What to Do If Your Vendors Are Impacted by a Disaster
Even if you are thousands of miles from the devastation on the East Coast, you may still find your small business affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Many vendors and suppliers continue to cope with flooding and power outages, which may make it difficult to get the usual products and services you need to satisfy your own customers. What’s more, the storm has interfered with U.S. mail and other shipping and delivery services.
Here are three things to do if your supply chain is impacted by Sandy:
1. Assess the situation and the recovery timeline.
You should be able to determine whether a vendor has suffered a total loss or is just suffering a minor setback due to power outages. When speaking with anyone, try to be very sympathetic and understanding of their reality while still getting the information you need to run your business.
Because communication can be spotty in some areas after a disaster, try to contact the vendor through multiple channels, including phone, email, and social media networks. If you are unable to directly get information from the company, search online for news about it (and its location) to get a general idea of the level of damage done by the storm, as well as how long it may take to recover.
2. Make a plan to minimize the effects on your business.
Based on the extent of the vendor’s damage, determine what you should do next to keep your business operating. If your supplier expects to be up and running next week, then you can most likely make do for a few days.
However, if the vendor’s operation suffered major damage, then you may need a solid interim solution, such as looking for another vendor that will allow you to sign a short-term contract in the face of the disaster. If they suffered a total loss, start looking for a new partner immediately. You probably won't be the only one.
3. Communicate with your customers.
Most people are aware that Sandy did billions of dollars of damage — and that recovery efforts are often slow. Let your customers know about any impact the storm is having on your ability to provide their products and services. Share your plan for continuing to provide the best service possible. For example, when Ann Taylor had issues with its website last week (because of power outages in New York and Connecticut), the company posted a notice on its Facebook page and sent an email to its customers.
Put a message on the product page of your website if you are currently out of stock of an item due to the storm. Restaurants who did not receive their shipment of certain items can put a note in each menu. A mass email to your customers may work best if your website server is currently under water at the Jersey shore, though you may require a temporary service provider to do so.
Jennifer Gregory is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.