When Winter Weather and Business Collide
As we nestle deep into the throws of winter we’re suddenly reminded that the weather we once yearned for as children doesn’t quite carry the same appeal. As an unfortunate side of being a grown-up we have to deal with traffic, icy roads, making sure we have enough bread, milk and eggs and ensuring that our work somehow continues during the onslaught of Jack Frost’s ridiculous and ill-planned tantrum. The worst of this is we don’t even know why the milk, bread and eggs are so important when a shut-in occurs.
In 2014 my home town, Atlanta, made the news for what we called “snow-pocolypse”. This event was caused by a mere 2” inches of the devil’s dandruff. It was embarrassing at best; even Saturday Night Live made fun of us. We were stuck on interstates and back streets for hours, and even days with no passage home. As I write this today we’re supposedly in the flings of yet another damning weekend.
That brings me to the main point of this article and what we as business owners should consider during such event. I’ve compiled a list of things to remember and ponder when your area is about to be hit by the merciless barrage of “Connecticut Confetti”.
Keeping your employees safe
I’ve listed this item first as it should be the most important. We all have bottom lines to watch and keeping your customers happy is important to running a successful business, but your employees are your number one asset. You put your trust in them to help you keep business going, but do not forget that they put their trust in you to ensure they’re able to provide for their families; that includes keeping them safe during hazardous conditions.
Since it’s impossible to predict when the first flake will hit or exactly when the roads freeze over, it is our recommendation that you release your employees at the first safe opportunity. As with the winter storm of 2014 in Atlanta every business, city and state government hit the roads at exactly the same moment. Even without the weather, it would have been a miserable day for travel. Our policy leans towards releasing employees several hours before an event is predicted to occur. This ensures that they’re not on the road at the same time other business might release. If you have employees capable of working remotely, you may want to encourage them to office from home during inclement storms.
Keeping in-tune with local weather and authorities
Winter weather models are far from perfect. It’s hard to predict exactly when weather will strike. It’s best to keep your eyes and ears tuned to reputable weather agencies for information. In some cases, your local county / city government may have special notices regarding school closures, road closures or general inclement weather statements.
Local weather reports tend to be more accurate than national predictions. Rely first on information from news stations in your immediate area for the fastest, most up to date detail on your local situation.
Alerting your customers
Sometimes in the panic of getting your people out the door, it’s easy to forget the impact this may have on your clientele. It may not be possible to call around to all of your customers and let them know you’re closing shop for the day, but a few easy ideas may quickly get the message to your customer:
Send a blast email to your customer base. This may be the fastest and most efficient means of communicating to everyone. For safe measure you should keep an email template for such conditions handy so that you can merge in quick information along with your mail list and get the message out fast.
Put a notice up on your website. If your primary business isn’t brick and mortar, placing a notification on your website may be a fast and simple solution. In some cases you may want to provide alternative contact information while the office is closed.
Knowing when it is safe to return to the office
This one can be tough. In the situation of our company, many employees have an hour long commute one-way or better. Conditions can vary based on the route your employees take to return to work. Our best advice would be to work with your local authorities to first find out what areas are affected. Stay in touch with your staff and if you know a route to be particularly rough, advise them to err on the side of caution. Returning to the streets prematurely is a dangerous affair and should be avoided at all costs.
This article is meant to share simple tips on prepping for your next monstrous event. Your business, location and situation may greatly differ from others. Our best advice would be, play it safe and ride out the storm. The work will be there waiting for you when you return.