Chamber Members: Weathering the Storm

How has your business responded when things went wrong? In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, two Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce members stepped up for their teams, customers and the communities affected. Find out how they gave back – and how your business can be better prepared.

Beyond business

Scott Teel and his team are used to being calm, cool and collected during a crisis. It’s what they do at Agility Recovery, and they’re focused on ensuring businesses can limit their downtime when they face anything from a phone outage to a natural disaster. They cover 4,000 businesses at 30,000 locations across the U.S. and Canada.

The majority of their customer liaisons are here in Denver. When these two hurricanes made landfall within two weeks of each other, “we were working around the clock 24/7 for about 40 days,” said Teel, Agility’s senior director of communications.

Their team helped companies restore their power and find temporary workspace while flood-damaged offices were repaired. Some traveled to the affected areas. Seeing such widespread impact, their team wanted to do more. Teel says they polled their employees to determine what organizations they wanted to support and would pool donations to maximize their impact – giving to Team Rubicon, the Texas Diaper Bank, Global Giving and food banks and humane societies in Texas and Florida.

Listening to your team

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Ardent Mills’ sister company, Molinos de Puerto Rico, took the brunt of the storm, said COO Bill Stoufer. Their team was luckily all accounted for and dealing with the aftermath of the storm. But, they all knew the impact of their mill in feeding the island and those in the surrounding Caribbean.

“Molinos and our customers really led this obligation to feed people. It was mission critical,” Stoufer said. “The food industry did an awesome job picking itself up and feeding people on the island.”

Molinos was up and running about a week after the storm. Ardent Mills worked to ensure the Molinos water system was up and running – especially so their team could bring water back to their homes. They put washers and dryers on site, provided three meals a day and made a barber available. And, they paid for the fuel their staffers were using at their homes. Without electricity, they also couldn’t access their bank accounts, so they helped their team access cash.

It was all about bringing some normalcy back to their days: “It was just listening to your team,” Stoufer said, adding: “I’m proud to say our team is as spirited as ever.”

An Ardent Mills team member created a GoFundMe page for hurricane relief for their colleagues who were affected. It has raised over $25,000 and Ardent Mills is matching $40,000.

How to prepare your business

Teel said it’s not just a question of if your business will be affected by a disaster of some sort – from a power outage to a weather event like a hurricane – it’s a question of when. He offered tips on how businesses can prepare.

Read more: Disasters are just one consideration for ensuring you have a safe, secure workplace. Prepare and protect your business for any scenario.

Start with power. Recent outages at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport show that power can go out at any time – and can create headaches for your business. That doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a generator, Teel said, but he does recommend first understanding how much power your business uses.

Watch the weather. And that’s not just where your business is located – with businesses and their suppliers and vendors crossing borders throughout the country and the globe, “it’s not always about what the threats are just in your own backyard,” Teel said. He suggests getting to know the other locations you do business in and understanding where you may face impacts – and diversifying those relationships as needed.

Understand your insurance. With 2018 approaching, it’s a good time to revisit your business insurance policy and be sure you understand what is covered (and what may not be, like expenses).

Teel also suggests resources through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration to learn more.

“Invest a few minutes to look at some of the best and most impactful preparedness steps you can take,” he said. “You have to consider it just part of your overall business strategy.”

Sara Crocker is the communications manager for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.