5 ways to disaster-proof your business

As a small-business owner, the only certainty you can count on is uncertainty. Whether you run an established business or a start-up, solving problems and planning for new challenges never end. Sometimes, however, an unexpected challenge arrives as a full-blown crisis.

There are sure to be extraordinary events from time to time that happen without warning and cause absolute havoc. Emerging in one piece from such disasters is never easy, but it’s not impossible – provided you have planned for them. In some cases, you may be able to predict an oncoming disaster and avoid it. You can also put certain measures in place to stop an unforeseen emergency threatening your company.

Here are 5 ways to disaster-proof your business.

1. Make sure you have the relevant insurance cover

It’s hard to not begrudge the cost of business insurance when you’re trying to keep business expenses to a minimum, but it’s healthier to think of it as a lifejacket or a parachute – it must be there the first time you need it. As the past few years have demonstrated repeatedly, it’s wise to invest in a range of insurance products to cover all potential disasters.

You need to insure your business buildings, vehicles, contents and stock against fire and theft, but ensure that Sasria cover is also embedded in your policies. The state-owned insurer is the only body able to cover individuals and businesses against losses caused by riots, civil unrest and terrorism, or vandalism caused by public disorder. Always check that Sasria coverage is included in any cover you take out to protect your physical assets.

It’s also a good idea to have key-person insurance, or a death, disability and dread disease policy if you’re the owner and sole company member. An intensely personal loss like the death of the owner or a key executive can be a major crisis in a small company. Depending on the nature of your operations, you might need third-party liability cover if your business activities could cause anyone accidental injury.


Extreme weather events are likely to occur more often

You may also need further specialised policies, depending on the location or nature of your business. If your business is based in an area prone to flooding, for example, you’ll need flood insurance. If your business is in entertainment, live events or catering, business interruption insurance or income protection cover protects you if external events shut down your ability to trade.

It’s important to discuss all the details with an insurance advisor to identify all the potential threats to your business that you should insure against. If you’re a Small Business Services client or Private Clients accountholder, speak to your relationship banker about your insurance needs. They can put you in touch with a financial planner or risk advisor.

2. Pay attention to your online store

Offering your products or services for sale online has become a modern business requirement, so creating an online store is part of a sound strategy during normal trading, not just when disaster strikes. If you haven’t set one up already, you might want to read this blog that explains how easy it is. It’s worth investing in the advice of an expert to ensure your online store offers a seamless shopping experience, including reliable payment options and delivery partners, to build repeat business.

You can also be accessible to more customers if you register your online store with the AvoSuperShop. If you optimise your online store, you not only add an income stream to your current business, but you also have a potential lifeline if a disaster shuts down in-store trading.

3. Know where to find help

Making use of the free tools available can help you create a workable plan for your business to survive a sudden emergency. In a community like SimplyBiz powered by Nedbank, you can get new business skills, get funding for business development, get discounts on business supplies and get advertising across a broad market. The platform allows you to interact with potential mentors and other businesses, share experiences and tips, and find the right experts to help with any issue you face. You can learn more about business continuity disaster planning, for example, in this SimplyBiz article.


Forewarned is forearmed, so it pays to identify all potential disasters that could threaten your business


If a disaster is widespread and affecting businesses throughout the economy, as we saw with the arrival of Covid-19, you may also be able to get help from government departments or your bank. This could be in the form of direct disaster relief payments or bank services like supply chain financing and discounted invoicing. Learn more about how Nedbank can help when disaster strikes.

4. Maintain buildings and infrastructure properly

Maintain the buildings and fixtures of your business to stop problems before they start. Blocked drains and leaky gutters or roofs, for example, lead to problems like shorting electrical wiring, rotting ceilings or floors, and damp or mould on the walls.

Climate change has made this maintenance even more important. Extreme weather events are likely to occur more often, so the buildings and fixtures of your business will need to be protected against lightning, heavy rain or hailstorms, dangerously high winds and flash floods, or at the other end of the scale, prolonged droughts and huge wildfires. If you get your gutters, plumbing, electrical and IT infrastructure working correctly and properly secured against extreme weather, you lessen the chances of disastrous damage.

Other threats may be hidden in the surrounding geography: sinkholes and subsidence, or sandbanks that get saturated by heavy rain and become a landslide risk. Several rivers and drains converging could present a flood risk; untended bush on municipal land can grow into a wildfire hazard. Mitigating against these dangers is the job of local authorities, so short of being a vigilant and vocal member of the community to keep authorities focused on the issues, there isn’t much more you can do to remove the risk. You can, however, get advice from an expert to assess any such threats in your neighbourhood, and tailor your insurance coverage accordingly.

5. Have energy alternatives when the grid fails

Load-shedding has been part of the South African vocabulary since 2007, and many businesses have already installed battery-and-inverter systems to keep production going when the grid shuts down. Decades of poor maintenance in many municipalities have left the electricity infrastructure in a state of poor repair and subject to frequent breakdowns, made worse by criminal activity like cable-theft and illegal connections. A blown transformer or missing cables can leave a community without power for several days, even if there is no load-shedding.

A battery to provide power for a few hours may not be an adequate solution. You may want to investigate installing an industrial generator. It may work out more cost-effective in the long run to install a solar-power system that generates enough electricity to run your business completely off the grid. It might seem costly upfront, but it protects your business against extended grid failure while also cutting your electricity bill, so it will pay for itself over time.

Forewarned is forearmed, so it pays to identify all potential disasters that could threaten your business. If you can spot them before they pose a real danger, you can work on a plan to neutralise them.