Financial Recovery after a Major Loss

As if the financial losses we experienced during the lockdown were not enough, several businesspeople have had their means of livelihood destroyed during the riots that followed the shooting of peaceful #ENDSARS protestors by members of the Nigerian Army. Whether our losses were existing before the riots or were exacerbated by the rioters, we need to begin to put things back in place and rebuild. Re-starting after a disaster requires both mental resilience and financial creativity. The emotional resources we need include grief management, hope, faith, zeal, and endurance; this way we keep ourselves motivated to start and to continue rebuilding.

Financially, the first thing we need to do is to review our insurance policies. Before now, insurance companies used to refuse to cover losses from riots, but as the industry matured and competition grew, many undertakers now cover losses from riots. The insurance companies must be called in as early as possible to physically review the damages. You must take photographs before you begin any cleaning up. If you have used a reputable insurer, or you bought your policy through a reputable insurance broker, collecting your claims should be very straightforward. With the less reputable ones, you may need to work a little harder and threaten that you would report them to their Regulator, NAICOM, before you get your full entitlements.

Sadly, some of us may not have adequate insurance. Fortunately, some NGOs are already looking into ways of raising funds to support those who lost businesses in the last few days/weeks. Affected businesspeople should reach out to these organizations. Ensure you have all the information they may require to substantiate your claim; before-and-after photos, receipts for payments etc. This is not the time to shy away from help. Everybody needs a helping hand from time to time, so be bold and step out to receive the help you deserve, so you too would be empowered to help another needy person in future.

Next, we must contact our bankers, suppliers (who supplied goods on credit), and all other creditors (for instance, landlords, customers who paid upfront for products, etc.). Repayment terms would need to be rescheduled in line with your new business reality. Claims from insurance can either be used for repayment of credits or used to restart business operations. In most cases, claims are used for both purposes. Each businessperson must review her own circumstances, adopt the best solutions for her condition, and prioritize expenditure based on that condition. Unless you have a banking/ financial background, avoid negotiating with your bank by yourself, obtain professional advice. Confirm how much your insurance company is paying before agreeing to fresh repayment terms.

Some businesses may have lost hard copies of licences, contracts and certificates. Compile the list of such documents and reach out to the business partners involved, so they can issue new ones. If you have soft copies of documents, remember to attach them to your requests. Going forward, ensure that all vital documents are converted to digital formats and digitally stored.

When we know how much money available to rebuild, and the new payment schedules for our financial obligations, we must develop new business strategies, action plans, and financial budgets. Our financial and business objectives may remain the same, but the strategies for achieving them and the timeline for their realization would need to be reworked in line with the new realities. Remember to budget for adequate insurance to cover all the risks your business is exposed to. Also important is the Emergency Fund (rainy day savings) – once this is budgeted for, the business would create a fund that would help it to survive future shocks. Our new strategies must include disaster management. In addition to insurance coverage, physical barriers would also help to protect our assets from disasters, whether fire, flood, or rioting. Locks and barriers to delay the access of rioters. Overhead sprinklers to reduce fire damage. Every business should do a thorough risks assessment and develop effective risks management strategies. But when risks crystallize like they have in the last few days, we must then deploy effective disaster management strategies and business continuity plans. A business that is prepared with an effective business continuity plan has done proper scenario planning to imagine the various disasters the company may face and then gone ahead to develop routes out of each negative scenario. Therefore, it would recover faster than other businesses.

This week we have gone outside the personal finance mandate of the column, but it is essential, because most people get their personal finances from their businesses. I pray we all recover fully and quickly. Happy investing.

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