If you believe the stereotype, insurance adjusters love golf. When I first began working in the insurance claims industry 15 years ago, I was told a joke about the industry:
Three 10-year old boys are bragging about their dads, as boys that age always do. Boy 1– “My dad is so fast he can shoot a pistol and catch the bullet before it hits the target.” Boy 2 — “My dad is so fast he can turn off the light and be in bed before the room gets dark.” Boy 3 — “That’s nothing. My dad’s an insurance adjuster. He gets off work at 5 p.m. and is on the first tee by 2 p.m.”
Now anybody who knows anything about the life of an adjuster knows that this stereotype should have died many years ago. The adjuster who “gets off work at 5 p.m.” is usually still working on his laptop at 9 p.m., and thoughts of a regular golf game now usually means once a month rather than twice a week, if that often.
For those in the restoration trade, our thoughts are no different. Golf may be a favorite pursuit, but business represents a daily reality.
At no time was this more apparent than last year, when the worst storm season hit our shores from coast to coast, particularly in the Southeast. Restoration contractors from around the country mobilized, as did insurance personnel, to handle the aftermath of natural disaster. Long hours, days, weeks and months helping homeowners and businesses recover from five hurricanes, as well as assorted tropical storms, fires, and tornados, left first responders exhausted, with frayed nerves and emotions. Many first responders did not go home for weeks at a time. For those that still had any time or interest in playing golf, almost any local course, at least in the Southeast, was either under water, covered with sand from storm surge, or in some other way damaged.
However if there was a silver lining in all this, it’s that there was some pretty amazing teamwork exhibited among the first responder group–firefighters, emergency medical technicians, adjusters, relief personnel, and restoration professionals. Much of this easy coordination can be traced directly back to time spent together on a golf course.
For many years, restoration professionals have been turning to their favorite leisure activity as a means to build relationships, help others, and get to know people outside the normal routine. The charity golf outing has become a preferred vehicle to enjoyably advance a many-pronged agenda.
One of the organizations that play a major role in disaster response is the American Red Cross. As contractors work on damage properties, Red Cross relief workers assist the affected families get their feet back on the ground. To bring attention to the duality of their missions, C&B Services of Port Neches, Texas, sponsored a golf tournament for three years to support the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
J.P. Maguire Associates of Waterbury, Conn., also helps sponsor a golf tournament that supports the local American Red Cross effort. The collaborative relationships developed during these golf events helps when it really counts. As C&B President Troy Crochet noted, C&B “created a natural partnership in providing the Houston-area with a team that is experienced and equipped to handle any disaster.”
Volunteering to help firefighters
Another group that works side by side with restoration contractors when disaster strikes is the firefighting community. They are a frequent beneficiary of golf tournaments. The local volunteer fire departments of Butte, Tehama and Shasta (California) counties have been the beneficiaries of the efforts of Cleanrite-Buildrite Inc. of Chico, Calif. In 2003 and 2004, Cleanrite-Buildrite raised over $30,000 for the counties’ departments from their ‘Fire on the Fairway’ golf outing.
“Most people don’t know it, but over 80 percent of all the firemen in the United States are volunteers,” said Chris Hill, marketing manager of Cleanrite-Buildrite. “They are always in need of funds from the private sector to ensure that they are properly outfitted to do their job well and secure the safety of the community.”
Those directly affected by fires are also in need of assistance. In Ohio, two companies host golf outings to assist burn victims. OmniClean of Cleveland, Ohio, holds an outing that benefits the nationally renowned Burn Center of Cleveland’s MetroHealth Medical Center, and Cousino Construction of Toledo donates its proceeds to the burn centers of a local children’s home.
“While our organizations do very different things, we share a common goal of helping after a disaster,” said Steve Osman, president of OmniClean. “Unfortunately, when there is a fire, there may be people that get hurt. We are happy to help an organization that helps victims after the unexpected happens.”
Organizers of charitable events are not the only ones to have an impact. Every successful golf outing also needs sponsors. While the event organizers usually do the bulk of the work, it is the sponsors who generate the funds.
In the Tampa area, Bay Area Disaster Kleenup of Oldsmar sponsors the Hillsborough County Fire Fighters golf outing to raise money for burn victims, wounded firefighters, and the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Rich Ganci, Emergency Response Director of Bay Area Disaster Kleenup, is also a firefighter, and he takes this event very personally. “It is gratifying to know that our daily vocation is not about making money on people’s misfortune. Rather it represents a deliberate choice to have a career dedicated to helping people when they need it most, whether through the application of our skilled trade, or through the giving of a portion of the proceeds that the skilled trade provides to those that need it,” Ganci said.
Compleat Restorations of Ephrata, Penn., similarly supports the Lancaster Fire Chiefs’ golf outing, while Insurance Restoration Specialists of Lothian, Maryland sponsors the Montgomery Country Fire Departments golf outing that raises money to assist burn victims.
