FDR said Dec. 7 would live in infamy. March 10, 2023, will live in memory — mine and my wife Debbie's — forever as well.
B&G Equipment's employees saw smoke. 4 hours later the dealership lay in ashes under a maze of twisted steel. I did not think a metal building could burn – I thought wrong. An old portable generator taken in as a service project, evidently burst into flames in our small engine shop. How? I do not know. I was the first to see the source of the flames. Several fire extinguishers did not squelch the gasoline flames. Passersby had already called 911 and the sirens were a relief as the thick smoke had tongues of flame now coming from under the rafters. Four hours later the smoldering ruins of 45 years of blood, sweat, tears and laughter were the object of the local TV photographer. Fire departments that put out fires are only found on TV/ movie sets. Those insurance companies that show up with a check the next day are part of the same fictional story line.
This sounds like the writing of a depressed person, eh? Well, there was a song by Chumbawamba — Tubthumping (I get knocked down, but I get up again) playing on the pickup's radio for some reason, and we thought “we just got to get over it,” and move from depression to defiance!
Well, it turns out that one has all types of emotions during a crisis. I had a stiff upper lip, shed nary a tear and had found some humor in our picking up of the pieces. It is what good leaders are supposed to do, right? Well, Reliance Works, Bill King, an avid AC enthusiast and collector, sent a package in the mail of a chrome, stick-on emblem that said Allis-Chalmers with a hand written note. “Hope this is the first seed of rebuilding all your collectibles and memories.” I went to the restroom and cried my eyes out. Real men don't cry is what I have always been told, another myth I was wrong about, especially when thinking about our assistant manager and bookkeeper's dog we lost — the only casualty and a mascot we loved to hate.
I will admit there was the temptation to take the insurance and move to a tropical island and watch the waves as we saw the building collapse. However, as I looked into the faces of employees and customers who depended on our dealership for a livelihood, we could make no other decision but to state in our best Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation, "We'll be back."
Picking Up the Pieces, Learning Lessons
Insurance: you all had better check what you got now — especially check on the business interruption clause. It had better be in there. It is your source of income to keep your AP department solvent. These checks keep the dwindling checking account in the black.
Garage keepers' insurance clauses vary greatly. Check your insurance as to the equipment in the shop that is being worked on, check the coverage on the work orders in progress. Make sure the coverage of special tools are listed and pictures, kept in the cloud, exist. Make sure your techs have a rider on their homeowners or other insurance for their tools — yours will not cover the replacement cost at today's prices, especially if they are bought off the traveling tool trucks you love to see pull up weekly.
Ask your insurance agent if the building coverage has a clause for inflation. If your franchise is from a major line, they will have a first line on the parts. It is there to protect them if a dealer goes SOT (sold out of trust) thus they will have insurance on the parts purchased from them. Your primary insurance will have them covered as well. Be ready for a lot of subrogation time to sort out the details.
While on this subject, customers who have equipment destroyed that you have on the lot may have their own insurance and file immediately and get a settlement. Their insurance will subrogate back on your insurance for sure. This can get messy and time-consuming as well; you can't control it, and it will work out. Don't sweat the process. I am writing out of current experience, not because we are experts… we are far from it. But if we can journal some "watch out for's" to help others, proactively, maybe it will be worth the read. It is good therapy for us as we rebuild anyway (we type with a smile). Stay tuned as we chronicle “Rebuilding a Dealership for Dummies,” first edition. Until next time, check your insurance with a fine tooth comb through the fine print. The reason fire departments exist is that statistics state things burn. We hope you are never part of our “statistics.”
Told from the perspective of an in-the-trenches owner/operator — Tim Brannon of B&G Equipment, Paris, Tenn. — Equipment Dealer Tips, Tales & Takeaways shares knowledge, experiences and tips/lessons with fellow rural equipment dealerships throughout North America. Covering all aspects required of an equipment dealership general manager, Brannon will inform, entertain and provide a teachable moment for current — and future — leaders within equipment dealerships.
More From Tim Brannon
- Our Industry’s Connection to China: An Optimistic Point of View
- Idiocracy: Our Industry’s Dependence on China
- Battling Through the Next Market Cycle
- Are 'UFOs' Circling Your Dealership?
- Right vs. Ability to 'Repair'
Editor's note: Among the long list of destroyed property in the fire was was Brannon’s diploma from Murray State University, which had been proudly hanging on the wall of his office. His alma mater heard about the tragedy, and on Tuesday, a delegation from university paid a visit to Brannon and his family at the site of the burned-out business to help undo just a little bit of the fire’s damage.
Click here to read the full story from The Paris Post-Intelligence.
Equipment Dealer Tips, Tales & Takeaways is brought to you by the Solectrac.
It’s Solectrac's mission to lead the transition to zero-emissions regenerative agriculture, and utility operations with best-in-class technology for a safer, cleaner and healthier future.
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