5 Lessons for Small Business from the Boston Marathon Bombings

Tragedy and trauma are the words that come to mind when I remember the images of the bombings at the Boston Marathon’s finish line. As the days passed, and residents in Watertown, MA, and other areas were ordered to stay in their homes, I began to think about the impact that these events have on small business. Here’s my take.

  1. Always expect the unexpected. Life is unpredictable and your course can change in an instant. The best laid plans often have to be postponed, remade, or abandoned due to things beyond your control (e.g., weather, power outages, and now domestic terrorist events). Having a Plan B can come in handy.
  2. Consider business interruption coverage. Businesses near the site of the bombing had their glass blown out and suffered other property damage. These losses are probably covered by a business owners’ policy (BOP) (check whether your policy covers losses due to terrorist acts and riots because these occurrences may be excluded). But these businesses and others in the Boston/Cambridge area became part of crime scenes and were shut by authorities, causing substantial losses (e.g., Legal Seafood had to dispose of thousands of dollars of fish that could not be consumed because of the closure). Business interruption insurance provides protection in these instances, helping you pay your bills as well as giving you the profits you would have earned during the time you could not operate. Talk with your insurance agent about this coverage.
  3. Review your “absence” policy. Your doors may have been closed, or your business was outside the parameter of mandated closures, yet employees may have been unable to get to work. Transit systems were shut and residents in certain areas were told to stay put. Do you pay your workers for their absence? Businesses with strict policy about absences should re-think the treatment of workers who are prevented from showing up because of no fault of their own. A paycheck for these days means a lot (it’s a show of good faith to your workers and an indication of normalcy).
  4. Review your supply chain. Your business may be across the country, but if your suppliers were in Boston, your shipments may have been delayed. This is a lesson for businesses everywhere: Make sure to have alternate suppliers that you can turn to when your shippers—for whatever reason—cannot meet your needs.
  5. Enjoy every moment. Too often, company owners are so wrapped up in their business activities that they fail to enjoy the process. Take time to celebrate small achievements (such as landing a new customer), milestones (such as reaching your 5th year in business), and the personal and professional moments of your people (such as completing an education course, getting married, or being promoted).

Terrorist experts have predicted that events similar to the bombings in Boston may happen again, in other locations. While we don’t want to live in constant fear or to change our way of life, small alterations in our outlook and our actions can help us get through whatever we may face in the future.

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