Sometimes we’re faced with difficult circumstances. Tragedies occur, both personally and on a large scale. When hard times happen, entrepreneurs are faced with the possibility that their business might be affected. For Bill Stegall and Greg Goodman, each facing very different circumstances, they were both able to not only survive the tragedies they faced; They built their businesses up to be great successes. “If your franchisor is willing to help and support you, you can make it through just about anything,” stated Greg Goodman, franchisee and Area Developer for Alta Mere.
Rebuilding A Dream
On April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City was changed forever when a bomb went off at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building. 168 people, including children, were killed that day and in the bomb’s aftermath, 15-20 city blocks were damaged or destroyed. Amongst those affected was Greg Goodman, who had run his business for the past 10 years just two blocks North of the Murrah Federal Building. In 1994, Goodman had chosen to convert his store into an Alta Mere franchise location.
“Being just two blocks from the federal building, our entire building was destroyed. We were open for business that day and luckily everyone inside got out. Still, the building was gone and the devastation to the city was immediately apparent to me. We had to make an instant decision: Should we rebuild here or should we try to rebuild our business someplace else. We knew it would take years to rebuild the city, and so we decided to build an Alta Mere in the suburbs of Oklahoma City instead,” explained Greg.
“Alta Mere home office was amazing. Many franchise systems would have charged us for a new territory but they simply swapped franchise agreements with us. Not only were they generous to do this, they were also quick. They knew we needed an answer fast and they supported us by working as diligently as possible. We gave back the Oklahoma City agreement and took the Norman, Oklahoma agreement instead. We felt with population growth, it was the right time to open a store in the suburbs,” stated Greg.
Getting Through With A Little Help…
The Alta Mere home office was integral in helping Greg float during hard times. Greg commented, “I couldn’t have asked for more! They were generous in letting us swap the franchise agreement. They helped us negotiate our new location, and they worked on the actual design and build-out for us, all at no cost to us. They also did not assess any royalty fees while our store was down. That was plenty generous for me.”
Greg also had help in the financing department. SeaGate, a local business, generously gave Greg a 0% interest loan. Between three different lenders, including FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the money was scrambled together quickly to build the new location.
Greg stated, “With 15-20 blocks of devastation, we knew we had to move the store. It would have been so much easier if we could have just rebuilt the current location, but we knew that really wasn’t an option for us. Finding a new location and truly building from scratch was much more of a challenge. In fact, the first location in Norman was not successful and we actually had to move the entire store to the other side of the town. We survived though and today we’re a success.”
“Our future looks great! We had three Alta Mere Centers and we recently sold two of those locations. I am now the Area Developer for Alta Mere. I made the decision to be involved with the home office, and I knew to do so I would need to sell some of the locations. The one center I currently have is absolutely state-of-the-art. It has just about every feature I dreamed up, and it’s the #1 center in Alta Mere’s network. I’m very excited about my future,” concluded Greg.
Building a Business In the Midst of Personal Tragedy
Bill Stegall had worked for his family’s mechanical contracting business for years. When the business was sold, Bill worked in real estate for a year before deciding to return to mechanical engineering. A friend of Bill’s, Ricky Brooks, had decided to buy an Express Oil franchise and since Bill had real estate experience, Ricky asked for help finding a suitable location. A few years later, Bill was working for a large company and Ricky had bought the Express Oil franchise company. The franchise grew from 40 locations to 140 locations in just 6 years under Ricky’s guidance and Bill decided that working for a large company no longer interested him. Bill thought owning an Express Oil franchise could be the perfect next career for him.
Living in Birmingham at the time, Bill was told that a territory was available in Memphis. “My wife and I decided that we would put the house on the market and if it sold, we would go ahead and move to Memphis and open a franchise there. Well, the house sold right away, and we quickly bought a house in Memphis. We knew it was the right decision when our youngest daughter, who was in high school at the time, really loved the area and was immediately comfortable in her new school,” explained Bill.
Bill tried to quite his job at his former company, but the company had a hard time letting him go. While he was training his replacement, the company laid that replacement off. So, he was still an employee of the company when his Express Oil had its grand opening.
Tragedy Strikes At An Integral Time
“The Wednesday before we were going to open the doors to the shop, we walked door-to-door introducing ourselves to area businesses. On opening day we changed the oil in over 80 cars, and I was there doing services myself. I was not feeling well during this entire few days. It had started the morning we walked door-to-door. I finally decided to find out what was wrong and it was then that I discovered I had suffered a heart attack the Wednesday before opening. They had to put stints in. I entered rehabilitation, and then we found out the stints had closed. The doctors had to perform 5 bypass surgeries on me,” said Bill.
Making It Through…
Through Bill’s employment at his old company, he was covered under their health insurance, and qualified for disability. During this time, Express Oil was developing more locations in the Memphis area and ended up running all the locations, including Bill’s franchise, while he was sick.
“As soon as I felt better, I bought more property. I now own three Express Oil locations and plan to build three more this summer. Business is great! In fact, we just had our best month ever,” exclaimed Bill.
Bill continued, “Express Oil’s corporate office truly kept my business alive for that first year. Also, I believe every business is a family business. Your spouse and children must be as committed as you are. There have been times I’ve gotten down and my wife has always been there to support me. My family and the home office are truly what has brought me through this difficult time, and helped me to succeed.”
By Pamela Gold