Should I Stay or Should I Go?
As the historic flooding continues in and around Houston, we send our thoughts and prayers to all of those affected, and we hope that the worst has passed. We look forward to better days ahead, filled with hope and promise of recovery.
We are also realistic, and we know that this catastrophic damage will take months, if not years, to fix. Lives have been lost, homes and property have forever been damaged, and countless families will never be the same. Our hearts go out to all of those who are experiencing this tragic loss.
As restorers, we are a unique blend of entrepreneur and humanitarian. By and large, successful people in our business are successful because they love helping people. That translates into great work and profits over the long term. Following that logic, our first reaction is going to be this: I have to get to Houston and help those people.
Having worked on several regional CAT's over the past decade, I have been witness to some incredible work by our brethren on behalf of their clients. I was blessed to have worked with a remarkable team during Superstorm Sandy- one that helped dozens of restorers in downtown Manhattan and New Jersey manage their projects. In all, we oversaw more than $100 million of work. Unfortunately, it did not work out well for every contractor. Some of them were in over their heads, and as a result their efforts did not result in success. Some have yet to receive full payment for their work. Others simply went out of business, the strain of the work becoming too much for their company to bear.
The decision to mobilize to Houston for catastrophe work is far more complex than a simple "YES" or "NO." As much as we may want to help people, at the end of the day it has to work for our company, both financially and logistically. When consulting with restorers over the years on this decision, I always have them answer these questions simply and honestly:
-Do I have the ability and experience to work outside of my coverage area?
-Do I have the personnel capable of supporting my efforts in the disaster zone?
-Do I have the resources available (equipment , labor and consumables providers) on the road?
-Can I afford to work on the road and wait months (or more) for payment?
-Are all of my field processes in place to be able to document and support my work?
-If I leave, can I still support all of my core business in my own coverage area?
If any of these questions bring a "NO" answer, then I calmly advise them NOT to travel. Obviously, the lure of huge dollars and unlimited business can be too much to ignore for most, but the reality is this: for every restoration company that hits it big at a CAT, there are five other companies that go broke!!!
For those not thoroughly trained and prepared for this type of work, the risks far outweigh the rewards.
Understanding the realities of CAT work includes a working knowledge of all of these factors:
-FEMA Rules and Regulations: working on FEMA-covered losses involves an entirely different style of mitigation and support, and generally brings along with them lower invoice totals
-Coverage and Payment: at home, we are familiar with the different aspects of coverage, and can work with our clients in determining their exposure; on the road, we are at great risk of a denial of coverage, leaving us to try to collect our invoice from hundreds (or thousands) of miles away from our clients
-Additional Expenses: CAT work involves a greater need for assets to be moved and relocated; this need brings with it a large expense that is not easy to recoup from any one client; be aware of that cost and plan accordingly for the outlay BEFORE you expend them!
Here are a few more sobering facts that have to be considered when making up your mind on whether to mobilize:
-In Houston, only 2 of every 10 homeowners has flood coverage; the rest are NOT COVERED for their loss in this CAT
-a large percentage of commercial claims do not get settled within 90 days- in fact, there are still several claims still open from Superstorm Sandy, and hundreds of contractors still unpaid, five years later!
If none of this deters you (which is NOT my intent!), then get on the road and be prepared. Just to prove that I am trying to show the situation from both sides, here are some GOOD things to expect on the road:
-COORDINATION AND TEAMWORK: if you know another contractor working in the region, history has shown that coordinating your efforts can result in greater success for BOTH companies! In this case, 1 + 1 can equal 3 !!
-REPETITION BRINGS REVENUE: due to the sheer volume of work, you will have the opportunity to perform services and get paid several times over. That means that your equipment and workers can keep going, spinning you to greater profits!@
-PICK UP THE PIECES: even the largest companies in our space can only handle so much, and there is going to be more work than everyone can handle. As long as you keep your eyes open and stay within your "box," you can do a lot of work and make the trip successful.
I wish everyone in Houston a speedy recovery. If you are going there to assist, I wish you nothing but the best and urge you to work hard, work smart, and keep it simple. If there is anything that I can help you with, please don't hesitate to give me a call.