Lessons for Entrepreneurs in the Wake of Disaster


Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have been devastating blows to the people and businesses of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes and are struggling to keep their businesses. No one could have predicted the amount of rainfall or damages that these hurricanes have inflicted. However, in the wake of such tragedy, there are lessons for entrepreneurs to be learned, particularly in relation to how the rescue and recovery effort has gone.

Planning is everything

As entrepreneurs, we often put out daily fires and get caught up in the day-to-day issues that impact our businesses. We seemingly don’t have time to look at the bigger picture for planning. After all, there is a good chance that not many big events will occur that will adversely impact our business. We don’t want to think about them or allocate resources for those just-in-case situations.

Then something as monumental and unexpected as this flood occurs, and we wish that we had taken the time to create a disaster recovery or business continuity plan. This moment is now happening for entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the Southeast. You can never plan too much. And, while planning won’t protect everything, it certainly can’t hurt when it comes to saving your assets, backing up critical data and finding a way to pick up and start operating your business once the disaster clears.

There is no time like the present to start planning how to address any natural disasters or unexpected problems that could inhibit your business from operating or put your data at risk. Start by looking at where you stand now in terms of risks. You can seek outside help to locate all your vulnerabilities. From there, create action steps on what to do should a disaster strike; list roles and responsibilities, and put it all in writing to share with your team.

Resilience is an important trait

Watching what people are doing in the wake of this disaster proves the resilience of the human spirit. It shows us that we can take on anything and should have a positive frame of mind no matter what we face. Resilience is knowing that you will survive because you are proactively addressing what needs to be taken care of rather than worrying about the outcome.

This is also where being creative is a must — as is the willingness to pivot. Thinking fast on your feet is a critical trait to maximize your resilient spirit. If one approach doesn’t work, try a different one. Keep going until you figure it out. Just look at the people out there who are helping find and rescue those trapped. If one method hasn’t worked, people have gone as far as to form a human chain just to reach someone. It’s the idea that we will all survive and come out stronger.

You can never be too busy to help those in need

Whether you are successful or struggling, both positions are better served by helping others. We can all spare some time to donate our talents or money to another organization. With the flooding in Houston, there were people who left their jobs to start collecting supplies or joined with rescue operations to save trapped animals and people.

It should be an impulse in all entrepreneurs to go help others when the situation arises. Not only does it feel good, but it reminds us just how fortunate we are in our own lives and businesses. This new sense of appreciation can also serve us well in our outlook with our own businesses. When you think it’s bad, step back and look at the people who are still smiling despite the fact their house is under water and they’ve just lost all their personal effects. They are alive and that’s what is important.

If you are nearby, find out what organizations need volunteers to help at shelters or rescue efforts. If far away, check with local aid agencies to find out where you can send donations of money and items. Always seek out recognizable organizations to make sure your help reaches those in need.

Start thinking about new solutions for disasters

It’s disasters like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma that teach us the world is still in desperate need of new ideas about how to solve age-old problems. In the case of this flooding, we could use entrepreneurs’ ingenuity to think about new opportunities for rebuilding cities that can better handle such environmental problems.

It also requires more innovation in terms of addressing climate change and what society is doing to the planet. Disasters can be reduced and even eliminated if we continue brainstorming new products and processes. This is our chance to make things better. For example, many technology experts have been working on internet of things devices and connections to build smart cities, including early warning systems and new planning and development mapping to help minimize city vulnerability to the harsh elements.

Better united rather than solo

While some choose to take the every-man-for-themselves approach, when people work together to gather thousands of pounds of supplies, help rescue people and animals and open up and run shelters, we can make the biggest impact. More can be accomplished when people collaborate.

I think that having a partner helps my business, products, customer base and revenue develop faster. Collaboration maximizes available resources and generates a higher rate of productivity to improve the odds of winning. Disaster waits for no one. It is definitely important to think things through.