It can be tough to rebuild after a natural disaster. In fact, 40 percent of small businesses don’t reopen their doors after disasters, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). With both hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many small businesses have been negatively affected. If you’re one of those small businesses, here are some tips to helping you get back on your feet.
- Be wary of scam businesses.
As you rebuild your business, you might get offers from other businesses. Of course, you should always conduct thorough research on a company before going into business with them, but it’s especially important now since your cash flow has been affected. Some things to keep in mind:
- Do some online research. Con artists are always in a rush to get you to agree and hand over your money. If the deal seems too good to be true, conduct some research online about the person and the business. You could also talk with someone you trust to get their advice. If the company keeps trying to push you quickly, it might not be legitimate.
- Don’t pay upfront or pay in advance. Otherwise, you run the risk of having your money taken and the business disappearing. It’s important to have a legally binding contract in place so you don’t get scammed.
- Consider how you pay. Credit cards are your best bet, as they have fraud protection built within them. Try to avoid paying through checks, cash or wire transfers.
- Sign up for fraud alerts. The Federal Trade Commission offers fraud alerts to give you the latest tips and advice for avoiding scammers.
- Look out for scam artists.
Scammers also can pretend to be government officials, charities or even family members and friends. The biggest form of these happens via phone. If you receive a phone call and are asked to give over personal or business financial information over the phone, hang up. Government agencies like the IRS or FTC don’t call to receive payments or your information. Ignore any emails or texts asking for the same information as well. Block any senders or callers who demand payment via telephone, email or texts. If you’re unsure, go to your local government office and talk to someone in person.
- Contact your lender.
If you’ve taken out a loan or line of credit with a bank or lender, contact them immediately to let them know the extent of the damage done to your business. Several major banks, such as Bank of America and Chase, have accommodated to those affected by the storm, waiving or refunding late fees, offering later payments and refunding fees and surcharges from using non-brand ATMs.
- Look for any disaster relief funding.
Recovery can be costly for your small businesses, so it might not be a bad idea to see which lenders offer aid. The Small Business Administration, for example, is offering low-interest disaster loans for businesses affected by Harvey and Irma. You could also apply for federal assistance through FEMA, which provides emergency cash grants disaster-related needs, such as housing (should your business run from your house). It’s also wise to check your local small business development center to recover any lost and important records and fill out forms needed for requesting disaster relief funds.
Rebuilding a small business after a natural disaster is never easy. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who look to prey on those affected. If you were in the path of either Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma, check out the tips above to help you get started on rebuilding and avoiding scams.