It’s a beautiful clear day and the sun is shining through your windows enveloping you as you cut out your next drapery job. Just as you are cleaning up the cut job, you realize the sun is gone and the sky is getting darker and darker. You flip on the radio. Oh, no! There is a tornado heading straight for you. You must run, but where to? What do you take with you?
We have all become far too familiar with the devastation brought
on by natural disasters in the last year or so. Sadly, some of us
have experienced it firsthand and are likely still in the process
of picking up the pieces and starting over. The only way we can
turn such horrible experiences into something good is to help those
who are recovering and learn from their experiences and mistakes.
That means to prepare to face natural disasters, fire, theft or
even your own death and then hope your preparations are never tested.
IT’S A CRISIS!
One of the Merriam-Webster definitions of crisis is “the decisive
moment.” It’s that moment when you see a sunny day turn
black with a tornado on the way. It’s that moment when you
have to decide in a split second, what the next step is.
We all know we should take extra precautions in case of an emergency,
but how many of you have actually had a fire drill? Who knows how
to take over your business if you perish in an automobile accident?
There are many unthinkable situations for which the wise person
will plan, knowing that such efforts will soften the blow and hasten
the healing and rebuilding. The following are ideas to help you
get your crisis prep going.
OFFICE PROCEDURES, RECORDS
Having all of your office operation and procedures information in
one place is a tremendous asset even if you aren’t disaster
planning. I have a book that I refer to on a regular basis because
I do not do some processes often enough to remember how to do them.
If you have employees that do certain tasks that no one else does,
you need to have those procedures documented. Then someone unfamiliar
with the task can take over with a minimal leaning curve.
Digitize all the information you can and have it all in one place,
i.e. CDs, external hard drive. This will make it more portable and
easier to store. Include the following information.
• Location of all records, past and present, and digital backups
• Location of off-site storage facilities, i.e. the bank safety
• How to find things on your computer or the name of someone
find all that is needed. (If you are incapacitated, someone who
may be unused to your computer filing system might need to get to
your files and use your digitized backups.)
• Accounting procedures and software how-to. (Not everybody
knows how to use accounting software and if you are using an old
software version, it could be more difficult.)
• Account reconciliation processes (if you reconcile beyond
your checking account, i.e. credit card merchant statements, then
someone acting on your behalf may need to know these processes in
order to more easily document your financial records.)
• Account numbers for suppliers, bank, credit cards, credit
card merchant, etc. (Don’t forget online accounts if access
would be necessary along with your user name and passwords.)
• Key persons and phone numbers to contact concerning all
• Name and phone number of your accountant, attorney and insurance
• Photocopy of business lic- ense and location of actual license
• Information on loans, leases, rent
• Process used following a closed sale to track recent money
transactions and current orders
• Process and records of received orders. (This will help
identify the value of current inventory. This is also a reason you
must have the value of all the materials that your wholesale clients
• Current inventory or supplies, vendor, and value
• Employee contact information
• Current client contact information
• Record of all business furniture, equipment, software, etc.
• Photographic record of the inside and outside of your business
• Names and phone numbers of anyone else who needs to be notified
GRAB AND RUN BOX
Have a lightweight watertight container of all your important information
and be sure it is easy to carry. It should include:
• All the information and records mentioned above, preferably
on an external hard drive or CDs
• Enough cash for out-of-pocket expenses for an extended period
• Health insurance card, credit cards, AAA, AARP, copy of
Social Security card and passport or any other cards you may need
• Tax returns
• Business checks, cards and stationary
• Photocopy of your business license
• Spare keys—home, shop, safety deposit box, safe or
Stay aware of the environment around you. Weather conditions around
the globe are changing drastically. It wasn’t too many years
ago that there had never been tornadoes in the area where I live.
Now they are becoming way too frequent and far too close for comfort.
Several years ago, a sinkhole formed and eventually swallowed a
whole house. Until that time, I had never heard of a sinkhole.
If you live with a threat of earthquakes, you may need to store
certain materials and equipment in ways to reduce the chance of
breakage and disruption to your workroom. And, certainly, insurance
coverage for any kind of environmental threat is essential.
Everybody needs a secure location away from the business to store
all important records. A copy of everything we have already discussed
should be there. Traditionally a safe deposit box in a bank is the
most popular choice. However, there are now ways to store files
on the Internet. If you are going to do this, be sure you have the
instructions with you on how to access that Internet information
and make it available to a key person who would need to get it if
you were disabled.
You also must make sure you would have access to the Internet in
an emergency with at least a cell phone with a wireless connection.
It still would make sense to have a safe deposit box with that access
information and other documents, i.e. passport, that can’t
be stored on the Internet. For some people, e.g. those living in
earthquake prone areas, it might be a good idea to have your storage
in another city or state.
Contact your local Red Cross for a list of supplies you should have
ready for an emergency. Then get that emergency kit ready.
Keep your radio on a local station so you will hear if there is
an impending emergency. Be up on the latest weather forecasts so
you can have that radio on when needed. You might want to find out
if your area has another means of notification in emergency situations.
If you live in a hurricane area, you certainly need the tools and
the boards to board up windows, if you don’t already have
exterior storm protection for your windows and doors. If tornadoes
are a threat, determine the closest safe place to seek shelter.
If there is time before you need to evacuate, as with hurricanes,
you should raise anything that could be damaged off the floor and
cover with waterproof tarps or some other means of protection.
No matter where you live, you should plan a fire escape procedure.
Your first priority is to vacate but then have a pre-arranged meeting
place for all of your associates and family to meet for a head count.
Keep on top of insurance needs. Go over your insurance policy annually
with your agent and be sure you understand your coverage. Here are
some coverage issues that you should discuss with your agent if
you haven’t already.
• Lost business due to a disaster and forced closure: You
must keep your accounting up-to-date and have access to those records
to file for this coverage.
• Lost business because you are disabled and can’t work,
but your employees can: If you don’t have a way to prove what
business is being lost because you can’t work, you would not
be able to collect from this coverage. This would be far easier
for a sole proprietor than a company with employees.
• Cost of getting your business started again: You may need
to hire help to clean up, rebuild, rent a temporary space, or farm-out
work for a while. In the last case, be sure you can prove you are
losing income by farming out your work, which will certainly reduce
Staying current is essential to get the optimum results from your
Crisis Plan. It’s important to make frequent updates to keep
all your stored information current. Establish a regular day and
time to update your records and get them to your secure storage
area. All this planning is just as important to your business and
livelihood as virus protection is for your computer.
I’ve hit the highlights of emergency preparation. I’m
sure you can think of more things that could and should be done,
but the important thing is to get started. The percentage of us
who will ever be faced with losing everything is small, but are
you willing to take the risk that you won’t be in that small
group? No? Then set aside a few minutes every day to start putting
together your “Grab and Run Box.” Money can’t
buy this kind of peace of mind. Only you can make it happen.
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran
of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and wholesale
drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, and she
is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm
offering educational resources to the industry. Her experience includes
professional speaking and writing for two industry trade magazines.
She currently owns Kitty Stein & Co., which supplies industry
vendors with the industry-specific products she has authored including
Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications, and
Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.