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Client Case Study: where to start when your business is completely destroyed by fire?

That’s what faced Amanda Smith and brother Glenn when their family business SBT in Hawera was totally wiped out in a fire February 12 last year.

“It was huge. Everything was destroyed,” said Amanda, joint company director of Smith Brothers Trading Ltd, recalling the event. “We had five businesses running across New Zealand from our Hawera office, wages to be paid to 250 people in just a few days after the fire, but everything had been destroyed.”With all company records wiped out in the blaze, it was a major challenge to know where to begin.

Staples Rodway’s Greg Eden had a plan. He’d heard about the fire on the news the night it happened, gathered together a team straight away that could come in and get things going – IT people, accountants, general management.

“Staples Rodway were among the first people to help out. They knew it was a major incident for us and we’d worked with Greg a lot so he was quickly on the phone to us and he’d worked out what we might need, arranged a team of people to step in and help,” said Amanda. “Staples Rodway were very reactive and timely.”

First, premises had to be found and a temporary office with just two desktop computers was set up within two days of the fire. But, major problem – all the IT records had been destroyed.

The fireproof safe, which had meant to protect the data had been exposed to so much heat and fire that it wasn’t able to protect anything.

“We didn’t think we had any back up. We went to all of our customers, asked for invoices and statements, and we had some data from our operations around the country.

But, the great thing was that Staples Rodway had done some (accounting) work for us about three months prior to the fire and just as a precaution they had carried out a backup so we had closing balances and an asset account schedule, some general ledger information,” said Amanda. Gradually, piece by piece, the data came together. It took nine months before the company was fully functioning from an accounting and administration point.

Staples Rodway set up a cloud-based system, ensuring the data would be protected.“We’d been working with them for some time, so we had a close working relationship and they understood our business. Some of their staff had developed specific programmes for us so they had a fairly in-depth knowledge of our company,” said Amanda. Being able to offer IT recovery services as a result of the fire was a great addition to the accounting service that Staples Rodway had already provided.

SBT’s administration was relatively complex, in that out of Hawera it looked after five different businesses – a dairy farm, three rendering companies, transport, property and marketing.

“They are all quite different and we do everything for each company, like payroll, weekly and monthly reporting, account reconciliation and such.” The Smith family had been running their business at the South Rd site for 100 years so it wasn’t just physical items and property that were lost, but also history and memorabilia.

“I would like to thank them for what they did. We were so busy at the time that we probably did thank them but perhaps not properly, it was so overwhelming. They made their part of the process a lot easier for us. It was major hectic, they went over and above what they had to do,” said Amanda.

Rob McEwan director of computer services at Staples Rodway recalls the fire. “It was totally destroyed, they lost everything and all their computing resources. It was major.”

“It was fortunate that we were able to recover sufficient data from our backups and we were able to access other information from banks and SBT customers. Moving them to a cloud system is much more reliable,” said Rob.
“It was common practice to take a backup of data when working with clients, it was just one safeguard to protect information in case of this type of event,” he added.

SBT will be rebuilding new premises soon in New Plymouth at the former Countdown site.

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