James Thomson is the editor of BRW. Previously he was editor and publisher of SmartCompany and a senior editor at Business Spectator. He writes regularly on Australia's wealthiest entrepreneurs and has deep expertise in small business and the mid market.

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Flood-hit businesses need help long after waters subside

Published 29 January 2013 10:30, Updated 30 January 2013 10:51

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Flood-hit businesses need help long after waters subside

Flood-affected businesses in Queensland and NSW will need plenty of support from customers to get back on their feet. Photo: Glenn Hunt

The pictures coming out of Queensland and northern NSW are simply awful.

The loss of lives and homes is terrible but I also always feel sick to the stomach when I see local businesses under water.

Running a business is hard enough without having to deal with natural disasters such as floods and bushfires. You can plan for cash-flow problems and you can fight your way through quiet periods but how do you hold back a rising torrent of water?

In small towns, where the damage appears to be worse, the loss of a business is felt even more keenly. Any one firm can employ a big chunk of the town’s residents and returning to work is what helps people get back on their feet after a natural disaster. But imagine the pain if you’ve lost your job and your home in these latest crises.

And tragically for some Queensland entrepreneurs, this is the second time in two years they have faced this awful situation.

The immediate focus, of course, is on ensuring residents in these flood-hit areas are safe. But in the coming days and weeks, business owners will start the process of cleaning up and assessing the damage to their businesses.

It’s not easy to know how to support these people but let’s hope they get three things.

First, let’s hope they get plenty of government assistance in the form of disaster relief and the speedy resolution of any bureaucratic issues. The Queensland government did a good job with this after the 2011 floods, so there is a template in place.

Second, let’s hope the affected businesses are well treated by their insurance companies – with compassion, with speed and most importantly, with commonsense.

Finally, let’s hope these recovering businesses receive plenty of support from the people who can really get them back on their feet – customers.

While most of us can do very little now to support these stricken business owners, we shouldn’t forget that in the months and years ahead the simple act of giving them our custom is the perfect way to ensure they get back on track.

It’s also the best way to make sure they are not forgotten after the flood waters subside.