Sunday, September 11, 2011


Mom 'n' Pop need
Survival Plan


The other day Theresa (Tess) Smalley posted a note to an Emergency Management list that reminds me that Mom-n-Pop operations need risk management plans, too.

It also reminds me that (a) most Mom-n-Pops cannot afford our corporate rates and (b) that we need sponsors to market our services to the Moms-n-Pops of the world.

Most Mom-n-Pop organizations don't need 200-page plans; there simply are not that many people working there and there are not that many processes to document and train responders to perform.

Instead of taking six to 12 months to create a plan as is typical for a Big Company, a good practitioner ought to be able to create a decent plan in, say, two weeks. Allow another week for the client to review the results and perhaps a day or two to do some minimal training.

Tess' story that prompts this is as follows:

    The story is about a private child care center that has about 100 customers. They got flooded in the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. 4 feet of water came into the building then dissipated by morning. The center closed. They called parents late night/early morning to tell them that the center was closed. Most of the teachers and some parents showed up that morning to help clean. Many other parents that did not get the message showed up expecting to drop their child so that they could go to work. There was a lot of frustration and down right anger when they discovered that wasn't going to happen. Things that could have happened differently:
    1. There was a creek of some sort right behind the school, yet it had not occurred to the school that they might flood. They have no plans and no flood insurance.
    2. They do not seem to have as many after-hours contact numbers as they should. I'm sure they have daytime numbers since they need them if the kids are injured, but it is very possible they didn't recognize that there may be a very different number to call at 4am.
    3. They did not have a plan in place and when disaster struck, they did not think on their feet. They did not consider the impact to their customers, only the impact to themselves. Those teachers that showed up would have been better used setting up a temporary child care somewhere else (even if that meant renting a hotel conference room or moving in temporarily with another child care center). It was a waste to have these specialized professionals scooping mud while the parents were struggling to find alternate child care so that they don't miss work and get fired.
    4. They weren't willing and prepared to spend money to fix the problem, hence it is likely they'll lose a lot of their customers and could ultimately go under from it. They could easily have hired people to clean (for example) rather than re-purpose their teachers and thus free the teachers up to do child care.

OK, so who can market our services to Mom-n-Pops to generate enough business to keep us busy and pay our bills?

Two choices come quickly to mind.

Insurance companies' local agents, and accountants.

Insurance agents

Insurance agents should promote risk management to reduce their company's losses "in the event of."

Most Mom-n-Pop's probably don't carry business interruption insurance or Officer and Director insurance (although the second should be a consideration), but they DO carry the standard property and casualty (P&C) insurance and they pay into Workman's Compensation funds - more if there have been claims against the fund by employees.

Risk management would look at all risks to the operation. The same basic risks as for any organization, making certain to include employee safety. (Does that piece of mechanical gear have a guard device in place? Are there slip and fall possibilities that are less than obvious - and even if they are obvious, are they mitigated with signage or other warnings?)

As with most things "risk management," the practitioner might want to seek outside help from sundry Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), most of whom will provide their expertise gratis - free, even. I'm thinking of insurance adjustors, police for security, fire marshal for fire safety, building inspector for building safety, perhaps even someone from an environmental agency - is the facility in a flood plain?


Many Mom-n-Pops depend on Mom to keep the books, but most Moms are smart enough to seek assistance from a real accountant - certified or not - to make certain the books will pass government muster.

Accountants could offer risk management as a value added service. This is a win-win-win situation: the account wins by offering his client an opportunity to get a risk management plan from an accountant-approved practitioner; the client wins by getting an economical plan from a qualified practitioner, and of course the practitioner wins by having an income.

The practitioner performs the same service for the Mom-n-Pop no matter who - insurance agent or accountant - provides the lead.

What the practitioner must do

The practitioner needs to create a small brochure - this can be done on the home or office computer and copied at a quick print outlet. The brochure needs to be factual more than fancy; it needs to show how risk management can help an organization identify risks and suggest ways to avoid or mitigate the risks - without giving away the practitioner's expertise.

Next, the practitioner needs to introduce him/herself to the agents and accountants.

A smart practitioner might go in with some suggestions to the agent/accountant to show the practitioner is professional and experienced.

Bottom line: Mom-n-Pops need risk management as much as General Motors and General Foods. Mom-n-Pops need to be able to afford a risk management practitioner's services.

Risk management practitioners need to be kept busy- volume can make up for deflated hourly rates.

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