Pandemics. Demonstrations and social change. Elections. Murder hornets? Life is uncertain and each uncertainty brings its own set of emotions and consequences and as businessowners and franchisors, your job is to make sure your franchisees are ready. The better prepared they are on a day-to-day basis, the easier it should be to handle crises.
Attorneys are already warning of pending suits from customers and employees for unsafe conditions following COVID-19 and there could be dangerous conditions left after the social unrest and demonstrations. Most franchise manuals contain a suggested maintenance matrix for the major components of the unit, and now is the time for you to review it for completeness and to suggest that your franchisees go through it before reopening. Remember: the best insurance against loss and lawsuits starts with the operator, not the insurance policy. The policy backs up the actions and methods in place.
If your business or office has been closed for the better part of three months, it is time to take a look at everything from top to bottom. If it is in an area where there was rioting or looting, check for the less obvious damage. Sean Falk, from Hylant, the full-service insurance company, recommends you test all the major components first such as:
- HVAC – If this hasn’t been running, it probably needs a boost. Seasons have changed since you closed so check the filters, settings and freon.
- Fire protection – Are all the sensors working and not damaged? Look for signs of rodents who love to chew wiring. Use the “test” function. Check all the portable extinguishers, too. Did they miss a date for a recharge? Or, if one is due soon, do it now, before it interrupts business or puts a stress on social distancing.
- Alarms – These have probably been armed while you were gone, but if you had staff changes, change the passcodes.
- Signs – Most businesses left their electric signs on, but is the timing right? We switched to daylight savings time during the lockdown, so check that it is set properly.
- Primary utilities – Check water lines and for any signs of leaks and check the gas lines. If there is any concern, call the provider.
- The roof. The southeast is headed into its wettest season and those franchisees need to inspect for leaks. Don’t emerge from all that is happened only to be derailed by a roof leak. And don’t forget that gutters and downspouts are part of the roof system. Have they been cleaned while closed? Not all landlords took this opportunity to do maintenance, so take the initiative.
- Check all the doors. Though uncomfortable to imagine, some locks may have been tampered with while you were closed, and it’s time to get them fixed and to make sure doors swing easily and seal completely. If you made staff changes, get the locks re-keyed.
- For franchise systems that operate from offices, take care of that refrigerator and break room with old food.
- Check for infestations of pests, whatever your setting.
- And clean – clean to the most current OSHA standards. We recommend you hire a professional crew who knows the standards, has the proper equipment and products to get you off to a great and safe start. The International Franchise Association has several great member companies that can be found on their web site.
Sean Falk also recommends you insist on an insurance audit this year. Premiums are expected to rise from 5-40% to cover all the COVID-19 losses. Falk says, “Most policies require audits because the premiums are based on sales but are not always done. If you have suffered a loss of sales, demand the audit.” If your agent hasn’t suggested this, FranWise recommends you look for a new agent. They get paid for your renewals, and you want to be sure they are working for you, not the renewal fee.
Everything will remain uncertain for a while, but not stagnant. Help your franchisees stay protected by sharing these ideas and making this part of annual site inspections. Well functioning units help promote the brand.
To reach Sean Falk for additional information about insurance, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.