Charity golf outings do not have to be aligned with a company’s business interests; it can be important to align them with personal interests. This is well demonstrated by the event hosted by Green Construction of Lakeland, Fla., in memory of Danielle Green. Danielle, the youngest daughter of company president Alan Green, lost her battle with cancer at age 11 in 2001. Since 2002, the annual Green Construction Classic has raised over $100,000 for the Children’s Cancer Center of Tampa Bay.
Fireservice Disaster Kleenup of Fort Myers, Fla., regularly hosts a golf outing to support the local Relay for Life event which raises money for the American Cancer Society. Company president Bill Maute lost his aunt and uncle, both of whom were company employees, to cancer a few years ago, and in the last 12 months two additional staff members have gone through cancer treatments. With cancer striking so close to home, the company felt particularly pleased in generating over $10,000 at this year’s event. “We find that our golf outing is something that our employees look forward to every year,” said Greg Frith, marketing director.
Likewise, Four Star Cleaning and Restoration of Fremont, Calif., hosts an annual outing to support the Breast Cancer Center of Oakland, Calif., in memory of the sister of Four Star’s president Cary Adler who was a victim of breast cancer. This year Steammaster Restoration of Minturn, Colo., will host its first golf event to support the Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards, Colo., in memory of Kim Matthews, the company’s marketing director who succumbed to cancer this spring.
Golf tournaments hosted by the Institute of Real Estate Management, the Apartment Association support the American Cancer Society, the Charlotte Crisis Ministry, and Youth Homes of Charlotte. “Because our business operates 24/7/365, it is difficult for us to be able to commit to run an event or play in an event because unfortunately disasters don’t check our calendars before occurring,” said Peter Dineen, marketing director of FRS. “But by helping to sponsor an event, we can still have a meaningful impact on the charity’s mission.”
Regency Construction of Clinton Township, Mich., is a sponsor of the Michigan Tournament of Charities to benefit the Promise Village: Home for Children, which helps kids that need another chance in life. Insurance Restoration Specialists also hosts its own tournament for breast cancer research, and Eastern Diversified Services of Souderton, Penn., supports the local Knights of Columbus golf outing.
Reflections on management
It’s important that any event be well-managed. If the event is well-organized, it is likely to be an outing that people will play again the following year. That will reflect well on the organizers and sponsors. But the opposite is also true. “A poorly executed event not only reflects poorly on your own business and jeopardizes the success of the event in the future, but can also unfortunately reflect poorly on the charity–and that’s not fair to that organization,” said Dave Gard of United Services DKI in Griffith, Ind., which hosted an outing for the National Children’s Cancer Society for five years.
Several companies rely on the professionalism exhibited through their running of an event to market their company. Disaster Kleenup serving Treasure Valley of Nampa, Idaho, J. Bowers Construction of Akron, Ohio, Sullivan’s Cleaning and Restoration of Green Bay, Wis., and Anderson Group International of Bakersfield, Calif., are a few of the companies that host golf events to allow adjusters, equipment vendors, fire fighters and community officials to get to know each other better, build camaraderie, and make it easier to work together in the future, whatever the situation.
Secrets to a successful charity event
There are many ingredients for a successful charity event. Here are just a few:
Do something unique that will leave a lasting impression. J.C. Restoration of Bensenville, Ill., is a frequent hole sponsor at golf events and brings a large ultrasonic cleaner out to ‘their’ hole. They use the ultrasonic machine to clean each golfer’s clubs to a condition that hasn’t been seen since they were new. Many return at the end of the day to have them cleaned again. Cleanrite-Buildrite has conducted a unique closest-to-the-pin raffle that has a helicopter drop 500 ‘purchased’ golf balls onto a make shift green. Cousino Construction has had PGA pros run clinics.
Ensure the greatest percentage of the proceeds as possible go to the charity
Pick a charity or cause that has a natural tie to the event organizers. This will ensure the commitment of those hosting the event, and this commitment will be seen by participants.
Plan ahead and don’t jam the event full of too many activities. Participants are looking forward to a relaxing day on the golf course, not a hectic day like they experience over 200 other days each year.
Bottom line: A good time for all. Charity outings bring people together for a common cause, assist parties in developing stronger working relationships, and allow companies to help other organizations that provide support and relief for disasters and other causes, ultimately providing immeasurable benefits that go far beyond the bottom line.
Remember, it’s not necessary to run an event or sponsor one in order to contribute. The third critical ingredient to a quality event is players; without them there is no event. Even the greens fees of those who buy a foursome or just play as a single help defray overhead costs.
Dale Sailer is president of Disaster Kleenup International Inc., a network of, independent property damage restoration contractors across North America, and its parent company, DKI Services Corporation. DKI is proud to support its members’ efforts in taking active roles in their communities and with charitable organizations. www.disasterkleenup.com.
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