Winter brings the cold, but businesses find ways to persevere

The frigid, snowy winter in the United States has thrown a curveball to many employers.

Rackham Karlsson recently opened his new law office in Cambridge, Mass. He ordered a sign for the front, but soon realized he faced a unique challenge: The temperature has to be at least 52 degrees Fahrenheit for the sign’s vinyl to adhere properly to the signboard. It’s been two months since Karlsson ordered the sign and he still hasn’t had an opportunity to properly advertise his business to foot traffic. “Without the Internet, nobody in the neighborhood would know I’m here,” he wrote in an email. The effects of winter 2013-14 have been felt at businesses of all sizes in the United States. Some, such as Karlsson’s, in ways that are apparent — with decreased opportunity for promotion. For others, the impact is less visible to the public. Dr. Omar Ibrahimi, director and founder of Connecticut Skin Institute, a medical practice in Stamford, Conn., said this winter has been especially difficult for his business. The practice schedules surgeries — which last between two and six hours — weeks in advance. Because of the consistent snow, they’ve had to continually reschedule the surgeries. “It’s been extra challenging 
because we have a large elderly population of patients and they were 
impacted even where there wasn't a lot of snow,” he said in an email. Today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report showed that the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in the month of February, but also highlighted that the weather can easily affect the economic outlook. “Unusually severe weather is more likely to have an impact on average weekly hours than on employment,” according to the report. But businesses are finding ways to thrive (and grow), despite the cold. Ibrahimi extended workdays and worked on a handful of Saturdays this winter to accommodate patients. Aside from watching the thermometer, Karlsson has taken to the Internet to advertise his business. And even other businesses are having the opposite problem: Too much work. CRDN, a company that specializes in restoring damaged clothing and fabrics headquartered in Berkley, Mich., had crews working in the field 20 days straight, according to Jeff Schultz, vice president of communication for the company. “The high demand for
our services put a tremendous strain on our people and resources,” he said. January was the busiest month in the company’s 13-year history, he added, due to burst pipes and other damage caused by the extreme weather. Floor Coverings International, headquartered in Norcross, Ga., a state whose uncharacteristic winter weather has made headlines, has seen an increase in sales as well. The at-home design and installation flooring business services clients with flooring damage. Amanda Rottmann, a spokeswoman for the company, says Floor Coverings International will continue to see business increase months down the road due as insurance payments flow in. And while businesses that specialize in restoration have seen a boost, general construction, an industry that often sees work slow down during cold months, added 15,000 jobs in February, according to BLS. Companies, now, are focused on strategizing ways to make up any losses sustained due to Mother Nature. Karlsson, the lawyer who’ll have to wait a few weeks to hang his sign, says he’s finding other ways to be known. He used getlisted.org to make sure his business information is listed on as many resources as possible. He’s also working on a pamphlet to distribute to local merchants to draw some attention. “I am optimistic that my business will be successful,” Karlsson says. “At the very least, if somebody searches online for family law services in the area, I am fairly confident they will find me.”
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