WITH harsh weather on the way, small firms are being urged to ensure they are ready to deal with whatever the elements throw at them.
SMEs can be particularly vulnerable to the impact of freak weather events, which have risen sharply in the UK over the past decade, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) said.
With a cold snap predicted for the rest of the month, the FPB said that firms should start planning for problems now and look at how they will deal with weather-related issues.
The FPB’s Robert Downes said: “Disruptive weather such as heavy snow and unusually cold weather hampers deliveries, triggers heating and power failures, and can often mean employees can’t get to work.
“Recent winters have demonstrated just how susceptible the UK is to extreme weather, and the cost to business quickly runs into millions. When infrastructure grinds to a halt and staff can’t get to work it can be a body blow to small firms, and those businesses with the least staff are hit the hardest.
“So it’s essential for small and micro businesses do all they can to mitigate the impact, and being proactive now will mean not having to rush out a reactive plan once bad weather strikes. It can be as simple as allowing staff to work from home if possible. Do they have a computer, can they access their company emails – these are simple things but if they aren’t pre-arranged they can’t happen.” Figures from pollsters YouGov show that previous heavy snowfall caused problems for 37% of small firms and 13% said they were “seriously” impacted by the weather.
The data, following the major snowfalls of 2010, also showed that 34% of workers experienced problems getting to work, with 10% unable to get in at all at some point.
Mr Downes said: “Businesses need to think about their contingency plans now. At the very least firms which are able to allow staff to work from home should plan ahead. With just a couple of inches of snow able to prevent most people from using a car, this kind of simple pre-planning means staff will be able to do as much work from home as possible. They might not be as productive as if they were in the office, but it’s better than nothing.”
He warned that a “high percentage” of businesses hit by bad weather never reopen or go bust soon afterwards.
“This is often not due to the immediate loss of goods and premises, which is usually covered by insurance payouts,” said Mr Downes.
“It’s because the company’s inability to resume trading within a short space of time means clients and customers go elsewhere, potentially undoing years of hard work spent building the business up.”