Unless you have been asleep under a rock in Afghanistan or something, you have heard we recently had some winter weather here in Atlanta, the southernmost outpost of Roofing Contractor.
I am happy to report that my family and all my business associates are all fine and life should soon return to normal. In some cases it took 12 to 18 hours, but we are all OK. A lot of lessons have been learned (or at least presented for us to learn from, whether or not we actually learn anything).
First lesson is a reminder of the costs of shutting down business for a couple of days. Atlanta was not alone, as businesses in Chicago that almost never close have shut down this winter. They can certainly handle a few inches (or feet) of snow a lot better than we can in Atlanta.
Did we bake this into our business plan, or do we simply hope we can make it up in the weeks and months to come?
The reality is, you cannot recapture much of the lost productivity experienced in these types of weather events and it is even more difficult to predict them or add them to a reasonable budget or business plan. Best thing I saw this week was a written personnel policy on inclement weather events — here is how people are paid (or not as the case may be), and here are the expectations. It may not seem like a big deal until you pull a plan such as this to use it, at which time you realize how much hassle you have saved yourself.
There are other things to do to work around a loss in productivity. Sometimes having to toss out the old plan and make up a completely new work schedule results in savings in time and motion. Customers understand that schedules have changed and are not as prone to being unhappy about it.
For instance, I put a pair of my favorite shoes in the shop for new soles on Monday and received a promise that I could pick them up on Thursday. I almost did not stop because I knew there was a better than even chance that they would not be ready. They weren’t and I was completely OK with it (not my usual attitude on a missed delivery date/time).
Beyond a personnel plan I learned that disaster preparedness plans are great — but not so useful if you do not pull them off the shelf. This event did not seem like the kind of disaster we would prepare for, such as a hurricane or other hazardous weather event. But it was and I must admit I did not react.
Here’s the thing … we did end up with a disaster on the roads around Atlanta, but it could have been much, much worse. We could have had freezing rain, resulting in trees down and power out all over the metro area. This could have crippled the area, and our operations, for over a week. And while we have a written disaster preparedness plan, we did not take it out to review it. I did not crank up the generators or bring in gas and water, or any of the other dozen or so things I should have done to prepare. We just reacted.
And, I am embarrassed to say, we were down to a sack and a half of ice melt. Enough to do the trick for a sidewalk, but if we had needed to de-ice the truck court, we would have been in a real pickle. New policy: keep a skid of the stuff on hand. Won’t cost that much and it would be a great benefit to have enough to hand out to our associates the next time this hits.
And hit it will. Probably another five years from now, but (and there is always a “but”) it could hit again in five more days. If it does, my disaster preparedness plan may change from being prepared to face the snow and ice to moving to South Florida for the winter.
And forget about the lessons government officials claim to have learned from this. Getting caught with their pants down is just part of being a politician sometimes.