Rewind to 1972. Hurricane Agnes caused $3.2 billion worth of damage -- mostly in Pennsylvania and New York. President Nixon declared the entire state of Pennsylvania a disaster area. Damage in New York, meanwhile, exceeded $700 million. Among those hit: A small business owner in upstate New York. The business had $300,000 worth of Panasonic inventory on hand. The entire inventory was washed out -- destroyed by mud and water from the hurricane. The lost Panasonic inventory could have bankrupted the small business.
Mike Semel, now a VAR in Las Vegas, knows this story first-hand. His dad was the New York small business owner. Hurricane Agnes nearly destroyed the family business in 1972. In the photo below from June 1972, the flooded family store is circled in red:
Now here's where the miracle starts. Instead of sending Semel's dad an invoice for $300,000 in lost goods, Panasonic forgave the loss and started anew with the small company. Soon, the small business was selling Panasonic products to scores of regional customers that had lost radios and other electronics in the hurricane.
A Chance EncounterSemel shared that story with me last week during a chance meeting at Ingram Micro Cloud Summit. I spent most of the week blogging about recurring revenues and cloud strategies. But Semel's family business story has been stuck in the back of my mind ever since.
When a business is shaken to its core, Semel said, the aftershocks stretch on for miles. Employees, employee families, customers, suppliers and others within the business's ecosystem also suffer.
Semel never forgot how Panasonic essentially saved his dad's business. And over the past 40 years, Semel has been doing a lot of saving as well. He's vice president and chief security officer at Business Continuity Technologies (BCT) -- a solutions provider in Las Vegas that helps to keep businesses online. His pedigree includes certifications for HIPAA, Business Continuity and the CompTIA Security Trustmark.
According to his biography:
Prior to joining BCT, Mike led a Red Cross chapter disaster program; served as a fire department officer; taught hazardous materials incident response at the New York State Fire Academy; worked on the IndyCar Safety Team; and owned his own computer business.
The HTG ConnectionSemel also is a member of HTG Peer Groups. In recent months, he was one of the key people who helped HTG Peer Groups founder Arlin Sorensen and other members to piece together the Hands That Give strategy -- an insurance safety net that assists member VARs and MSPs during times of personal or professional crisis.
Among the key considerations: How can HTG members assist peers during a crisis without further complicating matters? As Semel points out: You need to be self-sufficient when you enter a disaster zone -- that way you're not a burden to those whom you're trying to help. A simple example: HTG members arrived to Joplin, Missouri, disaster zone with enough food and water to be self-sufficient for multiple days.
Last week, Semel and I discussed the Joplin disaster at length. But we kept rewinding to the story of how Hurricane Agnes nearly destroyed his dad's business. And Panasonic's decision to help his dad start anew -- rather than invoicing the small business for all the lost inventory.
Semel's dad never forgot the gesture. Apparently, neither did Semel.
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