There are multiple unexpected risks that a business can realize on any given day. An alarm can go off, an office can be broken into at night, a circuit can malfunction and cause a short. Risks happen every day. However, some risks really do need to be watched out for because they have the potential to shape the future of a company significantly, especially when it is operating as a small business and trying to grow. Getting hamstrung prematurely by an unexpected risk or big business mistakes can often seem like a higher being or karma is working against the business. However, when examined the risks listed below are far more predictable if one knows what to look for or anticipate can occur. Yet, surprisingly, they happen with a lot of regularity in multiple industries.
Missing Important Phone Calls
Modern companies today are expected to operate electronically. After all, everybody is carrying a mobile device, email is already feeling passe’, and texting as well as social media are handling communications exponentially and at lightning speed. So why would anyone worry about a phone call these days? That kind of complacency is exactly what can separate successful businesses from those that struggle to break even or fail altogether.
Missing an important phone call might seem mundane, but communication is often the lifeblood of a critical sale and revenue that keeps a company going. However, if things are too busy to pick up the phone or, worse, the phone gets answered by someone who doesn’t understand the importance of the call. The results can be dramatic and long-term in terms of ramifications. If nothing else, the phones for a business should always be addressed by voice servers or similar, so that the all-important critical call is not missed.
Many might assume that a voice machine can do just fine. However, that can be just as bad as not answering the phone as well. Instead, with a phone server, the caller can be kept on the call and routed to where he or she needs to go with a live respondent. That provides a connection, the caller, and the importance of the communication is not lost and the business moves forward instead of backward. However, all of this never happens if missed calls happen on a regular basis.
Believe it or not, a good amount of business still happens by phone. Regardless of how popular the digital world may be, people want to speak with and hear the voice of whom they are dealing with. So that traditional, even outdated tool still matters quite a bit, and any good sales manager or rep worth his or her experience knows how true that can be. Bottom line, don’t let your incoming calls be ignored or missed. It’s one of the worst mistakes that can be made, especially when the call is unexpected.
Structural Issues and Foundation Problems
Older buildings can have issues with their load-bearing structure as well as the foundation, but these structural problems are not restricted to just age. With the speed at which construction happens these days, newer buildings can hide serious problems as well. And when a structural or foundation issue appears, it can be extremely expensive to remedy an already-standing building.
One of the most common unexpected problems tends to be settling, an issue that plagues new buildings far more than older ones. Ideally, the ground where a building is placed is treated and compacted first before the foundation is put in. However, even with intentional compaction, settling can still occur. Many times this has to do with moisture in the ground. The best time to build tends to be in the summer when the ground moisture has evaporated and the soil is less expansive as a result. However, build projects pushed into the winter and inadvertently put in a foundation that is on the wet ground soaked with water, and water does not compress. So, eventually, the ground will settle further over time. That in turn can trigger structural problems as the bed for the building becomes uneven enough to stretch and pull on the building frame. The symptoms become obvious with foundation cracking as well as wall separations, and the related repairs can be costly.
Another big problem, especially with older buildings and industrial sites tends to be contamination of the local soil. This is a big problem for building sites that have had a heavy industrial activity with chemicals and processing. Eventually, the soil becomes polluted. If and when that occurs, soil remediation will be necessary, and the building owner has to bear the cost. Soil remediation is also not an inexpensive activity. There’s a reason some of the biggest projects have ended up being dubbed “superfund” sites the federal government deals with. The previous owners went bankrupt or disappeared rather than face the tune of the cleanup.
Failure to Maintain Your Commercial Roofing
Roof maintenance tends to be another bigger issue with older buildings and large facilities with flat roofs. Sitting water never does anyone any good and the permeation can eventually begin to cause roofing material to deteriorate faster. Add in the sun and wind, and stripping effects occur as well over time. Roofing on commercial facilities can vary from very durable copper roofing to just basic sheeting to provide an external top surface to block out the elements. Eventually, any kind of roofing will need roof maintenance. The question tends to be when that need will occur and what kind of commitment will be needed from commercial roofers to fix the problem.
The most common issue tends to leak. Roofing contractors are regularly brought in to deal with leaks, but these fixes are usually spotted remedies versus solutions. At some point, a full roofing repair may be needed, especially as the building ages. There can also be unexpected events such as wind issues and even disasters in certain regions. That can trigger wholescale roofing repair needs that were never planned for. When either happens, the cost of commercial roofers is going to be significant. Many rely on building insurance for a financial safety net, but it may not cover everything in the repair. So building managers need to be ready for related surprises.
