Welcome back to another week of Moodyspeaks to read about my journey in business and life. I must say it has been very heartwarming receiving such positive feedback from readers and knowing my blog has been very helpful for some of you–I feel extremely blessed to be able to share my story with others.
It is now 1991 and Atlanta had won the 1996 Olympics. I remember exactly what I was doing when it was announced live on TV that Atlanta had won the 1996 Olympics. It was September 18, 1990 and I was ironing clothes and watching the announcement. The network would switch between the crowd at Underground Atlanta (by the way, the crowd was standing on my first project; the bridge and stairs we built for underground Atlanta) and then going live to Japan for the actual announcement, where Mayor Maynard Jackson, Andy Young, Billy Payne, Robert Holder, A D Frazier and many other important people from Atlanta were in attendance. I remember when they said Atlanta won, I jumped and screamed so loud, I scared my daughter who was at home as I was about to drop her off at nursery school and my wife was doing her family chores. My son was already at school. I had no idea what part of work we might win, I just knew it was great for the city and I might get a small part of some work. The city was buzzing with excitement. In a few weeks I will share the role we played in building a great project for the Olympics.
Back to 1991:The Georgia Dome was being constructed and we were fortunate enough to be a subcontractor on this project. We were still doing concrete subcontracting work and bidding work as a general contractor. I remember often daydreaming when I would go on the project to check on our work. I would hope and pray someday, we might be a part of a team to build such big projects. My brother Corey was working as the company accountant and really wanted to learn construction. I told him if he really wanted to learn construction, he would need to go in the field and work with a crew. I was very proud of him because he went and worked learning how to tie rebar on the Georgia Dome project. I am firm believer regardless of what type of business you are in, you must truly understand how all parts of the business work and you must be able to do the basics for each department. In my first 5 years of business, I tried to do as much as possible in the field, so I could truly understand what it takes to perform that job. Another thing I learned early and still do today is talk to the craftspeople on a project. You can learn everything you need to know about a project good and bad if you talk to the people that actually build the project. I have so much respect for crafts people, they are the people that actually build a project. It is impressive to watch them work. I love going on site and just watching them work and put it all together. These are just a few of the many lessons I have learned in business.
By now my youngest brother Cameron is working at the company. He is an engineer and had worked at Ford and was traveling to Japan for work. He had decided he wanted to eventually try different things in his life. His decisions have worked out well and he is now doing some exciting things with his career and has been all around the world working and traveling. My brother Cameron was a dedicated and hard worker when he worked for the company
I had a few exciting projects in 1991, one was the working on the Georgia Dome and we did our first little project out of state in Tennessee. I was scared to death doing some sub work in Tennessee. I didn’t want to mess up on any project, especially my first in another state. We won a couple of real challenging projects in 1991; one was a fire station at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta. What made this project exciting and challenging was the following: Phipps Plaza was going through a major renovation and part of the renovation was a huge new parking deck. We had to get the fire station completely built and roofed before the deck was built above it. We could not miss our date because the cost for delay could have put us out of business. I was very proud of our team for getting it done on time. The next exciting project was building some modest cost homes in the Vine City area. This was part of the Georgia Dome project, which was working along with some of the churches from the area to help the surrounding community grow. Building these homes was exciting because it gave a chance for some people to get new homes in an area of town where no new homes had been built for quite some time. I learned a lot about residential construction and why I stay in my lane of commercial construction. The subs used in residential and wood structures are just completely different than what I really enjoy. I admire all builders in the different sectors such as industrial, residential, commercial, power and multi family construction.
We were JV Partners with Hardin Construction building the new Stouffer’s Hotel that faced the runway at the Atlanta Airport. That was a fun and exciting project to be part of building.
The last exciting and challenging project for 1991 was the building of a temporary precast building on the tarmac for the Atlanta Airport, that would house baggage claim for concourse T. That was a quite a nerve-wrecking project. The reason it was so nerve-wrecking was the following: Working out on a live tarmac where people fly in and fly out everyday, the airport operators are watching your every move and one pebble in a jet engine would put us out of business for sure. I was on that site everyday making sure we were on schedule and we cleaned up every piece of dust. We were pouring concrete and setting precast right next to large jet planes. I look back now and marvel at what we did so young and inexperienced in business. It only proves God has been looking out for me all of my life, and I am so thankful and very blessed.
In 1991 Karla and I had been married 9 years with two active growing kids. She had completed nursing school and working midnights. We were still trying to recover financially from the hard times of 1983 through 1989. (you can read the earlier posts of the blog for more info on the hard time financially ). We are still watching every penny and we are still struggling to build up enough money to keep the company on solid ground. One thing I share with young couples is the following: When you have young kids, struggling financially or trying to build your base financially, and trying to build careers, marriages can get real tough and you both have to want to make it. Thankfully Karla and I wanted our marriage to make it and we are celebrating 30 years on 11/27/12. We are so happy and thankful we never gave into the tough times of life and how they can affect a marriage. My family was very patience with me for a few reasons and one was every weekend, we went to visit the job sites. I always had a key to our projects and on the weekend when no one was on site, I would go and really dig into the project progress and check the quality. For years my folks never knew my little weekend trips and couldn’t figure out how I could walk on the job during the week and pick out things really quick; for a long time they thought I was really smart, they didn’t know I had spent the weekend walking their project. My kids learned early how to use a porta-john on a project. They had a lot of patience with daddy.
It was 1991, I won two awards that have always been very special to me. The first was The Small Business Person of The Year from the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. I never dreamed I would win, the competition was stiff and I thought I was just a little contractor, not really knowing how to run a business, but just living my passion, which is construction. I will never forget when they called my named and said I was The Small Business Person of The Year, I just froze and just started crying and couldn’t speak for a minute. I had never had my emotions take over like that, especially in public. I was just so surprised and honestly didn’t think I had a chance to win.
Later that year I was named Minority Contractor of The Year by the United States Chamber of Commerce, and was invited to the White House with the other winners from around the country. That was a great event in DC, my parents, wife, my friend and play sister Pam Bell and my dearest friend Kris Colley were in attendance. Kris who is now a Judge in Colorado has been by my side since 1974 and I will be forever grateful to him for his friendship. I have been honored to go to the White House for the last four Presidents for different events.
Please enjoy the many pictures of the events and projects I have mentioned in this current post.
Next week you will learn how I went from winning awards, going to the White House and starting to feel confident to just hoping I could recover physically and just smile again. Life has many turns and twists but I wouldn’t trade any of them because I am the man I am today because of them, my family, love, my friends and my faith in God.
Have a great Thanksgiving and do something to help someone less fortunate…that could be just a warm smile and hello.
See you next week, Life is great.