Article Summary: It doesn't matter what type of small business you own, it's important to prepare your business for the unexpected. I think we can all agree that keeping a rainy day fund is really important, but there are a handful of other things you can do to be prepared.

Here are seven things you can do to be prepared for most small business crisis that unexpectedly rear their ugly head:

  1. Keep a functional tool box at the ready
  2. Your bathroom needs a plunger, a mop, a bucket, and maybe a wet-dry vac
  3. You might also need a pair of rubber boots
  4. Keep a list of rental yards at the ready
  5. Don't let the snow slow you down
  6. The value of a quiet fan or two can't be underestimated
  7. Keep a list of preferred contractors in case you need professional help

Although these seven tips might not help you prepare your business for every unexpected emergency, they will help you with most of the things the average small business owner will face. Keep reading to learn more.

Most of the time when we talk about the need to prepare your business for the unexpected, we wind up talking about setting money aside to meet a business’ monetary demands during a slow season or to meet financial needs of a crisis. There is no doubt, setting aside some capital for a rainy day is a good idea—nevertheless, that’s not the topic for today.

When the unexpected happens, because many small business owners aren’t general contractors, electricians, plumbers, or mechanics it’s important to be prepared to take care of a minor crisis to keep your business functioning, even if a professional will be needed in the end.

The Unexpected is Never Convenient

I don’t know why plumbing problems always seem to happen in the winter in the same way the air conditioning always seems to crap out on the hottest day of the year, but it usually seemed to work out that way. I worked out of a hundred-year-old building, that started its life as a home, for just about 20 years, so we faced all the challenges you might face with plumbing and electrical that were well past their prime. Regardless of whether your business is situated in an old building or a brand new building, here are seven things you can do to prepare your business for the unexpected.

  1. Keep a functioning tool box at the ready: Most businesses don’t need to maintain a shop to keep things going, but a tool box with the appropriate set of sockets, screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches, a pair of pliers, and a hammer come in handy at surprising regularity. I consider a tool box cheap insurance.
  2. Your bathroom needs a plunger, a mop, a bucket, and maybe a wet-dry vac: Toilets tend to overflow and sinks tend to leak, so in addition to your tool box, you’ll need the cleaning supplies to clean up after a mess. If you’re restroom floors are tile or linoleum, you’ll be able to get by with a mop and bucket, but if you have carpet in there (like we did) you might need a wet-dry vac to clean up after a plumbing problem.
  3. You might also need a pair of rubber boots: A customer once flushed something down the toilet they shouldn’t have and caused our relic of a toilet to overflow (unnoticed overnight) flooding the basement and requiring me to wade ankle-deep in water to install the sump pump and clean out the unfinished basement that was our storage area. I didn’t have a pair of rubber boots at the time, but I wished I had.
  4. Keep a list of rental yards at the ready: A list of places where you can rent a sump pump or other tools that you only need in case of emergency is a good idea. The last thing you want to do is spend an hour trying to figure out where to find what you need when you’re up to your neck in an emergency.
  5. Don’t let the snow slow you down: If you do business someplace where it snows, you likely have someone who plows the parking lot so your customers can get to your place of business. Every fall the guy who plowed our parking lot would reach out to us to confirm we wanted our lot plowed—until he didn’t, causing a scramble the first big snow that hit us that year. In other words, in addition to a shovel or snow blower to keep your sidewalks clean, don’t forget to make arrangements for the lot to be plowed. Even if you do business out of a strip mall or other location where snow maintenance is part of your rent, make sure you have at least a snow shovel for those days when the maintenance crew is slow to get to your place of business (some snow melt is also a good idea).
  6. The value of a quiet fan or two can’t be underestimated: Although it’s not idea, your customers and your employees will thank you when the power goes out if you have a nice quiet fan or two to keep the air circulating if your air conditioner craps out.
  7. Keep a list of preferred contractors to fix major pluming issues, electrical issues, heating or air conditioning problems, or fix a leaky roof: I’ve found that waiting until you need emergency help is not the best time to be looking for someone to get your business out of a lurch. I found this to be incredibly important working out of a 100-year-old building.

An Ounce of Prevention

I shamefacedly admit that at home I’m not as diligent at changing my furnace filters or inspecting the state of the plumbing in my bathroom, but it was a lot easier to catch potential problems early at the business, so I could take care of them before they failed, to avoid inconvenience to my customers and employees.

And, don’t forget the unexpected is … unexpected. One night vandals went down the road shooting out windows (including our display window). The building alarm noticed, so an early-morning trip to Home Depot was needed to put a big sheet of plywood up before the glass company could come and replace the glass. Even if you’re prepared for most emergencies, there will be one or two that slip through the cracks, but you can prepare your business for the unexpected by being ready to deal with the aftermath.

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