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Prepare for the Worst, Hoping for the Best

What you can do to protect your business, your employees and yourself during times of unrest.

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The civic unrest spreading across the U.S. and other countries offers yet another challenge for entrepreneurs. From the managers of big-box chains to the corner mom-and-pop liquor store, it turns out that our business troubles have not ended with the post-quarantine reopenings.

Getty Images/pabbohart

What strategies can a business take right now, today, that will help ensure that their businesses survive and come back to thrive when this unwieldy time comes to an end?

1. Protect your assets

During the Los Angeles riots of 1992, the social unrest spilled out into my placid suburb 18 miles from the downtown area. Looters tore apart local stores and burned many. Later, the business owners I knew and others who were interviewed by the media said, "I never thought it would come this far!" While insurance can help you, not having to deal with the tedious, time-consuming process of insurance is an even better option. Remove key business equipment and inventory, data and data backups to a safe location. Put up the plywood, pull the blinds, lock the gate.

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2. Film and record your inventory

Gather up receipts and bills of lading and scan or copy them. Most people assume that the receipts for goods will prove to the insurance team that you had those goods — that you really made those repairs or bought those assets. Don't count on it! It can be extremely hard to remember, much less prove, what you had after the fact, especially if your composure is shaken by the events that led to the losses. Take videos of your storeroom, office, structure or anything you want to be able to prove you have. Date-stamp it or put a current newspaper in front of it. The customers' items in your dry cleaning or shoe shop? Their cars in your garage? Photograph it all in great detail, and then store the proof offsite. I lost my home and my office building in a Malibu wildfire, so I am speaking from experience here: Even a fire safe can melt.

3. Ensure the well-being of your team

While it is certainly tempting at this time to squeeze every last penny from any day's operation, it's more important that you protect your people. Let them go home early, close up shop and make human safety your highest priority. While this certainly might pinch, imagine for a moment your name in the newspaper as the proprietor of a business that didn't close and whose people were injured or frightened — or worse — by unrest.

4. Stay clear

While avoidance may seem obvious to some, there is a very human tendency to want to defend our lives and property. This is not the time for heroics. Every time there's a wildfire in California or a flood or a hurricane in the South, there are always a few people who thought that staying home with a garden hose, a sump pump and some sandbags was somehow a good idea. It's not. Do the best you can to protect your business, but evacuate the area. Not only do you not want to be injured, you also don't want to cause an additional burden to the first responders. What's left will be left when you return. Go home and wait it out in safety if you have the luxury.

Related: Twitter Slapped a 'Glorifying Violence' Label on a Trump Tweet That Threatened Protesters

While we'd like for this volatility to be over, it's likely time to start accepting that after twin worldwide traumas like the coronavirus and social upheaval following George Floyd's killing, things will permanently change. Take stock of your business trajectory and your life. You have been given another time out, an extended break, to rethink how you want to live the remainder of your days. Allow yourself a moment of reflection to make sure your future develops the way you most sincerely desire.

Wendy Keller has owned her sixth business for 31 years and counting. She helps people with valuable messages to become successfully published nonfiction authors, speakers, coaches and consultants.

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