How I Did It: How to Manage the Unmanageable

Feb. 1, 2020

Recover quickly from storm damage with the right business relationships.

SHOP STATS: Derby Quick Lube   Location: Derby, Kan.  Operator: David Lewis  Average Daily Car Count: 33  Staff Size: 7  Shop Size: 1,740 sq. ft. Ticket Average: $60  

“We are a quick lube, so we get them in and out pretty quickly.”

On the morning of Sunday, June 23, 2019, Jo Lynn Lewis and her husband woke up to a daunting call. Their quick lube shop, Derby Quick Lube in Newton, Kan., had been hit by a bad storm that rolled through the town of almost 24,000 people. Turns out, the storm completely ripped off the shop’s roof with the storm’s 70 mph winds. So the two of them got up and headed to the shop to assess the damage.

“Got to our place and sure enough the roof was gone,” says Lewis, the operations manager of the shop. “We immediately got to work to clean up. We were determined to open up the next day.”

And sure enough, the next morning the shop opened up as usual—it’s like nothing ever happened. How did the quick lube recover so quickly? It was only made possible with the quick lube’s solid contractor relationships and their determination to get the job done.

Lewis recalls the events that took place that day and how the shop got back up in running without the business taking a hit.

Step 1: Calling the Right People    

The most difficult part of the whole situation was figuring out who all we needed to call and what needed to be done. Once we figured that out, we knew who to call and we were grateful they had a relationship with trade people and responded so quickly.

Before we even got to the shop, we immediately called a roofing company—he’s actually one of our customers. We told them what happened and that debris was everywhere. The roof had been blown into the parking. A fence also blew down in the back driveway, and there was a little bit of tree damage. He said he would be at the shop in a couple of hours with a crew and a large truck.

The fire department stopped by with the police and told us they disconnected the electricity and gas, so we knew we had to call the electrician, who said he would have to come out and conduct an inspection.

The only thing that was of some concern was the air conditioning. It was on the roof. That was disconnected because it was obviously damaged, so then we called in our HVAC guy to get a new A/C unit in the place.

Step 2:  Putting Everything in Place

The office and the lobby had a hard roof and the shop had a ceiling tile roof—that’s the one that blew off. Most of the office and lobby were intact, and there wasn’t a whole lot of water damage on the inside, even the computers and everything electronic didn’t get any damage. The pit area was the only place with four inches of water. The roofing company finally came with their crew to put on the temporary roof. We expected the temporary one that day. The electrician was also immediate. He even came back the next morning and checked all of the lights and the electronics just to make sure they were still up to par.

With the roofer and electrician responding so quickly, it helped us be able to open the next day. We simply told them our goal was to be open the next day and they made it happen. We got home at 6 p.m. that night and notified the Derby manager, who called the staff and told them that they would be there Monday morning as scheduled. We had insurance that covered loss of income for the one day we were closed down—we were fortunate.

Step 3: Manage the Uncontrollable

The shop opened up the next day at 8 a.m. per usual. The only inconvenience was the air conditioning. We didn’t have it for the first week and it was the middle of summer in Kansas. We simply got some fans and scattered them around the shop, the office, and the lobby. We then explained to our customers that we had storm damage and were waiting for a new air conditioning unit. They were very understanding and didn’t complain. Some didn’t even realize we had that much storm damage in the first place.

A week after the storm, the air conditioning unit was installed, and the permanent roof was installed a couple of weeks later in July. For that, we didn’t have to close up the shop at all. They just installed it while the shop was open.

Step 4: Prepare for Next Time

If we would have been down for a week, we would have lost those seven days of business. Fortunately, we would have been able to claim loss of income with our insurance, but our employees wouldn’t have been able to get their hours in. Everything went pretty smoothly considering what we had to deal with.

The important thing is to just have a good contingency list of contacts for things you might need in the future for whatever the circumstance may be. Keep a list of these contacts on your phone so you can easily access it. If you build those different relationships with these people, it will really help in the process. It’s definitely what made a difference in our recovery time.

Preparing for the Worst

If you have gone through a storm or disaster, or even if you think one is unlikely to affect your shop, you may want to adjust your mindset and plan ahead for the possibility. Cate Steane, founder of Make It Happen Preparedness Services, shares her tips on preparing for this situation ahead of time.

Tip No. 1: Take advantage of insurance.

Make sure your policy is up to date and the coverage is there. Utilizing insurance to the best of its ability will help you recover faster. Steane says most insurance companies will come out for free to make sure things are safe at your shop, and you won’t be penalized for it. 

Tip No. 2: Protect your investment.

Steps to protect your investment should be included in your plan when it comes to insurance, cash reserves, line of credit and pre-documenting claims.

Steane says to have cash reserves or a line of credit to keep employees on the payroll.

Tip No. 3: Make a plan.

Putting the perfect plan in place will ensure your business will be able to stand up on its own two feet following a disaster.

Your plan should include evacuation procedures, how to operate during a utility interruption, and a plan for how to reopen within five days.

Documents to Keep Safe

  • Revenue records
  • Expense records
  • Invoicing
  • Payroll
  • Inventory of tools, equipment, and supplies
  • Inventory of all vehicles on the premises (and yes, update this daily)
  • Title to any owned vehicles
  • Lease agreements for leased vehicles
  • Documents relating to licensing, training, and HR
  • Frequently-used manuals
  • Lease
  • Insurance policies
  • Title to property