In many areas of the US, we are subject to devastating storms or other natural disasters like wild fires, earthquakes, and other things.
My question to you today as an Owner or Manager of a used car lot (or other small business) is: Are You Ready For It?
What that means is that since these disasters can usually render your entire business to a pile of ash or rubble, what will you do The Day After?
It’s important to have a Disaster Recovery Plan. This plan consists of a WRITTEN set of action that you and your employees will take when that disaster is imminent. Some things to have on this plan are:
Backups of computers that contain important data or images of documents.
These backups need to be on removable devices that can be taken away from the location. I also recommend that you have multiple backups, and those backups stored in different off-site locations.
Online backups with reputable companies can be your second backup, but should not be your primary, since at times, your access to the Internet may be limited or unavailable for several days. Some examples are:
- Google Drive
- Microsoft OneDrive
- Mozy Pro
There are many others. Yes, there are costs associated, and you need to review how large a single backup set is, and get 25 times that size. Compare services to get the best deal for what you need.
The better plans include an app installed on the computers that automatically backs up selected folders. Set it, implement it, then verify it after a backup to make sure you are getting everything needed. Review this backup monthly to ensure you continue to have the backups that are crucial.
Whichever one you use, it MUST be secured with a strong password, and access should be limited to only key management employees.
Printed reports detailing Inventory, Accounts Receivable and Payables, Revenue, and Payroll.
Yes, PRINTED. On paper, and then secured in a safe at home or other offsite secured location. You can also create PDF files of the printed reports, if your software allows, and store those on your backup devices or online storage. But the printed version may be necessary if your power is out and access to the internet is limited.
If your software does not have a “Save to PDF” option on the reports, then set the Printer to one of the “Print to PDF” printers that are in almost every computer’s printer list. Selecting Print on these prompts you to name the file and define where the file is to be stored.
Print these out regularly, like on the first day of each month, and make a new print before leaving in front of the storm or other approaching disaster.
When preparing for an incoming storm or other destructive force, one of the last things to do is to quickly take an inventory of the units on hand for sale, and other items such as computers or other office machines, shop equipment, tools, and note any customer cars on site. Consider taking primary computers and printers with you out of the path of the destruction. Encourage employees to take expensive tools or personal items home.
Secured Storage for irreplaceable or hard-to-replace documents.
The laws typically allow that a scanned image of a signed document such as a Finance Contract or Bill of Sale is an acceptable replacement for an original. Always have scanned images of:
- Sales documents, including customer verification items, after a sale is complete.
- Employee documentation.
- Purchase invoices.
- Official notifications such as Bankruptcy Notifications, Federal or State Regulatory notifications/letters, and letters from attorneys.
These are mush easier to find on a computer than sifting through file cabinets anyway. Organize the files into folders that group similar items. Name the PDF or image with a name that indicates what it is, to whom it pertains, and the date of the file. For example, the sale documents should have a name like: SALEDOCS_CASH_ACCT4156_SMITH_JON_2020.10.10.PDF SALEDOCS_BHPH_ACCT5055_REED_AMY_2020.05.06.PDF SALEDOCS_BANKFIN_ACCT5144_BENSON_GILLUAME_2020.10.12.PDF
The current BHPH accounts will be in a folder called SALESBHPHCURRENT and the former accounts or Cash deals will be in a folder called SALESPAIDOUT.
Inventory records: INVREC_STK5598_2010FORDF150_VINA10598_2020.09.05.INSTK.PDF INVREC_STK5598_2010FORDF150_VINA10598_2020.11.15.SOLD.PDF
Inventory folders will be INV_INSTK and INV_SOLD
Employee Files: EMPFILE_EMP504_MASON_SUSAN_E_2009.05.04.CURRENT.PDF EMPFILE_EMP128_WILSON_JEFF_K_2007.12.14.FORMER.PDF
But things like Car Titles, Deeds, Business Licenses, Tax Certificates, and other official papers must (usually) have the original form. Have a plan to either get duplicates (when legal to have them) or to secure the ones on site. Don’t assume which is which! Get some qualified advice!
If you take such things home or to another off-site location, use a fire- and water-proof safe to store them in. It’s also a good idea to have that inside the business as well.
Take photographs of the business before leaving.
Simple to do with a smart phone, just walk around take some pictures of the building inside and out, wide view shots of the inventory, any customer cars that will remain, and shop equipment.
As soon as you can get back on site, take the same photos again, especially if the items are damaged. These will go a LONG way towards establishing insurance or disaster relief claims.
CHECK YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE!
This part is crucial. Many businesses lose a lot after a disaster due to lack of insurance coverage for certain situations.
I talked to a used car dealer once who did not disclose to his long-time insurance company that he had added a small shop to the business, and after a fire, the insurance company would not cover the building addition or the shop equipment.
In hurricane areas, your insurance typically does not cover flooding, and the insurance companies consider storm surge to be “flooding.” Make sure you have flood coverage if you are within a certain distance of the coastal areas, or within the “flood plain” of a river.
If you need to, name a person to be responsible for the plan, and give them the authority to implement it.
Finally, once the plan is put in effect, review it at least annually, and revise it as needed.
Thanks for visiting and reading. Remember, useful and clean comments are always welcome, as well as requests for a topic.