Encouragement and Guidance to Houston Small Business Owners

Aug 30, 2017, Written by Sue Miley

Houston Small Business

With the recent hurricane and continued flooding in the Houston area, we thought our blog post from last year as Baton Rouge struggled through the Great Flood of 2016 may be of help to Houston small business owners.  This post is applicable to any area of the country that is facing catastrophic affects of natural disasters and weather-related crisis.  

The Houston area is still going through this event and it is still too early to measure the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Some are speculating that this may be the worst disaster of its kind in U.S. history. What Houston is experiencing may top the record of the most rainfall of any hurricane or tropical storm in our nation’s history. The death toll is up to 14, including a family of 6 that was tragically swept away while trying to evacuate.

Being residents of Baton Rouge, we empathize greatly and are praying for friends and residents impacted by the hurricane and flooding.  We are also praying for businesses and small business owners whose business may be impacted.  Please let us know if you have any specific questions or prayer requests.

 

How do you stay focused when the entire market changed overnight?  How can you stay flexible and adapt and still remain focused?  This is the state of our community…the community we do business in.

The statistics roll through my Facebook feed over and over as friends share them:

110,000 homes (31%) within the nine-parish Greater Baton Rouge Area are located in regions that were subject to flooding, with an estimated value of $20.7 billion – this does not include the value of their contents or the value of automobiles lost to the flood.

7,364 businesses (21%) representing 73,907 workers are located in areas that were subject to flooding.

In addition to these 7,000 businesses that directly flooded, almost all businesses in the Greater Baton Rouge Area are impacted.  Businesses that employ the 70,000 workers and another few hundred thousand people who did not flood, but are helping by sharing their homes, their time and resources.

Your Business Is Important to God

Since this is a business blog, this post will focus on the small business owners in town who I know need some encouragement but feel it isn’t right to be worried since so much of the city is in worse shape.

First of all, please know that your business is important to God.  Yes, He wants us to all be physically safe, have a roof over our heads, and food for our sustenance; but the Lord created work as a means to provide these things.  As a business owner, I know you have more than just yourself and your own family to worry about, you probably have a few employees or a lot of employees, who are also depending on you for their families.

During a crisis like this there are three positions you may be in:

  1. Flooded and not sure how or when you will be able to get back in business.
  2. In a business that is or will be negatively affected by the situation.
  3. In a business that can serve our community; although, it is difficult because you feel like you are capitalizing on other’s misfortune.

Over the past week, talking to many business clients, we have seen the same range of emotions that go through any human heart in a time of tragedy: fear, anger, worry, shame, compassion, empathy.  The emotions run the gamut.

A Business Inventory Gives You A Starting Point For Planning

As many of you come back to work this week, I want to suggest a few first steps:

  1. Focus on your current situation.  Do a business inventory:
    • Will my business suffer during this season?
    • Do I have sources of cash or cash reserves to sustain my business and employees for a while?  How long?
    • If not, can I get a line of credit or some other backup source of cash.  (Contact me for some ideas on how to collateralize.)
    • Do I have people to work?  Can my employees get here?  Do I need other help?  Will by employees be wooed away by high paying temporary projects due to the floods?
    • What are my customer’s needs right now?  Can our business fulfill them as needed?  What does our business need in order to meet our customers’ needs?
  2. Think about how your business could be able to help in this season. I know we don’t like to think about taking advantage of our neighbors and I am not suggesting to gouge people with our services.  However, we do want our local businesses to get the business.  We don’t want outside companies coming in and capitalizing on our loss if we have businesses in Baton Rouge that need the work.  This is practical planning.  If you have a business that can help in the recovery, you may have a different inventory:
    • Assess which of your services can help the most, if not all of them.
    • Think about a strategy that is right in your wheelhouse.  For some businesses it will be doing a part of a process (i.e. supplying specific equipment or goods), for others it is a turnkey process (i.e. full home renovation).  The important thing is to determine how your business can best help and focus on that.  If you try to do a little of everything and you are not set up for it, you may not gain any traction and end up suffering in quality or missing any real opportunity for your business.
    • Assess your resources.  If a part of your business will grow significantly due to the recovery, do you have the workers?  Do you have the cash flow to ramp up and/or wait for payments to come in?  Do you have the equipment required?
    • How will you get the word out?  I believe that Facebook has been one of the heroes in this whole mess.  It has truly been the single main source of communication from saving lives literally to finding friends and love ones.  Although Facebook has not been traditionally a B2B platform, I believe everyone is on it right now as this common communication medium.  This may be a start, but in general, an online digital marketing strategy should be considered.
  3. Develop a list of actions you need to take in the next two weeks. It is hard to wrap our minds around.  We think about how to get through the day and then our mind skips to what we will do in 6 months when our money runs out.  We think about all of the opportunity we could have but we are scared to ramp up for it just in case.  Start with the practical steps based on your inventories above.  Start there and knock these things out.  I know it is hard to concentrate sometimes and we feel guilty working when we should be out helping someone save their home.  But your business is a part of helping people.  It is feeding your family and your employee’s families.  It’s okay to carve out some time to work on it.  Actually it is necessary.  Focus on getting your business solidified for the near term by taking care of the inventory items in short supply identified above.

Stay Flexible and Adjust with New Information 

I know these are just the first steps..  As our city and our community are in flux, our businesses must stay flexible and nimble to adjust with it.  As time moves forward, more information becomes available.

There will be new steps and strategies to consider and adapt to.  We will be posting ideas and strategies here at Crossroads daily for a while.  So please check back or sign-up to get our emails.

Let us know if you need help going through an inventory for your business and coming up with the best strategy for you and your team in the near term.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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