Boating Industry

February 2014

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[ Prepare for the inconceivable ] (Above) One of many photos Legendary sent its customers during the oil spill disaster showing unspoiled beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. (Right) The party Legendary hosted after the oil well was capped. all changed with the spill, as news coverage was dominated for months by stories of fouled beaches, deflating tourist traffic, decimated fisheries and, most vividly, that streaming video of the spill itself. "We got to the point where we just really wouldn't allow ourselves to watch any more TV," Pace said. "We just had to pray that they were going to get great people in there and those people would figure out a way to fix it and cap it." There is no manager's playbook for a disaster of this size. Not knowing what would come next, Pace launched a public relations campaign to show Legendary's customers that the situation on the water — at least their stretch of the Gulf — wasn't nearly as bad as the media portrayal burned into everybody's minds. With the summer selling season essentially lost, company management also focused on employee morale, which was no easy task. "We met and realized that we couldn't focus on it, and it couldn't become what we were all about," Pace said. "We had to stay [focused on] the main thing, which was taking care of the customers that were using their boats, taking care of the customers that were still coming to see us." Legendary's staff also set about a massive cleaning project that included neglected maintenance, painting projects and anything else to keep people moving and their minds off the stillunfolding disaster at sea. Because the company's locations were not physically damaged, there was no basis for an insurance claim. However, Legendary negotiated with BP for a settlement Pace found agreeable, 30 | Boating Industry | February 2014 P26x31-BI14FEB-Disaster-dv.indd 30 which softened the blow of the lost selling season. Once the oil well was capped — nearly five months later — the company threw the biggest party in its history to celebrate its capping. "We wanted to let everybody know that it was very difficult, it was awful and all those other things, but they capped it and now we had to go back to business, let them go back to the business of cleaning it up," Pace said. "We had to go back to the business of having fun and selling memories and great experiences for our customers and their families." While Legendary's marketing efforts focused on showing the situation as it was and, admittedly, putting a spin on the situation that was as positive as possible, one of the challenges was being careful with the message in a way that respected all of its neighboring businesses — fishing, tours, parasailing to name a few — that faced an even greater impact than Legendary's stores. took Cranford 45 minutes to reach the marina. He spotted the damage from afar. "When I came over the river bridge and looked over here, my heart just sank. I couldn't imagine that. I thought maybe there was some roof missing or a few things like that, maybe a few boats drift because they broke loose or something like that. One pier was turned 90 degrees [from] where it used to be, the other one right next to it was picked up and moved 80 feet and dropped," he said. "It was just a big wadded, cobbled mess and there were boats out there floating around in the harbor." In seconds, winds ripped through causing $2.7 million in damage. Having good insurance, Cranford found, wasn't enough to prevent a significant hardship for the business in lost customers, lost revenue and insurance premiums that tripled after such a large claim. All told, 20 boats were damaged at the marina, seven were total losses. Some were damaged from the falling dock, while others were damaged from debris flying through the air. Alred's insurance claim took longer than he would have liked. With nowhere to put boats, customers had to take them somewhere else during the recovery. For a variety of reasons beyond the business' control, 35 never returned. "We're kind of a destination place, it's not like the coast where people are passing by all the time," he said. "You have to want to come here, so that's been the hardest part of recovery." As his wife's family business previously experienced a significant loss, Cranford imme- AN ALABAMA TORNADO OUTBREAK It was 5:45 a.m., but Alred Marina's Russ Cranford, his wife and two kids were awake and huddled in their basement as three simultaneous tornadoes roared through town. The worst lasted 20 seconds, then silence. It was part of a three-day tornado outbreak that was one of the largest and deadliest ever recorded. In total, 358 tornadoes impacted the eastern part of the country, including three that hit Guntersville, Ala., on that Wednesday morning. Cranford's phone rang after it passed, a call from one of his family marina's live-aboard residents. A twister hit the marina, several docks were completely destroyed and it was possible people could be trapped on their boats. A 10-minute drive in normal conditions, it 1/8/14 12:50 PM

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