Exciting, challenging, frustrating, terrifying and rewarding are just some of the adjectives that describe how it feels to run your own business. Expect to endure a roller coaster of emotions, especially when the odd curve ball is thrown and your day is turned on its head!
For someone as organised as myself an unscheduled event can be a bit of a challenge as I struggle to control the uncontrollable! When things get particularly tough and energy levels are sapped, I find that it helps to have a sound coping mechanism up your sleeve. Try surrounding yourself with positive thinking people who will ultimately boost your morale and help you to re energise.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting the owners of DT Autos in North Bersted. Dave Hickford’s livelihood was burnt to the ground last August 2013 in a terrifying accident involving a faulty gas cylinder. His inspirational story is one that I felt compelled to share with you as it highlights the sheer resolve and resilience of Dave and his wife Tracey during this past year.
Dave’s way of handling the situation was to go into autopilot and his words “stay in control”. Incredibly, the day after the event he and his two-man team of mechanics set up a make shift camp on the front drive of his then, nonexistent garage in a bid to inform his customers of what had happened. In the fire, 14 vehicles were written off and Dave and his team not only lost the premises but all their tools, computers, equipment, plus the diary and their contacts.
With no sign of an imminent interim insurance payment to fund staff salaries or to purchase replacement stock and tools, Dave was left with no choice but to dig deep into his personal funds and head down to Halfords.
He spent the next few weeks offering a mobile service, picking up vehicles and sharing garage space in Bognor, which had kindly been offered to him by a friend. Time spent toing and froing with customer’s cars meant business was very slow,so eventually Dave managed to secure temporary rented space in Chichester.
The time consuming and emotional process of dealing with the insurance claim, the inspectors plus additional paperwork, whilst trying to continue running his business, had a massive detrimental effect on Dave both mentally and physically and sadly, three months later he experienced a breakdown.
We talked about the people who came forward to help the couple get through this traumatic period. They explained that they were overwhelmed by “people we didn’t even know” who rallied round and supported them in their hour of need.
A customer who lives opposite the business was in the garage on that fateful day. He and Dave ran to his house and took shelter as they watched Dave’s livelihood go up in flames. Unsurprisingly the pair have now become good friends.
Loyal customers popped in with cards, some with cash inside, sweets and wine. Then two months after the fire, the local newspaper published a follow up article. As a result, an ex serviceman from Middleton on Sea plus a retired London Transport Mechanic from Bognor came forward offering, what was to Dave, the greatest gift of all. Tools! Obsolete tools that were just irreplaceable.
Five months on Dave’s business premises was rebuilt and he celebrated with an open weekend at the end of May 2014.
It is clear that Dave and Tracey still have a long way to go until the business can finally get back to where it was. Some people said we would never come back from such a disaster commented Tracey and that “only one in ten returns after a fire”
Bureaucracy continues to hold things up however the fact remains that this couple have become a stronger team and through sheer determination, in my book, they have already beaten all the odds.
So next time things don’t go according to plan in my business I aim to step back and ask myself, is it really that bad?….
Sharon Mapley, FBS Sussex