Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Scott T. Newman, president and co-owner of Brite Visual Products, a $4 million per year distributor of whiteboard products, arrived at his Quincy, Massachusetts office one morning only to find a large furniture truck wrapped around the utility pole outside.

His building was completely dark. With no power, his 15 employees couldnbt boot up their PCs or access critical data including orders pending and key financial information. For many small businesses this wayward truck would have been a major disaster. B But, this was a story with a happy ending.

Newman had an emergency plan. bIbve lived through too many New England winters to take anymore chances,b says Newman. bWebd just signed on with Amazon.com as a partner and we couldnbt afford any downtime.b

The business moved quickly to employeesb homes. Incoming calls were rerouted to their homes and, most importantly, copies of customer records were stored remotely and accessible by the employees from their home or notebook computers. The business never missed a beat and what could have been a huge problem was reduced to an annoyance.

Even small companies, the ultimate Mom and Pop enterprises, can survive disaster with some foresight and planning. B Witness Christine Dumas McAteebs formerly New Orleans-based Insignia Marketing, Inc., a thriving promotional advertising products company established in 2002 and based in suburban Metairie, Louisiana. B Before Hurricane Katrina began to pour water into her office from above and below, McAtee knew what to do.

bI grabbed my kids and other irreplaceable home and office items and headed out of harmbs way,b she recalls.

Upon returning a week later, the level of destruction in New Orleans was unmistakably apparent. So McAtee decided to view the disaster as an opportunity to grow even larger, and immediately took steps to open a permanent office in The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston.

bI did not have time to save all of my computers or job folders, but I was able to take my backup hard disks, McAtee relates. That, plus the fact that almost all of my important sales and marketing data was backed up on my franchisorbs computer system in Wisconsin, meant that after I secured office space and bought new computers, I was basically back in business right away as if nothing had happened. As a single mother, the quick transition was critical for success.b

In fact, if your company is well-prepared for disaster when it strikes, you will be seeing opportunity too.B While many are suffering irreparable damage, you will be looking for ways you can turn lemons into lemonade.

The first step is giving serious contemplation to what you would do if your office was not accessible.B There are countless ways this could happen b as you can see from the stories Ibve shared here.B How would you restore operations quickly?B The response to this question could turn out to be quite lucrative.

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