Broken or Leaking Pipes
Due to the fact that piping and plumbing systems are typically hidden behind walls, problems such as leaks can be hidden for a long time before they become apparent. That can lead to significant water damage over time, the growth of a small problem into a much bigger one, and water-related damage such as mold. Ideally, a regular and thorough inspection of a facility should catch issues, but with plumbing oftentimes obscured, starting issues get missed on a regular basis. They only become a big unexpected risk when plumbing services are needed to deal with a big problem such as a serious leak, a pipe break, or flooding. Plumbing services in these situations will typically have to cut off the supply and potentially replace an entire section due to inherent failure. That can lead to notable costs. Building insurance may cover some of the expense to the extent that internal plumbing leaks are covered in the policy; it’s not always automatic. If not, the building owner can expect to have to pay out of pocket.
A Cracked or Broken Heat Exchanger
Heating problems in buildings typically don’t happen until age becomes an issue or there was an installation mistake from the start. When involving age, the system is typically an older one, whether a boiler or furnace type, that has been in operation for decades. Eventually, parts wear out, even when just pushing hot air, and need replacement. When a newer system the issue often associated with improper installation or a part was faulty and failed under standard use. The newer system issues tend to be more common, unfortunately.
Heating repair can frequently be associated with a cracked or broken industrial heat exchanger, which can be a big-ticket item. This can involve both part replacement, labor as well as even machining expertise if the installation is complicated. Many jobs are not singular, one-person repairs. They frequently need a team to come in, remove the broken components and replace and install the new parts to get things working properly again. No surprise, when heat systems start having problems tends to be during the cold season when they are used, which augments the situation even more. In extreme cold, a failed heat exchange could shut down a building entirely due to being unhealthy to work in until fixed.
Planning Ahead to Avoid Risk Surprises
The above issues and more can seem like a heart attack in themselves, but they can be mitigated or caught early with a proactive approach towards maintaining a facility. From a business owner and facility perspective, planning ahead for risk has to be part of your operations. Every major issue should have a contingency plan already in place for how to deal with it. The obvious ones tend to be fire, theft, or medical accidents, but as noted above just running a building of size comes with other issues too.
Ideally, your building maintenance and monitoring approach should cover three main categories of risk:
- Safety – Consider all aspects that can actually have a direct impact on the safety and health of people in the building as well as the surrounding area. That includes anyone who may need to respond to an issue as well.
- Incident Mitigation – This involves all systems and resources need to stop a given risk from growing bigger. Everything from fire suppression systems to section securing systems and security falls into this category.
- Property Protection – Finally, there is the protection of the property from additional damage or from risk occurring in the first place.
Again, one of the best ways to know what’s happening with your facility involves eyes on its various aspects of operation on a regular basis. Monthly inspections are a great idea and will frequently spot beginning issues well before they become big risks and problems. Combining the inspection with qualified personnel enhances the benefits of active monitoring, and many times small issues can be fixed on the spot as well with a minor, immediate repair. The cost of maintenance checks is minimal when compared with the expense of full-blown remediation after the fact. And, caught early, many more serious repairs can be reduced in cost because they don’t involve damage as well.
Just about all facility services can be scheduled on a recurring basis and many facility vendors will provide regular maintenance checks as part of their service portfolio. Whether the need is your HVAC system, plumbing, electrical testing, or fire safety systems, inspections are worth their weight in gold when a pending problem is caught early. The term “unexpected” is often associated with surprise, but if your monitoring approach is anticipating risk already, many issues are not going to be surprised at all.
Even better, with active monitoring in place, you may even see a discount on your building insurance costs. Many insurance providers appreciate and reward active monitoring of an insured facility because it reduces risk statistically. Everything from security systems to schedule checks on fire and plumbing scores big points with insurers and make your building risk profile smaller in their eyes as well.
Finally, don’t forget your employees and tenants in your facility. They work there every day. Simple training classes can teach them to be aware and looking for issues. When spotted, those tenants can easily provide you an active and ongoing awareness of what’s going on with your facility before a risk becomes serious. A simple training program reminding folks regularly to point out anything that looks odd or out of place can pay dividends with problem and cost avoidance.