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Are Canada’s small business owners prepared for bad weather?

A barber shop in High River, Alberta sitting empty on Tuesday, September 24, 2013. A poll conducted for CIBC found that 35 per cent of the owners admitted they had no contingency plan in place to deal with severe weather conditions that could shut down their businesses

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

Come snow, cold or high water, a new survey says a third of small business owners in Canada are woefully unprepared for any kind of bad weather.

A poll conducted for CIBC found that 35 per cent of the owners admitted they had no contingency plan in place to deal with severe weather conditions that could shut down their businesses.

About 10 per cent said they had experienced an interruption in their businesses in the past year, citing weather as the main source, followed by illness and personal reasons.

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And, even after the severe weather of the past year, less than a quarter (19 per cent) said they were rethinking what they'll do if they are hit with weather like last summer's floods in Alberta or this year's ice storms in Ontario.

About a quarter (26 per cent) said they'd use cash, lines of credit, personal savings or loans to help them get through a business interruption. Twenty per cent polled planned on using credit cards or insurance.

"While more small business owners are thinking about contingency plans, the reality is most need a plan in place to ensure they can withstand business interruptions without draining their personal savings," said Shelley Swanlund, vice-president of business banking at CIBC.

"It is important to have options such as access to a line of credit, or savings within the business, to tide you over during any interruptions."

Ms. Swanlund suggests owners put aside money into a savings account so they have enough cash flow to ensure their businesses are protected if they have to close due to any reason.

The online poll was conducted Feb. 12 to 19 by Leger and involved 500 English- or French-speaking business owners or decision-makers in Canadian companies with 500 employees or less. The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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