NEW YORK – As small business owners in Hawaii and California clean up following Hurricane Lane and wildfires, they will find there is no one formula for recovery.
The same disaster can devastate businesses in divergent ways — a hurricane might tear the roof off one restaurant, flood another and leave a third with little damage.
Whether a business recovers often depends on how prepared it is, such as whether it has insurance and its computer data is backed up remotely. Owners should also find out what resources are available to them from the government, their communities and other entrepreneurs, said Craig Markovitz, a professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. Communication with customers and vendors is also critical, Markovitz says.
“Let people know you’re going to get back on your feet,” he said. Anything from a sign on a company’s premises to advertising to media coverage will help.
Markovitz also advises owners to rally their entrepreneurial spirit, which helped them succeed in the first place.
Here are three stories of business owners who were able to recover:
Owner: Patrice Farooq, Cupcake Kitchen Houston
The disaster: Hurricane Harvey, August 2017
When Houston was inundated by more than 4 feet of rain in four days, Farooq’s bakery was damaged and she lost appliances including a commercial freezer.
The recovery: Even as she was first dealing with the damage, Farooq began using Facebook ads to tout her reopening, and to ensure customers didn’t forget about her shop.
“I had an idea that the [customer] traffic was not going to be the same and we would run the risk of going out of business,” Farooq said.
Farooq kept advertising after she reopened, and revenue had returned to about 80 percent of pre-Harvey levels by January. But because the neighborhood was still rebuilding, Farooq decided to move the store 5 miles away, opening in May. Revenue is now 50 percent above the level of before the storm.
Owner: Nate Stokes, Visiting Angels senior-care franchise
The disaster: Tornado; Joplin, Mo.; May 22, 2011
The tornado destroyed Stokes’ cars and his office, which no one was in when the twister hit, and he later learned that his accountant had been killed.
Three of 50 employees had to quit because they lost their homes and needed to focus on rebuilding their lives. Three more were temporarily unable to work. He lost several clients whose homes were destroyed.
The recovery: Stokes’ church offered him office space, and the Visiting Angels franchise in Tulsa, Okla., lent him a car and computer. About a month after the tornado Stokes found an office 12 miles away, but he was unable to replace all his lost equipment and cars until he received insurance money six months later.
It took about a year for Stokes’ business to return to its pre-disaster functioning.
Owners: Brent and Juan Reaves, Smokey John’s BBQ restaurant
The disaster: Fire; Dallas; Sept. 9, 2017
Wood stored near a meat smoker caught fire, sending smoke into the entire restaurant. It caused no injuries, but the restaurant was gutted.
The recovery: The brothers, who had several catering gigs on their schedule, realized they could still have money coming in by focusing on that part of their business. They quickly found kitchen space where they could prepare food. And other barbecue purveyors were ready to pitch in when they heard about the fire, Brent Reaves said.
With advertising, the catering business soared, helping fund the restaurant’s reconstruction. The rebuilt Smokey John’s will be 1,000 square feet larger to handle the booming catering business.