For Marsha Morrell, Signal is more than just a business.
“My personal goal, after I finished my career working for other people, was to enable my family to have a business and something they could call their own.”
Marsha and her sons, Brian and Jeff Gilhooly own Signal of Fort Myers and Naples, FL, and to say the last few months have been challenging may be an understatement. When Hurricane Ian hit the community head on at the end of September, Morell and her sons didn’t let the destruction slow them down and instead supported the community as they recovered.
The franchise currently achieved 8 of the 11 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and sits at #11 for KPIs in the Signal franchise network overall. They’re ranked 7th in Dedicated Shift Completion, 23rd in Labor Efficiency and 28th in Daily Sales Outstanding. Additionally, their revenue grew by 45% from September to October. For these reasons, along with their tremendous response to Hurricane Ian, are the reason Signal of Fort Myers and Naples is our Franchise of the Month.
Although he lived in Florida for years, Jeff, who now lives in Atlanta, said the devastation left by Hurricane Ian was like nothing they had experienced before.
“It was a weird experience for me,” he said, “I was here for the last one and this one was so much worse. And we were far away and not able to do much except tell people you know, everything will be alright, we’ll rebuild, you know the buzzwords, while they’re really going through it.”
After the storm cleared, Jeff, along with team members from nearby franchises in Tampa and other areas, delivered supplies to Fort Myers franchise employees that were bought with GoFundMe donations raised by others in the Signal network.
“I flew into Tampa and Mike Daly and the neighboring franchises up there really helped out,” Jeff said. “He let me borrow one of his Broncos and it took about 3 hours to get to Fort Myers because the interstate had flooded.”
There was no power in the Fort Myers, Naples and Cape Coral area for weeks and many of the properties the team services suffered significant damage.
“One of our dedicated posts is a gatehouse and it flooded several feet inside,” Jeff said, “It’s not anything to write home about in the first place, just a little 15x15 room. But our people there really impressed us because it was about two weeks without power and the inside had to be totally gutted because it was moldy. So, our people were in there without AC. They showed up even knowing their shifts would be paid regardless.”
The team made the decision early on to give all of their employees, patrol or dedicated, three paid days for the days before, during and after the hurricane, and also paid employees for shifts they missed after the three days due to the hurricane.
“We all live in that area by choice,” Jeff said, “South Florida gets hit by hurricanes. But when they’re not making a ton of money and they miss a few days that can be really tough.”
Since the hurricane, the team’s revenue has increased thanks to two temporary, 24/7 contracts.
“Like other franchises,” Marsha said, “We’re struggling with staffing. But our Director of Operations was able to staff it with two-or-three-days’ notice. We had 23 employees and now we have 42 and he did a great job staffing that.”
At the time the hurricane struck, the team had two important deadlines they were on track to make. One, an October 1st start date at a housing complex they’d been prospecting for years. The other, their Signal brand refresh completion date on October 31st.
“The hurricane hit September 28th,” Marsha said, “We were starting a new contract at a housing complex and it was supposed to be our first golf cart patrol. So, with three cars left to wrap with the new branding and the golf cart to pick up, that place was underwater and so was the place we get our cars wrapped. But they pulled it off.”
The team was still able to have all their cars wrapped by October 31st and the golf cart was ready for pickup October 4th, only three days late.
“For the record,” Jeff adds, “We had a start date of October 1st, and we still made it. We didn’t have the cart or any staff, but I took one of our newly wrapped patrol vehicles and went over there and we still made it.”
Marsha, Jeff and Brian all agree, the community in South Florida came together to support one another after Ian.
“Jeff was driving around a pickup truck with supplies,” Brian said, “Meeting employees families and these people would cry because it’s such an unusual thing for an employer to do during this time. I think most employers would just be like, sorry, you aren’t getting paid come back when you can and figure your stuff out at home, but that’s just not what we’re about. We went above and beyond to make these people whole on their paychecks and to deliver them supplies and generators to make sure they were okay.”
“The property manager at one property that we’ve worked with for years,” Marsha said, “He decided to pay for a few employee shifts even though they weren’t working. Some of our patrol clients did the same thing. It was the opposite of losing things, it was kind of all hands-on deck. Everybody cared about everybody.”
Jeff and Brian both point to the relationships they and their mother have built as an important part of their recent success.
“Relationships are so huge,” Brian said, “We do all our price increases, and we get very little pushback from our clients because we know them, they know us, they like us, we like them. We get referrals from relationships we’ve built. I think that’s how our growth is going now.”
“The queen of relationships is my mom,” Jeff said, “She Facebook messages with property managers we’ve worked with for years. And then we’re building up enough good faith that if you do make a mistake, it’s alright, whereas if that was someone we hadn’t talked to in months, it might be a different story.”
For this family, Signal is about more than running a business. Its about serving each other, their employees and the community.
“The hurricane, while it was such a terrible event,” Brian said, “It really showed what Signal is about at the corporate level and the franchise level. It was really important to me and all of us that we take care of our employees like they’re family and do anything we can for our community.”