Employees triumph through adversity

Jason Cannon

February 21, 2013

The story of Valley Freightliner’s relocation isn’t necessarily one of expansion. It’s one of tragedy, betrayal and – eventually – triumph.

The company, formerly located in Brook Park, Ohio, chose to move to Parma in December after its other location was destroyed by fire over the summer. That’s where this story really unfolds.

William H. Crawley, an employee of the truck store and shop, was eventually charged with arson in connection to the early morning Aug. 6 blaze.

Valley Freightliner Vice President Brian O’Donnell said Crawley, who was found guilty this month in setting the $6 million blaze, had told fellow employees that he was upset and set out to teach his bosses a lesson.

Boy, did he ever.

The lesson in this case was one of perseverance and teamwork uncommonly found in the workplace today.

Before the fire, Valley Freightliner had 53 employees. Now, finally settled in a new location six months later, O’Donnell’s team has shrank to 52.

Employee No. 53 is now No. A640004, a set of numbers assigned to him by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

William Crawley was sentenced to 16 years in prison on 24 counts of arson and aggravated arson and, barring parole, will be unable to report to work until around Fall 2028. And he’s going to need that job, too. Crawley was ordered to repay nearly $2.9 million in restitution at his Feb. 12 sentencing. 

O’Donnell says several of his employees, the ones not in jail and who were standing on the roadside watching their livelihoods burn to the ground, were approached by a local competitor at the scene.

He offered them jobs, confident Valley Freightliner was out of business.

And truthfully, they were.

Valley Freightliner was out of business for about as long as most people take a lunch break.

Employees chased the man from the scene and rallied together. Management formed a plan and O’Donnell said they were selling Freightliner parts that very afternoon from a hodgepodge of offices, and even sold a used truck that evening.

O’Donnell huddled his team in a nearby corporate office to lay out the company’s plan. Team leaders were named, assignments doled out and the gauntlet thrown down; Find a way to make it work.

Employees, whose jobs just got infinitely more complicated, were relieved. O’Donnell said many of his employees, when notified by management of the meeting, assumed it was to tell them their jobs were gone.

Not only were they not gone. They were safe. They were harder, but they were safe.

There’s an incredible story of triumph over tragedy here; an even more incredible story of employee and employer loyalty.

There’s a great line from the movie Remember The Titans: “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.”

Good job to the leadership team at Valley Freightliner, whose obviously extraordinary leadership has fostered such a great and positive attitude and team spirit. 

The relationships built there are remarkable. 

Jason Cannon is Online Managing Editor of Successful Dealer. Email him at jasoncannon@randallreilly.com. Follow him on twitter at @by_jason_cannon.

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