Posted: Thu 20th Dec 2012
Winter can bring a mixed bag of fortune to small businesses. Retailers may see profits spike and services may be in demand over the festive season. But as the last few weeks have shown us, no business, however small, is immune to the havoc that can be wreaked by extreme weather.
So as the winter gets underway, it's time to batten down the hatches and prepare, prepare, prepare. Here are ten tips for getting through the season from Enterprise Nation partner AXA Business Insurance.
1. Be security savvy.
Dark nights mean that thieves can often operate undetected. Make sure you have adequate lighting around your home and office. An intruder alarm is useful, particularly if your home or office building is vulnerable or isolated. CCTV can be an effective deterrent to thieves and is especially important if you keep stock in a storage facility.
2. Get ready for winter.
Carry out essential repairs to your home and office. Pipes should be adequately lagged, your heating boiler should be serviced if not already done in the last 12 months, the roof checked for loose tiles and the gutters for blockages that can cause damp problems if left. If your customers or clients are hurt while on your premises you could be liable, so make sure they don't end up under a falling branch or fence panel! Public liability insurance will pay out if your clients have an accident on your premises.
3. Protect your equipment and stock.
If you live in a flood prone area, make sure your equipment and stock is stored above flood level and take advice on how to prepare your premises from the Environment Agency and your insurance company. AXA Business Insurance has a guide on flooding for small businesses. Don't forget - if you are aware of a flood warning, make sure your car and/or vans are moved to high ground also rather than watching it float away!
4. Keep your premises ice free.
Slip and trip accidents increase in winter due to snow and ice and it's your responsibility to stop this from happening. You need to keep your driveways and walkways free of ice so that your customers don't slip while visiting your premises. Keep records of when you clear the snow and ice and make sure your staff are wearing suitable clothing and good footwear to avoid slipping. Your local authority may be able to advise you on how to prevent accidents from ice. The Government also has information on gritting.
5. Prepare for power cuts.
In severe weather it's not uncommon for areas to be without power for several days. Make sure your data is backed up, perhaps in the cloud, so that you don't lose your information and can continue working from alternative premises. Where you have staff, think about the issues they may have travelling or looking after kids if the schools close.
6. Make a plan.
Draw up a plan outlining how your business will survive bad weather. You'll need to consider whether you or your staff can work from home, if you don't already, and that you have the technology in place to enable you to do that. Your home technology will be covered under your home contents insurance policy for home use, but you'll need to arrange for business cover if you use it for work too.
7. Fit winter tyres.
If you drive a vehicle for work and you live in a snow-prone area, you may need to swap your standard tyres for winter tyres. The AA gives advice on motoring in winter and recommendations on tyre tread widths. Remember, in snow a car fitted with winter tyres can stop eight metres earlier when driven at 30mph than one with 'normal tyres' - that's a full two cars length! Also keep a shovel, blanket, antifreeze and food and drink in your vehicle in case of emergencies.
8. Reduce your energy bills.
The Carbon Trust gives advice on how to increase the energy efficiency of your business and save money on your heating bills at the same time. It may seem frivolous to keep heating on while you're trying to save energy, but if you set your thermostat to keep heating on low, at a minimum of 13 degrees, this will prevent pipes bursting. This is especially important if your building is unoccupied over Christmas.
9. Look after your stock.
If you own a shop, you're likely to have extra stock to see you over the Christmas season. If you have shop insurance with us, you'll automatically get a 25 per cent increase in stock cover from November through to January at no extra cost.
10. Check your insurance.
Finally, check that you have the insurance that your business needs. Insurance is there to provide a safety while you get on and run your business. Our Business Insurance Wizard will help you to work out what cover your business really needs. Save 15% on insurance with AXA AXA Business Insurance is an Enterprise Nation partner. Photo credit: Biscarotte