The road to recovery for small business owners

The road to recovery after a disaster is an uncertain time in the life of a small business owner. The fact that natural disasters are a fact of life in Australia doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. Here’s what you need to know to get back on your feet faster.


The process of recovering from some sort of disaster in business can be a devastating period of time for a small business owner. And while insurance is one aspect of the process, don’t overlook the value of reaching out to you community for support, or mental health assistance to help with this often gruelling period of time.

Elise Currey, manager of the Coffs Harbour International Marina knows just how difficult the process of recovery can be. When a major storm event lashed the east coast in June, it completely destroyed the marina’s boardwalk and damaged its finger wharves and office.

It also threatened the tourist trade that provides their livelihood. “We are entering the season when the blue nomads start arriving from overseas and they will redirect themselves to other ports if they can’t access our facility,” says Currey.

Like all businesses knocked for six by a natural disaster, the marina’s first priority was to repair the physical damage so they could resume trading as quickly as possible. The job was made more difficult, and costly, because the only access for construction work was by water. They needed a financial lifeboat, fast.

Where to seek financial support

After a financial setback such as a natural disaster, you may need some short-term financial assistance to get you back on your feet. All banks offer financial hardship schemes, so check if you may be eligible, here. The Federal Government also offers Financial Assistance Grants to help small businesses recover from financial difficulties.

Fortunately for the marina, their business interruption insurance will cover their loss of trading profit, which resulted from the disaster.

Theirs was one of 45,522 insurance claims lodged following the East Coast Low of June 2016, with a total estimated value of $412.8 million, according to the Insurance Council of Australia. More than a third of those losses were suffered by businesses who lodged claims for commercial property, motor vehicles and business interruption, according to its figures.

Tap into community resources

Local communities often band together to support one another when disaster strikes. This was the case for the marina. “Volunteers came out of the woodwork to help with the clean-up”, says Currey.

The State Emergency Service is also often a first port of call in times of trouble. This Australian volunteer organisation provides emergency help during and after declared disasters, including storm damage, flood damage, building damage, traffic hazards and road crash rescue. To see what’s on offer, check your local paper and the business portals of your local council and state government. For example, the Queensland Government offers a useful guide for businesses rebuilding after a natural disaster.

Don’t ignore your mental health

The stress, anxiety and depression that sometimes follow natural disasters and other setbacks can have a bigger impact on small businesses than large ones, because there are fewer people to shoulder the load. The result can be a loss of productivity and strained relationships with staff, clients and family.

In the first few weeks after the storm, Curry says staff were working around the clock on the clean-up, as well as dealing with frustrated customers and the general public who were denied access.

“The guys were under a lot of physical pressure, not sleeping, and on top of that, a couple of single parents had to juggle child-minding with the extra work,” she says. They relied on family and each other for support, but there are times when our regular support networks are not enough.

The best way to ensure peace of mind, however, is to have financial protection in place before disaster strikes. To make sure have the right level of coverage in place, such as business interruption insurance, speak to your Steadfast insurance broker.

The more prepared you are to face the unexpected, the easier the path to recovery will be.

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