May '19

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38 THE SHOP MAY 2019 E veryone uses the saying when it rains, it pours; but what do you do when you're far beyond pouring rain and find yourself ambushed with baseball-sized hail? The week before Christmas, my company was not only battling an unexpected rush of work, but was also dragged through the ringer by an accumulation of unfortunate events. If you were to mention this week to any Top Coverage employee the next time you see them, I guarantee their eyes would widen and they'd shake their head. Recently, I mentioned that week to our operations manager and I saw people around him stop what they were doing and stare up like a family of deer facing an oncoming school bus. "I'm still trying to understand how the hell we pulled that one off," one of our guys laughed. HERE COMES 'THAT WEEK' As we withered down to a skeleton crew approaching the holidays, things started to happen beyond our control. Most of our employees have been with our company long enough to know that the weeks before and during the Christmas holiday are usually a good time to take their vacation days. Dealerships tend to schedule many installs after the holidays, so approaching Dec. 25 we usually have an average amount of work at most—nothing we can't manage with a short staff. The week also usually ends with a nice catered lunch, and we try to get people out a little early. Our first of many chal- lenges this year, however, occurred when Sampson, my brother's dog/Top Coverage's mascot, got into the food as everyone was hard at work. Our shop GM and a handful employees were already out on vacation. We would've managed the workload fine with the ini- tial system we had in place, but then the next challenge popped up—one of our employees injured their knee over the weekend and was going to be out a while. It was about then that the snow began to fall. On Thursday morning, I took a call as I was walking into the office. Another employee had called in and I could hear the ambulance in the background. He was following his daughter to the hospital. I could hear it in his voice how much he didn't want to break the news to me, as we had already recently dealt with three other very serious incidents regarding employees' family members. At this point, every person who was still coming in to work was critical to the team. Out of 10 drivers, we were down to two. We not only had a heavy volume of deliveries that day, but we also had to get around through the lingering snowstorm and freezing temperatures. I agree with my employee—how the hell did we manage to pull this one off? It took a lot of strategizing, but we somehow made it happen. SURVIVAL STRATEGIES I'm sure all businesses experience these types of moments when everything hap- pens at once. Maybe you're experiencing a moment like that as you read this article and need some ideas or reminders to help you strategize. Even though we relied on technology to deal with a portion of our challenges, I realize that resources may vary in different markets; therefore, I'd like to discuss some of the simple things we did that went a long way toward helping us make it through. The first thing is to maintain a sense of optimism, no matter what's happening. Before you begin strategizing, you must tell yourself you can do it and believe it. I quickly realized I'd have to cancel all plans for the week in order to make this When It Rains, It Pours Managing chaos during unexpected circumstances. By Courtney Pahlke

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