The fire that made my company $100,000

It was just after midnight on  Sept. 22, 2011. I was just getting to sleep and looking forward to a much-needed Florida  vacation after the busiest season in my painting company’s history.

Like any other night, my cellphone rang repeatedly  It turned out the calls were coming from ADT Security and the Loveland Fire Department, who wanted to let me know that the M & E Painting office had caught fire. 

The office was more damaged by the sprinklers than the fire, but we were now out of an office and a location to do business.The fire ultimately made my team stronger and taught us  some valuable lessons:

The glass is always half full.  One of the benefits I have most loved about entrepreneurship is being around others going through the same experiences across all industries.  What I have learned is the beauty of seeing that glass that is half full.  When I walked into the office and saw the smoke-covered walls, I thought about how great the new paint would look. I saw the water-logged reports, contracts and employment manuals and thought about how they needed to be filed anyway. I saw our sales and production white boards that provide a snapshot to the month and quarter at a glance and thought, “Thank God those didn’t get wiped out!  It’s high time we get off paper and white boards and get everything online.” 

The fire pointed out our weaknesses. The first thing everyone asked when they heard about the fire was, “Are the white boards okay?”  It was a great warning—a near-miss that signaled the need to update something that would break us if it failed.   

Plan for the worst and consider all “what ifs.” The fire actually made us thankful.  We had planned for a fire and made the investments to protect ourselves.  Months before, our insurance agent had literally said, “Hey Matt, what if this office burns to the ground?  Are you covered?”  We weren’t, and so he immediately took me through the list of insurances and property inventories and put a policy into effect   I was also convinced under the premise of “what if” to buy a video surveillance system.  That surveillance video traced the fire back to its origin, saving us from speculation and aiding the fire department in its investigation. 

We had the chance to witness what our team is made of.  During a trying time like this, the best and worst in people come out.  I can honestly say that I saw what each and every team member was made of at their core.  I saw who is with us and who isn’t and was able to trim off the fat and make us a leaner, meaner organization. 

I am thankful for the fire. My peers have taught me to choose gratitude.  I am thankful that no one was hurt. I am thankful for the changes we were forced to make – and the additional $100,000 I estimate we’ll make next year as a result. 

Categories: Management & Leadership