Photos credit: Rainbow International.
By Cary Fairless
Rainbow International Restoration of South Central Iowa has been in business since 2009. Throughout that time, the local franchise has become a trusted resource to its midwestern community that is made up of more cornfields and farms than it is planned communities and town squares.
As any restoration business operator knows, developing commercial relationships is a key strategy for sustainable business growth. Therefore, Rainbow of South Central Iowa began marketing its services to property management companies in 2016. Being located in such a vastly rural area meant apartment complexes and multi-family facilities were not abundant, so it wasn’t until August of that year that the marketing efforts finally paid off with a large apartment complex in Indianola, Iowa, about 30 miles from the franchise location.
From a strictly business perspective, the relationship with the apartment complex wasn’t an instant money-maker. The complex consists of four apartment buildings with 30 units each, for which Rainbow of South Central Iowa began with a simple agreement for cost-effective carpet-cleaning. Eventually that agreement expanded to a per-unit commitment for a higher standard rate with pet treatments added, and the property management company that oversees the complex eventually awarded Rainbow four additional apartment complexes to service in the same neighborhood.
Still, the ultimate vision from day one was that providing cost-effective carpet cleaning services would soon pay off in the form of more profitable water loss jobs. When the opportunity for a major water loss project came in, Rainbow quoted a price to the complex that included using all of the franchise’s most state-of-the-art equipment. The complex refused the dry-out component of the full project proposed, insisting Rainbow merely extract the water, and the complex would then handle any necessary demolition or drying. Reluctantly, Rainbow agreed to just complete smaller water loss projects as the client requested for the next few years.
“As the business owner, it was all I could do to not ‘pull the plug’ on the customer,” said Pat Riley, owner of Rainbow International Restoration of South Central Iowa. “The jobs were small, and the complex did not want to handle the losses the way we wanted to handle them. But we made a commitment to this client, and remaining a trusted provider was the most important thing to us.”
Soon enough, the apartment complex would need Rainbow’s help more than it ever imagined.
On September 1, 2019, three years after the first carpet cleaning job, the apartment complex had a fire. The fire was caused by a tenant smoking with her oxygen tank close by, completely burning her unit and tragically taking her life. The flames spread throughout the main floor hallway and forced smoke throughout the remainder of the building. Amazingly, every other person in the building got out safely and without injury, even though the fire occurred on a Sunday morning at 6 a.m. while the building’s occupants were mostly asleep.
Nonetheless, the fire destroyed the homes and many of the belongings of the 29 surviving tenants. There was a lot of work to do to help these people, and the complex knew exactly who to turn to get the job done.
The very next day, Rainbow of South Central Iowa was called to meet with building management and the property adjuster. Upon walking through the building to determine the full scope of damages, they found that the fire had jeopardized the integrity of the building, meaning the tenants would not be able to re-enter the until a licensed engineer’s recommendations could be implemented. The engineer arrived on-site a week later to perform the inspection, and as soon as the report was available, Rainbow’s framing crew was shoring up the walls per the engineer’s specifications. The local building inspector confirmed the next day that Rainbow performed the work correctly, allowing entry of the tenants to retrieve their personal belongings.
Once all tenants had picked up and moved out their belongings, Rainbow’s real work began. Over the next eight months, Rainbow helped the complex get up and running again, performing projects such as:
In the end, Rainbow’s commitment to providing the best customer experience worked out for everyone. The apartment complex gained a trusted provider it could rely on in the face of tragedy, and the franchise helped the tenants return to normalcy.
“If it was all about the money, maybe we would have walked away from the relationship many years back,” reflected Riley. “But being in the restoration business is, at its core, all about helping people. In order to make a real impact on the lives of others when it really matters most, you need to make yourself available to them for everything - from a carpet-cleaning job here and there to a major disaster.”
Cary Fairless is president of Rainbow International, a Neighborly company. He is responsible for the overall leadership, initiative and growth of the 30-year-old company, including sales and operational support. He has more than 30 years of experience strategically guiding intricate business operating functions for small organizations and large corporations alike. Prior to joining Neighborly, a service-based franchise company with 11 brands including Rainbow International, Cary served as chief executive officer of Jadon Enterprises, LLC, and vice president and chief operating officer of AmeriSpec Home Inspection Services. Cary earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Martin, and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama.