’re ever not sure about the identity of someone you’re talking to, ask for a phone number and tell the person you’ll call them back. Don’t call that number. Look up the appropriate number in your records or online.
Take steps to prevent accidents. Slips and falls are the biggest cause of workplace accidents. Don’t leave debris (like empty boxes) in walkways. Sweep as needed and mop after hours. If you have a game room, make sure your chairs are in good repair. We don’t use any dangerous equipment, so that’s not a concern.
Are you covered by worker’s comp? If so, do your employees know where to go in case of an accident? Do you even know where to send them? Find out and post the information where they can find it. Keep your account number where you can find it.
If you’re not covered, what do you plan to do in case of an accident?
Suppose you have to leave on short notice for a family emergency? What if you’re hurt in an accident? What if you want to attend the GAMA Trade Show? How about if you win a couple of cruise tickets on the radio? Can your store do without you for a week?
Make sure your crew knows who’s in charge while you’re gone. Make sure the person in charge knows how to reach you. Have contingencies for placing orders, paying bills, and getting deposits to the bank. Plan for getting keys, alarm codes, and safe combinations to the right person. Change the schedule to cover all the shifts. Everyone should know your standards concerning merchandising new shipments, cash control, and cleaning, and that you expect these things to be maintained in your absence.
You can’t plan for every single possibility, but spending a few minutes in planning and building your business model to minimize damage can save you time and money (and possibly injury). This article doesn’t cover everything, so consider other ways you could lose money (like credit card fraud, which is a big topic by itself) and make plans for those as soon as possible.