Hurricane Aftermath: Franchising Sees a Surge in Kindness and Business

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Pressure bursts pipes. But pressure also creates diamonds. It’s pressure situations, such as what millions in Texas, Florida and so many other southern areas had to contend with before, during and after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, where unsung heroes, like franchise CEO Michael Plummer, Jr., shine brightest. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pummeled the south and portions of the Gulf Coast, causing damage expected to exceed $150 billion. These hurricanes are a tragedy…but they have also produced amazing acts of charity as well as unexpected business opportunities.

Back to Plummer.   Plummer is the CEO of Our Town America, the nation’s premier new mover marketing franchise, based in Tampa, Florida. In early September, as Hurricane Irma threatened Florida’s west coast, Plummer, Jr. stepped up and went to work for his beloved community.

Community has always been a core philosophy for Plummer and everyone at Our Town America. That belief is woven into the company’s fabric and was engrained in Plummer by his father, Michael Plummer, Sr. The elder Plummer was widely known for his generosity. That included a willingness to open his Our Town America facility as a temporary shelter for those seeking refuge during hurricanes.

As Irma churned just off the coast of his beloved state, Michael Plummer, Jr., sent his family out of the state and out of harm’s way. However, he knew relocation wasn’t possible for countless Tampa area residents. The one-time Army medic has firsthand knowledge about pressure situations and determining the best possible outcome. So, he carried on the tradition birthed by his father in the 1990’s during Hurricane Andrew, and welcomed members of his community to his makeshift office shelter.

Our Town America is committed to helping the community, whether its welcoming new residents to the area, or in this case, making sure residents in the direct path of a hurricane have a secure place to ride out the storm.  Plummer fulfilled that commitment by providing a safe-haven for dozens of people who took him up on his offer.  However, that was just the beginning for Plummer and Our Town America.

Going Social to Rebuild Communities

With everyone – those who camped out in his office as well as his family – safe and sound in the days following Irma’s wrath, Plummer focused his attention on a new mission – hurricane relief for local business and residents impacted by the storms. Not just in Florida, but hundreds of miles across the Gulf of Mexico, in Texas. Just a few weeks earlier, Houston was battered, pounded and subsequently swallowed by Harvey’s relentless winds and floodwaters. Plummer felt it was his obligation to lend a helping hand in both communities. He and his team determined social media would play a major role in the fundraising.

The company hosted two separate Facebook fundraisers for two markets where it has deep roots – Tampa, where Our Town America is headquartered, and Houston. Our Town America sends “welcome packages,” with offers from local businesses, to people who have recently relocated. Now, those same customers and many more joined Our Town America’s efforts to help some of their favorite business owners rebound from the storm.

Sure enough, the kind hearts of the community showed out. The Houston fundraiser generated more than $3,000 in donations.   In October, this money was presented to Houston-based Shipley’s Do-Nuts owner, Mike Simon, who suffered structural damage due to the flooding.   When Plummer called him to notify him, Simon was overcome by emotions.

But that’s not all!  In a beautiful example of the “pay it forward” mindset, Simon didn’t take a dime from the raised money.   Instead, he gave it all to a loyal employee, Lucia Flores, who lost her home and all possessions during Hurricane Harvey.   A Mexican immigrant and single mother of two, Flores desperately needed the money to get back on her feet following the storm.   When Our Town America and Shipley’s surprised Flores with the check, her fellow colleagues gathered around to show admiration for all she does as a devoted and loving mother and employee.   It was an emotional moment, indeed!

Plummer and Our Town America are seeking to do something similar in Florida and have already collected more than $2,000 on Facebook for a Florida-based fundraiser. Plummer and the executive team are in the process of determining how those funds will be disseminated between the Sponsor businesses that have already reached out needing help. Clearly, Our Town America is a company that is dedicated to getting companies back in the swing of things.

Franchise Community Building Proves a Boon for Business

However, fundraising isn’t the only way franchise brands are giving back. In fact, countless franchise brands are helping to restore their communities by doing what they do every day…while experiencing a serious uptick in business in the process. In fact, some local franchisees have seen sales surges as high as 300% since the storms.  Here are a few examples:

  • Ryan Smith, Monster Tree Service in Atlanta – Ryan Smith with Monster Tree Service has been working around the clock since Hurricane Irma clobbered the metro Atlanta area.  Countless downed trees and limbs needed to be removed after crashing into homes, cutting off streets, and knocking out powerlines.  Smith says his revenues have already increased 300% - a number he expects to rise as he and his team continue to help homeowners get back on their feet.
  • Mark Powell, Golden Corral – Mark Powell, who owns two Golden Corral restaurants in the Houston metro area, has experienced a 15-20% increase in business since reopening after Hurricane Harvey (Eric Holm, who owns 32 Golden Corral restaurants in Florida and Georgia, is starting to see the same in Hurricane Irma’s aftermath). Powell and all other Golden Corral owners open as quickly as possible after any natural disaster to provide local communities with much needed food as homeowners struggle to cook or keep food fresh with no electricity.  
  • Doug Waitekus, Creative Colors International – Doug Waitekus, the Creative Colors International (CCI) owner in Jacksonville, FL, is expecting to triple revenues over the next few months – a number that would equal the sales spike experienced by the New Orleans-based CCI owner after Hurricane Katrina – as insurance companies contact him about damaged cars, boats, planes, restaurants, etc. He’ll help them determine if leather, vinyl, and fabric surfaces are salvageable and will make repairs that save owners thousands over replacement costs.  
  • Graham Banks, America’s Swimming Pool Company (ASP) – Graham Banks of ASP in Jupiter, FL went above and beyond to guarantee his clients were not only safe, but their pools were prepared for what was to come. He sent an email with a link to a Facebook video detailing how customers could care for their pool (the video generated 5,000+ views). He conducted house calls up until “Hurricane Eve” to clear yards and treat pools with chlorine to help them fend off contaminants caused by flooding. Then, after the storm, he was the only pool expert in town to respond to dozens of emergencies. He worked tirelessly to clean and clear more than 100 pools in a week, gaining multiple new loyal customers in the process.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are responsible for so much pain for the families and businesses directly impacted by the storms.  While the road to recovery won’t be smooth for anyone that was in the eye of the storm, many are thankful that local franchise business owners (such as those detailed here) are there to relieve some of the pressure and help rebuild the local community.

www.ourtownamerica.com