Business owners - ask for help post-Cyclone Marcia



Allan Johnson

THE post-cyclone carnage in our business community is starting to match the devastation suffered by the region's trees during the height of the cyclone.

Just like the trees, very few businesses have escaped the aftermath unscathed.

Most businesses that were lucky enough to avoid physical damage to their premises have still been badly impacted by the subsequent loss of power. This has caused a loss of stock and/or a week's trade during the traditionally slow post-Christmas period when the focus is on paying off the Christmas credit card bills, paying off the costs of back-to-school and "Oh no, here come the rates".

Add to that the inadvertent (and serious) damage to computer equipment caused by the relatively "dirty" power provided by generators as businesses tried vainly to re-open early.

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Therefore it should be no surprise that many business owners are simply unable or unwilling to maintain the struggle and continue trading.

While insurance always helps, the cost of maintaining adequate levels of cover when trading conditions are poor makes the necessity of protection a relative luxury.

Being underinsured or suffering uninsured damage merely adds to the business owner's misery.

It could be argued that, like the trees, the strongest and fittest businesses have survived.

Now I'm not an arborist but it seems to me that the surviving trees (and businesses) are going to need two or three good growing seasons before they will have fully recovered.

For the trees, that may be possible. Unfortunately for businesses, recent history would suggest this may not happen.

Across Australia, 75% of business owners would be better off on wages so it's not a pretty picture.

Remember, every time a tree came down in the cyclone, it caused some damage to whatever was in close proximity.

Similarly, when a business collapses, it causes damage to other associated businesses, whether as a lost supplier, lost customer (and then there are the unpaid debts).

So, business owners, please ask for as much help as you can for your business. Help is more readily available for citizens than for business owners. You need to rely on your network of support (suppliers, industry associations, bankers etc) - don't try to do it alone.

Family and friends of business owners should also check in frequently. Knowing that support is available there (even if it is only moral support) could make a major difference to the outcome.

Of course, there are winners in every situation and it would be difficult to wipe the smiles off the faces of the tree loppers in town. I suspect the faces of the corporate undertakers will be similarly joyful.

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