Hurricane Katrina tested OutSolve, but it only made us stronger. In the chaos, a new hire was found.
2005 marked a year of success for OutSolve. The growth was clear – we just moved into a new, custom built office building; our staff was becoming a team; and I couldn’t have been happier with our progress. Little did we know what was ahead…
On August 29, 2005 hurricane Katrina made a direct hit on the New Orleans area. In preparation, the team had to move the majority of our critical equipment to a safe place and find a way to evacuate. Yes, some of our staff lost houses…yes, there was a great deal of damage…and yes, we were scattered around the southern United States. It was our finest hour, and the first time I truly felt the impact the company had on others.
First order of business was to pull everyone together. New Orleans was under water and no one knew what the future held. I made the decision to call everyone to Houston where I had secured some office space. Everyone came and no one missed a single paycheck or day of work. I personally retrieved our primary server – an 80 pound hunk of steel – in waist-deep water with the help of Vickie LeNormand, Steve Claverie, and Robert LeNormand (Vickie’s husband whose lifted truck got stuck in flood water). We started our first day of work in Houston by calling EVERY SINGLE CLIENT and telling them OutSolve was open for business. The outpouring from these loyal clients was immediate and heartfelt. I recall Beth Montgomery (then a client at Kindred Healthcare and now an OutSolve staff member in Louisville) offering “cash, a car, food, or anything else you need.” Connie Lahoda, then with Aramark, got almost angry with me when I told her that her EEO-1 reports had been completed – she was genuinely worried about us and not the reports.
We eventually returned to New Orleans albeit temporarily in space that was loaned to us by Baldwin Read until our new building was once again made new. What I learned is that even through epic loss and destruction we gained camaraderie, leadership, and a bond that holds today.
By the way – while we were in that loaned space we decided we might need to add another staff member. Vickie had a close friend looking for a change so we decided to interview Annette Au (now Alvarado). She was a bright spot in an otherwise grim time. We instantly liked her and offered her a job. I suspect it must have been quite a leap of faith on her part to go to work for a displaced business during such an emotional time. Thankfully, she took that leap and has grown into one of our very best.