Do like an ape: 4 steps to a more resilient business

It is the start of November 2017, and we're in Puerto Rico, where Homera is headquartered. So we're still on Hurricane Maria recovery mode at our business, on the entire island, and in much of the Caribbean.

That make this as good a moment as any to focus on today's resilience imperative, which applies to every city and location in our region of the Americas and everywhere else in the world.

This is why resilience is one of the five building blocks of our Holistic Value Chain (HVC) sustainability toolkit for small and mid-size business, because climate change has turned it into an indispensable part of doing business no matter where you're located, and more so for small and mid-size businesses that have only one site or are highly reliant on operations in a single city.

According to the United Nations, 40% of small businesses do not reopen in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster. A year later, as many as 65% were unable to make it. Resilience planning, that is, can keep you among those that do survive, and not just survive. Thrive. It is mission critical, and ever-more so.

Consider resilience part of your risk-management regime, which typically includes such things as strong insurance coverage, an emergency readiness plan, and a cash reserve. To that end, we recommend you now add a resilience program, which you'll find makes just as much business sense and carries as no-brainer a return on investment, if not more, than insurance, readiness and reserves.

Resilience and sustainability have a symbiotic relationship. Many resilience measures simultaneously add to your business' sustainability (i.e. eco friendly items, like off-grid solar and rain harvesting), and resilience itself is designed to enhance the other definition of sustainability: sustained or long-term success.

Because we realize resilience, also called adaptation, can be confusing, even intimidating, HVC Resilience seeks to make it easy, at best manageable, with what we call Four Urgent Steps. Everything about sustainability is urgent these days, but perhaps none more than resilience, since you can be hit, even wiped out, by a natural disaster unpredictably, at any time.

Step 1: Assess

Your location largely determines which of the many possible natural disasters may threaten your business: hurricane, rainstorm, flood, tsunami, snowstorm, drought, earthquake, wildfire, volcano, or another. Whether your business is on the coast, high on a mountain, on farmland, wetland, near the poles or in the tropics, the first thing to do is make sure you prepare well for those risks. This includes an assessment of your immediate surroundings to spot risk factors in case one of those disasters strikes, as well as knowing every possible resource in your neighborhood, city and country at your disposal.

Step 2: Plan

The menu of possible resilience measures is vast, varying based on the combination of possible disasters you learn from the assessment. So this is where we choose from the full menu, work out the budgeting, place in order of priority, calendar implementation by phases, get the whole team on board, incorporate the supply chain, and adjust process and culture to set everything up for the next step.

Step 3: Execute

The word says it all. This is where you roll out and implement the plan. Depending on the size and complexity (or simplicity) of your business and the number of employees, this may fall to one person, like a designated Resilience Captain, or a Resilience Team, who will follow the plan's action templates with the requisite discipline, speed and excellence.

Step 4: Sustain

Once fully in place, the plan will include periodic reviews from that point forward to keep up with innovation, bring new employees and suppliers into the mindset and process, engage in whatever communications are needed with the community and through the news media, and otherwise make changes as called for by the passage of time.

With that, you will be as ready as can be. Notice the Four Urgent Steps spell APES. That is not by chance. As it turns out, apes were found in a recent study by Duke University to be among the most resilient species in the natural environment, better able to survive natural disasters that constantly strike the wild. They know how to adjust and adapt to changing conditions, bounce back from a shock, and move on. To them, it is instinctive. Natural. Part of their intelligence.

And so it will be with you.