Sorry to be a buzzkill during your last tanning session of 2015, but it’s time to start thinking about winter.
You probably haven’t even carved your first jack-o'-lantern yet, but you don’t need a promo for Game of Thrones to tell you that winter is coming. And winter brings with it a long list of things you need to do to get your business ready.
Now is the time to prepare your business – the building, the people, and the intangible information you have – for the long cold months of winter. Here are some tips to winterize your small business.
Winterizing Your Business’ Building
First, check all your caulking and weather stripping around windows and doorways. This won’t just benefit you during cold winter months by keeping warm air in, but also during summer by keeping hot air out. And those air conditioning bills can make heat bills look tame.
Next, check your insulation in all parts of the building. Even though this might be your landlord’s responsibility, make sure all the heating ducts are properly insulated so your furnace can run cooler. And if you can, replace screen doors and windows for glass doors since they insulate better.
Finally, make sure your pipes are properly insulated. Outdoor pipes should be covered in pre-split polyethylene, but also check inside pipes in areas that aren’t completely heated. Nothing will ruin your winter faster than watching a burst pipe flood your business while you wait for a plumber to make an emergency service call.
Be Proactive When Preparing Your Business for Winter
Winterizing your small business means more than just keeping the warm air in. You need to be prepared for the nasty winter weather to come.
First, figure out how you’re going to handle snow and ice that will inevitably invade your storefront. Again, if it’s not your landlord’s responsibility, make arrangements with a local snow removal company ahead of time to service your business when the winter weather gets nasty. Not only will a snowed-in parking lot keep customers away, it can also get your business fined in some cities.
If you’ve got company vehicles, get them ready for winter with snow tires and/or chains. Then be sure to top off all the fluid levels and get an emergency kit in the back with flares, water and emergency food.
Speaking of emergency supplies, having a generator available at your business is a good idea if you live in an area where winter storms routinely knock out power. Along with that generator, you should put together a standard emergency kit, plus maybe a portable radio, flashlights, and lots and lots of batteries.
Then, take a look at the landscaping on your business’ property. Are there trees that sit a little too close to your building that might cave your roof in during a snow storm? Or do you see low-hanging branches that might snap off when weighed down with snow? Plants grow slower in the winter so get everything pruned back as far as you can in early October to prevent any landscaping disasters.
Finally, clean out your storm drains better than you think you need to. Standing water in your storm drains can expand when it freezes and burst the drains, leaving you with a big issue when warmer rains come.
Prepare Your People and Assets for Winter
Winterizing your business with pre-storm preparation isn’t just limited to your business’ physical space. You need your people and your technology to be ready too.
Whether your city shuts down when it gets two inches of snow or its residents just embrace winter and slog through the snow, it is critical to have an inclement weather plan in place before the weather turns nasty. Clearly explain to your employees what is expected of them when the roads make it too dangerous to drive to work. This might include contingencies for working at home, or a standard policy regarding when the office will and won’t shut down.
Along the same lines, make sure all of your data is backed up. A storm can knock out power, and sometimes damage servers as well. While you really should always be backing up your data, during the winter it’s especially important in the case of extreme storm damage.
Additional Items to Check
Even if you do all that preparation, winter can still cost your small business. But there are a few things you can do to mitigate those expenses.
First, invest in a fan that will rotate both ways. In the summer, have it run counterclockwise to circulate cold air. That’ll save on your air conditioning bill. Then in the winter run it clockwise so it pushes warm air from the top of the room to the floor.
Also, review your business’ insurance policy and double check what it covers. You’d be surprised how many winter events may not be included. If you think this winter will be particularly brutal, it’s probably a good idea to talk to your insurance agent and see if you are indeed insured against your roof caving in from snow.
Winter is tough everywhere (ok, everywhere that actually has winter). But with the right preparation and the proper mindset, you can effectively winterize your business and prevent this added stress during the holiday season. If you follow these winter-preparedness tips for your small business, then the only thing you’ll have to worry about is that cold walk from the front door to your car. Make the most of your wintertime, and your business will be running at full force when the warmer months return in the spring.