When we were kids, snow days were a special treat and an opportunity for some unexpected fun. But in the business world, they present challenges that are often far from fun. Business owners have to decide whether they are opening or not and what the positives and negatives of each choice are.
Snow days, hurricanes and other large scale occurrences require sound decision making on the part of leaders. These challenges actually present an opportunity to examine the courage of a business- courage to be true to core values and to weigh them against pure business calculations.
Some considerations that a business owner must weigh are in the areas of:
- Business Acumen: What is the financial impact of the decision to stay open? What will the cost be to our business if we open and bring people in and those we do business with do not? And in the reverse, what if we do not open and others expecting to do business with us do open? Can deliveries be made? If people get hurt on the road or in a slip and fall, what is the cost to future productivity? To workers compensation insurance rates? What if we have contracts that must be fulfilled on this date? What are the consequences of breach? Do our contracts cover this scenario? Does an insistent customer outweigh employee safety?
- Company Policies and Procedures: What does our handbook say about inclement weather and disasters? Do we have policies we should follow? What would the consequences be of not following them? What are the practical issues relating to pay on such days? Some might be able to do their work form home, others not.
- Core Values: Many companies have core values related to employee safety, respect for employees, corporate responsibility and good corporate citizenship. If employees have to do deal with family issues such as school closings, daycare shutdown and even road safety or public transportation delays, are the company values impacted? Is it being a good citizen of the community to put vehicles on the road in somewhat dangerous conditions? Some companies have as their highest core value their extreme level of customer service. When it comes down to it, does this trump employee safety?
When business owners make decisions with regard to the weather they should not be “from the hip.” Real critical thinking should be utilized to look at all of the options and the potential consequences of each. Closing or not closing is a tactic that should be part of an overall strategy that looks at core values and employs business acumen. There are real tangible costs and there are potential intangible costs to any course of action. Bad weather planning should have its own processes and procedures to follow. Contact information and other data should be remotely accessible to key decision makers at all times so that all stakeholders can be notified and communication is achieved in the most efficient and effective manner.
Simple events like a snowfall can have a major effect on a business and how the employees and customers perceive it. Picture a business going out of business because a decision to open or not open was not well thought out. And remember, brand is the flip side of culture. If a company has a culture of caring for its employees, then that is part of the brand as well. The brand could be “we will do anything and everything to get our deliveries to our customers on time” (even risk the lives of our employees); or it could be “we put our employees first every time.” Whichever is arrived at, critical thinking needs to be the vehicle that drives the decision.