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It was just before 7 PM on Friday night: the countdown to the summer Rock Camp Concert had begun.I was so excited, as I finally had a two-hour window for my first hot meal of the week. 

The final rehearsal wasn’t until 9 PM, so I thought a break would be nice. That’s when the calls came flooding in… 

First, I heard from a friend who called to caution me about a tornado warning that was issued for our region. I looked outside but where I was, there was no rain – only funky greenish skies. Then the phone rang a second time, and this time it was from my manager. His opening words ring ominously in my ears still: “Hey, we have a problem and it’s beyond Code Red.” To an owner’s ears those words can mean only three possible things: personal injury, fire, or flood. It was, of course, the third. 

Although not a direct hit, the tornado had pulled the stunt of choosing to visit and shop for a bit on Main Street on the weekend of our biggest event of the year! My manager shared that there had been a torrential downpour, and so much rain had fallen so quickly that the water management system in the town couldn’t process it. Every drain in the town had backed up and our basement had severely flooded to the tune of three feet deep in the ramp area which translated to four inches deep in the basement area of the entire building where we have our Listening Room, @4410, and where we were to host our big weekend show in one day. Translation: no hot meal tonight. 

My Second Surprise 

The second surprise the storm bought was more pleasant than the first. By the time I arrived at the store with my shop-vac in hand, I walked in only to find four other families already there with their equipment working on removing the water. Picture this: everyone just plugged in and attacking the problem. 

This gave me time to coordinate with the property manager and building owner. Fortunate for CMC, I have a close friend and customer who so happens to be in the construction business. He also generously showed up to help. We were able to get an emergency extraction crew there in just over three hours. Working tirelessly beside that professional crew for the next five hours, the music families, their kids, and our staff all pledged to be ready for a 9 AM dress rehearsal. When I left at 2 AM, I walked outside to see a town police SUV; they were surveying the various buildings. It was truly comforting to know that we were all in this together. Thankfully, the extraction crew continued to work throughout the night and into the morning. Amazingly, we were ready for the dress rehearsal by 9 AM the next morning! 

An Owner’s Reality, and the Truth About Small Business 

As the owner, my problems will continue for weeks on end. Disaster doesn’t care that my manager and I haven’t had a day off for weeks; it does not care that I have to get my daughter back to school in Nashville this week or that I have a twelve-week-old, cute but needy puppy. Disaster doesn’t care if our biggest event happened or not. As a matter of fact, it does not care that we jump right into rental season this week with its own unique demands. 

Adding insult to injury, disaster quickly reminded me that we are a two-location business by tapping me on the shoulder with a storm related, dry wall issue in the other store. Without a doubt, disaster shows no considerations! But remember the construction friend I referred to earlier… you already know he’s there for me. He is aware that we, as a small business, help his grandson progress with his musical interests. Therefore, he is an automatic stakeholder. 

Picture This: 

Just for a moment picture a former DEA agent on his hands and knees shop vac-ing water for hours on end. Envision the two of us at dinner two days later after the show – the show where his son’s band was so incredibly outstanding that they literally brought people to tears with their performance. Imagine our discussion about his son’s opportunities at Belmont University, and how we intend to help him thrive in Nashville. Visualize two brothers helping with every detail of clean up, and as they leave late to go home, exchange these words: “We will see you at 9:00 to rehearse the final details of the set.” Humorously picture what we refer to as “the second flood:” my daughter’s tears when we discussed the possibility of having to cancel the show. I actually stood up better against the tornado. 

A Different Way of Thinking 

These are the gifts disaster brings us: the gift of the realization that we are all in this together. Disaster illuminates the gift of unity. Disaster makes us pause, granting us the opportunity to lead. It presents a puzzle – one that allows us to use our leadership skills to resolve issues. It makes us take stock of all aspects of our businesses. Disaster sheds light on how clever insurance companies are by forcing us to review fine policy details, thus sharpening our legal acumen. Yes, disaster brings many gifts. 

In Closing… 

Make no mistake. I am completely inconvenienced by this recent weather-related event. It will mean weeks with no break. It creates extra calls, and extra coordination on top of an already overbooked calendar. It adds more stress to an already stressful routine. But more importantly, disaster held up a mirror and gently reminded me that the worst circumstances bring out the best in people, and if you give, you will receive when it is most needed – definitely a good thought to keep in your back pocket. I need to mention… a bit profound, a little ironic but also timely: the last song of the concert was James Taylor’s, “Shower the People.” 

Menzie Pittman is the owner and director of education at Contemporary Music Center in Virginia (CMC). Following a performance and teaching career spanning more than 32 years, he founded CMC in 1989 and continues to perform, teach, and oversee daily operations. He has 50 years of musical experience as a drummer and drum instructor. Menzie is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center, and a freelance writer for MMR’s “Small Business Matters” column. 



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