PLANNING FOR A DISASTER
The water has receded and the levees have been strengthened. Standley says the city is better prepared for another unwelcomed hurricane if that day should ever arise. In the meantime, he says his business is better prepared for another emergency too.
“The one big regret we have is that we didn’t have business interruption insurance, and now we can’t afford it,” Standley says. “But my advice to business owners is to conduct an annual insurance audit to make sure they are covered in all the right areas. We didn’t do that and we’re still paying for the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan we had to take out.”
What Standley does have, though, is an emergency plan that details how to get in touch with employees, a strong relationship with subcontractors, especially tree care companies who will give him priority during a cleanup operation, and the same phone service provider that the emergency responders have.
Says Standley, “The towers that the emergency responders used for their cell phones were the first ones repaired after Katrina. We didn’t have that cell phone service at the time, but we do now and hopefully will be able to communicate more readily with our employees in an emergency.”
Other segments of his emergency plan include:
• Having copies of all important documents placed away in a safe deposit box
• Taking a video of everything he owns, making two copies and dating it
• Putting away a small stash of cash
“With the power out for several days, having access to money was an issue,” Standley recalls. “Sure the banks were closed, but the ATM machines were inoperable as well.”
Like other residents and business owners, Standley also has a ready supply of gas cans and gas on hand. As he points out, one can never store enough fuel for an emergency like Katrina, but having some extra on hand will help.
FROM ONE STORM TO ANOTHER
Katrina’s one-two punch foreshadowed more hard times for New Orleans. A downturn in the housing market and the rising cost of fuel have forced Standley to tighten his belt.
“A four-day work week helps employees handle the higher cost of fuel,” Standley explains. “We hold staff meetings to work on efficiencies, while preventive maintenance has taken top billing to help equipment last longer. We’ve also raised our advertising budget on the West Bank to get more work closer to home, and we’ve increased our interaction with clients there.”
Standley’s revised marketing and advertising budget also includes the use of small business card holders, which he dispenses at area restaurants and other retail establishments. Again, the emphasis is getting more closer-in work.
Standley added a new GPS to his cost-saving arsenal last summer. “I saw fuel prices going through the roof and labor was off the chart,” he remarks. “I had to do something to help our crews become more efficient.” The web-based, real-time program sold by TrackNet delivers 10 user-defined reports and 11 real-time alerts, while archiving data for 90 days.
According to Standley, the technology had some immediate benefits. Crew idle time was significantly reduced, and in one instance a cell phone alert allowed him to reel in a crewmember driving several miles over the speed limit. Since having the system installed, this owner has also refined maintenance routes. And, equally important, employees are more conscious about how much time they are spending at sites.
Dan’s Landscaping paid $1,993 (including taxes and an extended three-year warranty) for the initial installation, and pays a $135 user fee for four truck modules. Since the system is web-based, Standley can literally track crew progress daily from anywhere he has Internet access.
Is this landscape contractor prepared for another Katrina? “Let me put is this way,” Standley says, “New Orleans is better prepared for another devastating hurricane and so are we. But can you ever be prepared enough? No. All you can do is the best you can, and have contingency plans in place.”