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No substitute for the human factor
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Updated: 02/01/2014 08:00:01AM

No substitute for the human factor

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Few crises are as threatening to the survival of a small business as a large fire.

Multi-state corporations have numerous assets to support a recovery; small proprietorships do not. But it can be done.

Less than two weeks ago, fire caused extensive damage to the kitchen in the old Bartow Memorial Hospital building. The kitchen is under lease to Terrie Lobb Catering.

In a good luck fluke, the pre-dawn fire burned through a PVC plumbing pipe, releasing water which kept the fire from destroying the building.

While other tenants had to deal with smoke and water damage, the popular catering business had to evacuate for an extended period, and find a new venue from which to operate.

A combination of Terrie Lobb’s determined leadership, a staff which refused to give up in the face of adversity, the willingness of First Baptist Church to make its kitchen facilities available to the business, and emergency assistance of others, notably Ed Locke of SEMCO, kept the caterer in business.

On Saturday night — four days after the fire — the caterer fulfilled its contract with the Bartow Chamber of Commerce to cater its annual gala at the Bartow Civic Center, one of Bartow’s largest social events of the year.

While Terrie Lobb and her staff had to overcome many obstacles to pull it off, guests would not have known the difference had it not been for the widespread community awareness of the fire.

Adequate casualty and business interruption insurance can do a lot, but they cannot replace the human factor. Insurance can replace equipment and inventory, but backbone and determination are not insurable.

In the case of the Terrie Lobb Catering fire, the owner/manager had the determination to carry on, supported by a staff who shared her resolve. Community institutions with the assets and willingness to support that resolve helped it all come together.

Bartow is that kind of community.

One entrepreneur of our acquaintance counsels that the key to recovery in the face of crisis is “Always have Plan B.”

But no amount of planning can replace the human factor. That’s what came together to keep Terrie Lobb Catering in operation under adverse conditions that could have scuttled other businesses.

It was a proud moment for Bartow.

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