Campfire – GOOD / Motel Fire – BAD

In 2003 my wife Kathy and I were owners in a small motel in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada and after struggling for 3 years to renovate the property and turn the business around, we lost 65% of our enterprise to a fire. This was a devastating time in our lives but history has since showed me that those challenges were blessings in disguise that served to steel us against tougher times yet to come.

Here is my story as it was published by

graphic of Barney's Motel sign
World Famous for buying Flies!

Fire destroyed two thirds of our motel property at 3 a.m. on October 24, 2003.

I remember thinking, as I watched our hard work go up in smoke, that every negative event carries with it an equal or greater opportunity for something positive to occur.

Yeah … that and the fact that I felt like choking the life out of the guy who torched our place. THAT would have been positive seed number one! ; )

Actually, I just wanted to get my ball and go home – I didn’t feel like playing anymore.

Rocked and Rolled

I did however take solace in the fact that we’d just completed a thorough inspection by our insurance company and implemented all the required upgrades only 10 days before the big event.

Back at the ranch, we’re still “negotiating” with our insurance company 11 months later. At times it feels like those positive outcomes I so readily envisioned at the outset of this adventure are nothing but more weird ponderings from the mind of another motelier gone mad.

Mad that is, until I thought of you and how my experience might assist others to avoid some of the aspects of our calamity.

It is with this in mind that I bring your attention to the following property insurance points:

  1. If you haven’t studied your policy lately or you don’t understand your coverage (and who does?) – set up a meeting ASAP with your insuranceagent. Find out exactly what coverage you have, it might differ significantly with what you THINK you have.
  2. Learn about Co-insurance. This is where you carry some of the liability for your own policy. Know what percentage of co-insurance you carry as it can drastically reduce any settlement you might receive.
  3. If you experience a loss, seek professional assistance with your claim from a reputable insurance consultant other than the company that carries your policy. That advisor will help you decipher offers and language in your policy as well as informing you about industry standards for insurance companies in your area.

    graphic showing man with disappeared gift
    One day you got it, one day you don’t

  4. Always maintain an up to date equipment and contents listing. Keep your reciepts for any large items you purchase. This is where a videotape of your property would come in handy – it will ensure you have perfect recall of your business contents.
  5. Prepare for your insurance train to derail. The financial and emotional strain can be dishartening if you aren’t ready for it. You may be fortunate to have a clear cut claim that pays out quickly but an ounce of intestinal fortitude at the outset is worth a battery of lawyers later on.
  6. Understand that the adjusters and agents from your insurance company are responsible TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY. That’s where their paychecks originate and that sometimes ; ) skews their judgement.
  7. Be prepared to spend a good deal of time listing and pricing all items lost in your claim. This one process took hundred of hours in our case and it dragged on for many weeks.
  8. Obtain permission IN WRITING about how your business interruption coverage will pay your staff during your loss. What staffing levels will they allow? Verbal agreements don’t count with this – the spoken word dissipates so quickly when money is involved that folks have a tough time recalling exactly what was said to whom and when.
  9. Put together an emergency plan now and communicate it to everyone who should know. Get together with your employees as quickly as humanly possible after the tragic occurrence. They’re interested in their jobs – we all have bills to pay.
  10. Start drinking heavily NOW. Don’t wait until your cash flow is negatively affected to develop a habit that truely produces enough mind fog for you to retain what little sanity you now enjoy.

OK. That’s the extent of my insurance wisdom at this point. Perhaps some time in the future I’ll recount how our fire really turned out to be a good thing for us. I’m looking forward to it!

Then everybody will want to have a fire 😉

Thank you, friend.

Barry out.

Barry Williams

Much of what I write will be quite understandable to insane folks.

The rest will be, uh, less understandable...

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