Just a brief reminder, this weekly blog is to celebrate the journey of being in business for 25 years, sharing the ups, the downs, and the lessons learned about building a business and life. Every week I will post about a year and the events of that year in business and in my life. I hope you are enjoying the journey this blog takes you on.
Well it is now 1990; this year had a lot of milestones in it for my family and my business. My wife graduated from nursing school as a registered nurse and passed her licensing exam on the first try. Our son Charles III started kindergarten, our daughter Karia was in nursery school, the business was awarded two projects for over $1,000,000, and we found out my mother in law had brain cancer. As we all know, life has many good things in it, and we also have to deal with tough things all at the same time.
In 1990, I was starting to hire more people to work for the company. As I reflect back as I often do over the years, I realize how unprepared I was for what it took in hiring people and running a growing company. I had never had any experience at hiring people, knowing when to release people, and how the impact the decisions I made on each new hire would affect a small growing company. In the midst of this, I was also learning the importance of hiring great subcontractors and vendors.
Looking back, I have realized how naive I was thinking everyone was committed to doing a great job and being the best they could be as seriously as I did. Some people are only in business or gainfully employed just for the money and don’t care who they hurt or the poor job they will do in the process, just as long as they can turn a profit. In reality, there are more good people I have encountered than those that want to take advantage of you, it just hurts when someone try’s to take advantage of you or as my dad taught me, “takes your kindness for weakness”.
As I look back, my youngest brother Cameron said it best some years ago and I realized the impact his statement had on me and how we operated. Cameron and I were talking about some of the crazy things people did to beat people out of a dollar and how we didn’t understand how people could do that and not feel any remorse. He said, “Think about it. In all the years we were at home growing up and even to this day, our parents never said a word or did anything that gave us the impression it was ok to cut corners or try to do something to beat people to get ahead or profit unfairly. I am so thankful I have two parents that instilled in me honesty and a great work ethic.” It has helped me and has been that extra guide, next to my faith, in navigating throughout life.
This was the year we were picking up more projects and needing more people. I didn’t have many long term goals in reality, because I still didn’t know how long how I would stay in business with all of the competition and my lack of confidence in my skills in building a business. I knew construction pretty well, but building a business, I was still pretty nervous and my self esteem was not that high (read post number 2 to better understand ). I also learned, and more will be discussed in the1992 post, that I have this part of me that wants to solve everyone’s problems and save everyone from any hurt in their lives. I decided to hire one of my dearest friends I have known since we were 5 years old. We grew up behind each other in Chicago, and when I moved to Michigan in 1970 we stayed friends throughout college and on. This friend had a substance abuse problem, but I figured if I moved him to Atlanta with his wife and kids, I could remove that temptation and he would be ok. He was an excellent worker and could have been one of the best superintendents in the business. I had setup for his wife to pick up his check every week at the office. I had not told the secretary why I didn’t give him his check, because I didn’t want to embarrass him and I thought I had solved the problem. I had underestimated the power of addictions of any type. One Friday he was able to sweet talk the secretary into giving him his check, and he disappeared with the company truck for the weekend on a drug binge. When I finally found him, I was just stunned. I felt I had failed as a friend and as a leader. I was heart broken in the situation. I had to terminate him on the spot. I cried that night because of the hurt I felt, but I knew I had to make the tough call. We had agreed that if he used drugs, he would be terminated; drugs can’t be tolerated on a construction site. Even though my friend has still had many relapses over the years and his life has not been easy, I am proud to say we are still friends after 51 years, and I accept him as he is and am proud of him because he keeps trying to shake his addiction; he is a good man. Even though he doesn’t live Atlanta, we still talk and I still help him within reason, and he will always be my friend.
For me I care about everyone that works for the company and I truly believe in being a servant leader. This also can be a problem, because I was often hiring with my heart and not what was best for the company. I have hired some great people and I have not hired people that were best for the company. In 1990 we were growing and I was learning a lot about running a business. I was really blessed to have a brother that is a CPA and really watched over accounting. I always watched my money, even when we had nothing to watch. People really could have taken advantage of me in that department if I hadn’t had my brother Corey. I also learned basic accounting to cover where I had blind spots in running a business. One thing I learned in business, know your weakness, admit them and get the knowledge to get you up to speed to remove those blind spots and hire people you really can trust to look out for the business. I have been pretty blessed with some very loyal and trustworthy people over the years.
We were doing some exciting projects. I still believe to build a great business, we have to keep our word, deliver on our promises, provide incredible quality, great safety for the workers, be one of the best at what you do and provide great customer service. I was still learning the importance of picking great subcontractors. One person I still work with today is Chris Lane. I have so much respect for him. First, he is man of incredible honesty, integrity and faith. I saw him go through a very tough time in his business and one of the lowest points in business. I saw this man when most would have given up; he kept his faith, picked himself up and made it back to the top of his game. This journey for him took over a decade to fully recover. We have been doing business for 23 years and counting. He is one of my best subcontractors and friends. This was the year I got to know Ike Tiggs, who is now a key part of the company and one of the best superintendents in the business. I also met Rob Davis for the second time, the first was in college when he visited Morehouse and came by the Frat house and today as a key part of the company as a Senior Project manager. Ike and Rob are also great friends to my family and I. This was the year I met Larry Gellerstedt, who is still a dear friend, advisor, and taught me a lot about business.
1990 brought much personal growth as I learned to always make sure you know where the money is coming from on a project. One of the key things I learned this year in business: make sure the client has all of the money in hand. I was building a $1.4 million dollar project and the client didn’t tell me until we completed the project and got the certificate of occupancy for them to move in, they were short about $200,000. In the end it took a year to get all of my money, but I got every subcontractor and vendor paid before me. My money was last. I gained a lot of respect from people for putting subcontractors and vendors first before we got our money. This was a scary time because that one problem could have put us out of business. I learned a great lesson that year and I now make sure every penny is placed before we move one piece of dirt or do any change order work.
My home life and business were pretty exciting. My children were growing up, my wife was now a nurse and working the midnight shift on the weekend, so we could save money on child care. Therefore, every weekend it was my turn to keep the kids busy so momma could sleep, like Karla did for me in 1987 when I worked on a project from 8:30 PM until 4:30 AM. It is amazing how things always seem to come back around in life. We were in that tough period of marriage, young kids, one working at midnight, the other trying to build a business. We didn’t have much time for each other, I was very active at church and other non profit activities, but for the grace of God we survived and were able to build a new house. My dad taught me to always live beneath my means, and I practice that to this day.
Just thinking about 1990 makes me tired and marvel at how we made another year in business and keep our family happy and together. It was another year of proof about the importance of faith, working hard, finding time to smile and trusting God. I have been blessed with some great people in my life, of all races, religions and diverse backgrounds. It has proven what I was taught; judge a person on their actions and heart and not their race, religion or cultural difference.
I hope you have enjoyed this week and will come back next week. Please read the previous post to see more about the times of C David Moody, Jr.