It’s been said that natural disasters bring out the best in people.
Our humanitarian instincts kick in as others suffer great damage to their property –sometimes losing it altogether – businesses are destroyed and, worst of all, lives are lost.
A very active 2020 season of hurricanes put the best part of our human nature to the test. Hurricanes were especially nasty in the northern Gulf of Mexico and just wouldn’t leave Louisiana alone; five named storms hit the state this year. Hurricane Laura struck with horrific force in August, the first Category 4 hurricane ever to reach landfall in southwest Louisiana.
The best thing a business can do in such challenging times is help those affected by the hurricane in any way they can. And when franchisees working for that company are affected themselves, where do they turn? At Mosquito Authority, I’m proud to say our fellow franchisees came running to help their colleague in need.
In Lake Charles, La., franchisee Steve McNeal suffered considerable damage to his home and to his Mosquito Authority franchise shop. But help was soon on the way – from all over the southwest and southeast U.S.
“We suffered a direct hit from Laura,” McNeal said. “And we needed to get back up and running for our customers. A lot of people in our area were displaced, and property was torn up everywhere. There was no electricity, no water, no internet, and minimal phone service.
“Our MA shop was torn up badly. It was really depressing and difficult to get in the recovery mode. But I can’t say enough about what MA headquarters and many franchisees did to help us get back on our feet.”
Communication with customers is critical at a time like this. The aftermath of a hurricane in the peak of summer heat makes mosquitos an even bigger problem. Relaying his service routes and customers’ needs to MA headquarters and other franchisees, McNeal’s business was covered.
“MA did a lot to help us communicate with customers,” McNeal said. “We had several areas of our territory affected differently, and some homes were destroyed. Our team spent many hours getting messages to our customers.
“From the first conversation with the corporate office, it was clear they were committed to helping us get back on our feet. Whatever it took and whatever we needed – financial help, equipment, personnel supplies – they delivered to make sure we were taken care of.”
Manpower came from faraway places, volunteering to drive from different states – Texas, Georgia, Indiana – to do the applications and treatments for McNeal’s customers.
“Those people worked all week long in their own territories, and then they’d drive hours and hours, hundreds of miles, to come down here and spray and treat our customers’ yards on the weekend,” McNeal said. “It was an amazing outpouring of help. So many dozens of MA franchisees across the country offered their moral as well as financial support, both for the initial response and the recovery.
“My family and I are so blessed to be part of this company that has so many people willing to go out of their way to help. We wouldn’t have made it through to where we are today without the support of all these wonderful people.”
If you’ve never been through one of these disasters, there’s no way to explain what it feels like when you hit the ground and see all the devastation around you. The most important thing is having the support of friends, neighbors, co-workers, management, family, and a shoulder to cry on. It can be an extremely emotional experience.
Some franchisees started a GoFundMe for McNeal. With numerous franchisees coming from other states to help McNeal, some of those funds covered travel costs. The money also went toward purchasing an RV, where the franchisees who had driven to McNeal’s house could stay overnight. McNeal made a contribution to one lady’s church as a gesture of thanks for her help. And the money also went to local laborers in order to help McNeal’s employees, who had suffered damage themselves.
“We were desperate to get as many of our employees as possible back on the job,” McNeal said. “And several of them said they needed time away from work because their houses were messed up, and debris was scattered all over their yards.
“We used part of the GoFundMe funds to hire people to help our employees clean up their homes and properties.”
The whole experience has given McNeal a clear understanding of how a business, where people truly care about each other, can be like a family.
“Over my 10 years with Mosquito Authority, friends and family have asked me why I’m part of a franchise,” McNeal said. “What we just went through puts a whole new light on it.
“If you were in business by yourself and went through what we did, how many people would’ve been there to have your back? That’s what being part of a franchise is all about. And I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Chris Buitron is president of Mosquito Authority®, a nationwide leader in mosquito control with franchises serving communities across the U.S. and Canada.
Buitron has an extensive background in franchise industries. He was chief marketing officer for Senior Helpers, vice president of marketing for Direct Energy (home services division), and director of marketing for Sunoco Inc., where he supported the company’s 4,700 franchised and company-owned rental facilities across 23 states (over $15B in annual revenues).