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If this year has taught business owners anything, it’s this: the time to plan for an unexpected loss is not once the event occurs—it’s before.

When COVID-19 forced millions of non-essential companies to close six months ago, the economic impact was severe, and many entrepreneurs are still unsure if they can rebound.

Worse, 75 percent of American small business owners report large- or moderate-scale negative effects from these closures, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Planning ahead can make all the difference in avoiding the potential downfalls of an unexpected event like this. Whether it’s a global pandemic, a financial burden, a natural disaster, or some other unexpected crisis, take these steps now to ensure your business is protected when it counts.

Update Your Business Owners Insurance Coverage

In the case of property and equipment damage or contents and inventory loss, Business Owners Insurance will mitigate the out-of-pocket costs you would otherwise be responsible for. In order to qualify for this coverage, the size of your business location must be small enough to meet specific criteria.

If you are, in fact, entitled to a business owners policy, here is a basic rundown of the ways this business protection can help when the unexpected happens:

  • Building and structural damages (indoor and outdoor)
  • Loss of files, computers, furniture, supplies, and other business items
  • Missed income for temporary closure due to repairs
  • Inaccessible or destroyed files and receivables (hardcopy or electronic)

Secure All Essential Documents and Data

If a natural disaster, theft, or data breach occurs, your business’s tax documents, financial records, employee information, and other sensitive documents could be at risk. This is why security is your first line of defense for business protection—it’s crucial to back up all of your important files on the cloud if hardcopy documents are lost or stolen, or your electronic storage drive is compromised.

In 2020, the average cost of data breaches in the U.S. is estimated at $8.64 million, according to research from IBM and Ponemon Institute. To avoid that expense and safeguard documents, more than 50 percent of small business owners will start using disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)—a program that can save an entire IT infrastructure to an external cloud application—as of next year, confirms a UniTrends poll.

Take Advantage of Small Business Relief Programs

When the economy is stable and your customer base is secure, it’s not too hard to stay on budget. However, when the unexpected strikes and revenue is affected, those expenses can start to overwhelm you.

The longer a situation persists, the more financial assistance you might need to continue operations, so look into whether your organization qualifies for any federal business relief programs. You must have 500 or fewer employees on staff to receive loans or grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration, but here are some options that might be available to you:

Create an Internal and External Communication Plan

Once your business protection is solidified, don’t forget to create a communications plan. In times of emergency or uncertainty, information can change at a moment’s notice, so you need to roll out effective communication plans for both your staff and customers.

First and foremost, start with an internal message to all employees and departments. Once the whole team is briefed, move on to external communication with stakeholders and customers, and make sure to offer updates in real-time.

Some methods for external communications include email directives, social media posts or videos, and website announcements. Use this checklist from Mckinsey & Company to plan the framework for your messaging so you can simply update it when needed:

  • Give people what they need, when they need it.
  • Communicate clearly, simply, and frequently.
  • Be honest, show vulnerability, and maintain transparency.
  • Accentuate the positive and strengthen communal bonds.
  • Establish a clear vision for how the organization will emerge.

Take Your Business Protection Seriously

Business stability is never guaranteed, so do not wait until after the fact—be prepared right now for whatever unexpected situations might come. As 2020 continues to demonstrate, you cannot predict which obstacles your business could face, but you can ensure your business protection is in place and ready to keep your business safe

when the unexpected hits.