Fun new media option this week!
Want to see me tell kinda the same story , but on video with thrilling disaster footage? It’s from a conference preso I did a few weeks back. Scroll down to the bottom.
Hey look we’re on the news
Do you find the TV news depressing? I do. Particularly that time last year I was watching the ABC Sydney news and on came reports of flash flooding on main-street Hobart.
There’s floating cars, then a short scene shot from a tall building, a river of brown water surging down its carpark ramp to create Hobart’s newest underground dam (0’14” in this vid):
The location seemed vaguely familiar.
Oh yes. It’s the building where our office is.
And our technical warehouse is in that carpark.
Our expensive assets protected by non-waterproof wire mesh and plaster walls.
I called our local team. Yep, 1.2 metres of putrid water had left everything with a toxic mud crust.
Technical warehouses are set up in a reverse of Maslow’s Pyramid Of Excitingness. Big expensive things are on wheels on the ground and they are first to die. Less expensive but essential items are on the first shelf, still in the fatality zone. Old, out-of-date junk you wished would drown look down from the top shelf, safe and dry, mocking us with their sole-survivor status.
Half our stuff was elsewhere, but still half a mil worth of equipment lay rotting in the swamp. That obviously sucked, but you should not start businesses unless you’re prepared to be smitten by fate every so often. It just happens.
And we were insured, whew.
Hooray for insurance
When it’s claim time a person called a loss-adjuster comes to check out the destruction and make sure it’s legit. After two days of sniffing through projectors filled with slime, he pronounced it a valid claim.
With a footnote: it was a policy that required listing of individual assets. And for reasons too boring to go into, that list had not been updated for four years.
Most of the dead equipment wasn’t on the insured list.
(How did I forget this episode the other week when I wrote of our greatest, most expensive business screw-ups?)
Of the $500K damage, the approved payout was … $11 0K.
What’s the opposite of whew? Fuck? That doesn’t seem adequate, it needs some old-school Yosemite Sam cuss word like dagnabbit!, tarnation! or consarn it!
Enter Tayla, Warrior Queen
Up stepped our insurance broker, Tayla. She’s in Hobart, and we’ve used her company for all our national insurance since we started, because Tasmanians are super-friendly and pleasant to deal with.
Tayla went into battle with the underwriter like some historic warrior queen, on the grounds that we’ve been paying premiums for all that equipment. The underwriter was absolutely within their rights to stick to the low payout. Anything extra was coming out of their pocket.
After three months, we settled on a payout of $420K. A glorious victory.
We’re kinda lucky in being a national business so that loss wouldn’t have been fatal to the business. If we were a regular local company, that insurance screwup could easily have put us under. Ten top Tasmanians out of a job because of our administrative error.
Thanks entirely to Tayla’s efforts, that business lives and thrives today. Our staff still have their jobs and they can support their families in a state where decent jobs can be hard to find.
Obviously we will use Tayla’s insurance broking services forever. And I’m writing a story that kinda sounds like some testimonial ad but it’s purely a reflection of our gratitude for the way she sorted our shit out. If you save people they will tell others.
What does that mean for you?
It’s interesting to consider this story in the way most service businesses sell and market themselves. A lot of people think their service is kinda boring and the same as everyone else in their field.
Insurance is, let’s face it, heaps boring until you need it.
I’ve written before about the valuable training you get as an ad writer for finding the magic in products that are in no way cool, edgy or prestigious. You have to dig harder, but it will be there. There will be stories like this one that make you think: it would be a stupid, risky move not to use that supplier.
What are the consequences if your product doesn’t work?
A few more questions to ask yourself as you consider how you portray yourself in the market :
1. Do you know their business?
As a buyer, if you change suppliers a lot, the worst thing is explaining your entire business history to new suppliers. How long does it take for each new web developer or bank manager to actually get what you do? You might save a few dollars hustling for the cheapest supplier each time, but at what cost to your own precious time?
The value of someone who knows your business and can just get straight to work unsupervised is massive.
2. Are they an important client to you?
Though we’re national, we’re not a big company. That’s one reason we like using suppliers in smaller cities. Our insurance is from Hobart. Our lease finance is via a major bank, but we use their Adelaide people. They’re friendlier, there’s less staff churn, and they value our business because it seem less small to them.
So when the floodwaters come for your business, you’re backed up by someone who actually cares about sorting it out.
3. Can you make exceptions to your rules?
I’ve written about this before, the great advantage smaller businesses have over large ones (and robots) in having staff who can look a client in the eye and say: “don’t tell anyone, I’m going outside the rules but I can help you out”.
That builds more loyalty than your crappy points scheme.
It usually costs your business nothing. In our case it cost the underwriter $300K. But (I’m assuming) they took the long-term view that they’ll get it back and a lot more if they keep us as a national client.
And we’ll be delighted to give them the money.
4. Can you find the good stories?
Most business have great stories like this. They’re just not good at recognising them, or telling them.
This story has become legend within our business. When each of our offices gets the periodic email from Tayla asking them to update their asset list, you’d better believe they jump to attention and do it. Since the days of sitting around cave fires, stories have passed down valuable lessons on how to avoid danger.
If one of us forgot to update the list, and we had another destruction situation, it would be volcano-feeding time.
Learning how to tell a story is really helpful in business.
And finally, be a grownup and check your insurance terms and conditions. Avoiding the boring things is a the surest path to business purgatory.
Here’s the video version live on stage at Hamilton Island, ironically in a room rebuilt after it got trashed by a cyclone a couple of years ago. Shout out to our friends at AV Partners for lending me the camera.
Do you subscribe to the weekly Motivation For Sceptics story via email each Tuesday? If not that’s cool but if it saves you from the uninsured destruction of your business just once, that more than justifies the price. Which is free.