Short-term survival has to quickly turn into positive action to bring back customers and create a new future. In 2019, we’re focused on recovery from floods in Queensland. There have also been widespread bushfires, and a few years ago Christchurch in New Zealand was devastated by earthquakes.
In a disaster there's usually a strong, short-term wave of support, But in a few months time, public attention will shift, and you're on your own - it's tough, and all the more reason to move fast.
If you’re affected, move quickly to talk with suppliers: your cash-flow has been hit, and so has theirs. Have an honest conversation with them and see what can be worked out. Many of them, particularly large groups, have made special provision for delayed payments or support with replacement stock. Silver Chef have been very quick to offer special relief for flood-affected clients in Queensland. Be bold and ask - now's the time to test the 'partnerships' that suppliers often talk about!
Build a local support network: even if it's just three or four other businesses, it's time to reach out in ways you haven't done before. Over a coffee or beer, plan a joint approach to local or state government, an insurance company or suppliers - they react to a group with much more respect. Buy some water-based paint and put a matching smiley on everyone's business - show that together you will rise above this!
Share positive photos on social media: there'll be a few photos of when disaster struck, but concentrate on positive images of re-opening, cleaning up and serving grateful customers. Make a big sign that says BACK IN BUSINESS and have customers hold it up for selfies and Instagram photos. If there's a local #hashtag being used, include that in posts as well. Ask customers to share photos with their friends, and if they mention your name in a post, be sure to thank them. Make your Facebook Page the noticeboard to keep everyone up-to-date.
Support your staff: they've worked hard, and they depend on wages - make this a priority so you don't lose their goodwill. Some staff will have lost possessions and even their home, others will decide to move - some turmoil is inevitable. Movie vouchers are a nice way to show appreciation - often valued well beyond the actual cost.
Try to be transparent about future work: there will be cut-backs and you' should check on the rights and obligations of employers and employees during a natural disaster. Now's the time to maintain staff support and even sympathy, not have them agitated about 'unfairness'. Explaining some of the financial challenges will help staff face reality - most of them have no idea about the fixed costs like rent that you pay every single week.
Thank your volunteer helpers: of course you fed them, but a letter, voucher or a Helpers Certificate gives them something to show others. The wonderful work of Baked Relief in Brisbane was an inspiration in 2011 – people from all over the city who love to cook were making meals for those who have lost their houses and possessions. At times like these, 'local' become a very powerful word in menu marketing - make sure everyone knows about the fruit, vegetables, wine and beer you purchase nearby. In Queensland, remind us about your seafood, pineapples, tropical fruit and even Golden Syrup!
Use a boomerang special to create future business: discounts don't do much for your reputation or bank account, but boomerang deals work very well. The 'boomerang' is a special voucher for use within the next month, for everyone who dines with you at an off-peak time eg spend more than $30 with us for lunch and receive a return dinner voucher for $20. Be generous - this is a great tactic for 'pump priming'.
Prepare for the next celebration: coming up are Clean Up Australia Day on March 3, Pancake Day on 5 March, and International Women’s Day on Friday March 8. Find out what's happening in your neighbourhood and join in like never before!
Could it happen again? Make sure you’ve double checked computer backup systems, security systems and contact lists. Design for safety when you choose new equipment - how easily it can be disconnected or moved if there's an emergency? Finally, it’s time for a serious dicusssion with your insurance broker. Flood and disaster cover will be more expensive, but what’s the alternative?