It is hard to believe in the year 1994, I had only been in business 6 years and just 11 years earlier, I had left a great job to come back to Atlanta to work for a small construction company, that went out of business 3 months after I started working there. My wife and I truly struggled to survive financially over those years, and now 11 years after what at the time seemed like a bad decision, turned out to be a great decision. We never know what God has planned for us in life. We have to keep our faith, keep trusting God, work hard, find a reason to smile daily, and help those that are less fortunate than ourselves. God takes us through challenges to prepare us for greater things in our life. Patience is also important in life, which is something I still struggle with in 2012.
The year is 1994, Atlanta is buzzing with electricity. The Olympics is coming in 2 years and work is plentiful. People are moving to Atlanta daily and construction cranes are everywhere. There was so much construction work going on that there was a bidding war for good workers. Employees would just walk down the street to another project, get hired and leave their current job at lunch time. Salaries were getting very high for a lot of positions (more than they were worth) because companies needed experienced workers. I remember saying to people, the only problem with people jumping around and demanding higher than industry standard salaries is that when the Olympics is over, those that jumped around demanding super high salaries will be the first gone with the slow downs. That is exactly what happened in our industry. I must tell this story. I still kind of chuckle about it. I had hired this young person as an intern while they finished their degree in building construction. This young person was very smart but had no real hands on construction experience. Right after they graduated I gave them a job and placed them on the Olympic stadium project site to work with one of the many team members on site. Now after about 4 months on the project, this young person comes in my office on a Friday and says (this is a true story) to me, “I have been on this project for 4 months and I know I am key player to the success of this project” so Mr. Moody I will give you until Monday to give me a raise of $20,000 or I will have to leave.” I looked at this young person for a minute and smiled. I then picked up the phone and called the accounting department and I said,” please prepare this person’s check and separation papers, because this is their last day here at the company. As they say, you could have heard a rat piss on cotton. That young person’s eyes were big as silver dollars and they were trying to backtrack on their comment. I said the lesson I hope you learn from this situation, never give someone an ultimatum unless you are prepared for an answer different than you expected. I shook their hand and wished them well and told them to go to accounting and drop off their company items. I called the project and told them this person would not be back to work for us. One thing I learned from counseling, because of my childhood trauma, I don’t do well with anyone threatening me, trying to use me or hurt or anyone close to me. I learned I will fight back with a vengeance, even if it is not that big of deal. Just the feeling it gives me reminds me of my childhood trauma, and I react with my survivor instincts.
By 1994, our company is growing, people are everywhere, and I am saying, “what I am doing running a business”? A few things I had going for me was, hard work, common sense, happiness, and honesty. Those attributes go a long way in life, because I sure was guessing about how to run a business. In 1994 we completed 15 projects. Many of the projects were small projects around $150,000 to $250,000 and we had a few projects in the $1,000,000 to $1,500,000 range. We were very busy. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about my past trauma. I hadn’t had a panic attack in over a year. I was sleeping better and feeling better. The problem for me, when I slow down and allow myself to have nothing to do or think about it, I would always go back to the trauma and fear of panic attacks. I had and still do, have to push through those thoughts of the past and the panic attacks.
1994 was my first time to actually interact with Mr. H J Russell as a professional. We did a photo spread and article for a national magazine (the picture is in the slideshow above) about the Olympic stadium. It was so cool to hang with him for a few hours and we became friends that day. I have had many interactions and meeting with Mr. Russell, and even though he tells me to call him HJ, he will always be Mr. Russell to me.
Being a part of the Olympic stadium was a dream project. It reminded me of my time at Bechtel on huge projects. To see all of the people working, construction equipment moving around, coordination of all of the drawings, and leadership in the field was so much fun. When I would sit in meetings, I would often pinch myself, and say to myself, is this for real? It is your company helping in building this project and my brain power giving ideas. You have to understand, for me and what the sexual abuse did to my self-esteem was very damaging, and once I finally said it out loud, and started with the panic attacks, myself esteem was very low. I was easily amazed at what I was doing with my life. Something else I came to realize, by 1994 I had already exceeded my goals and what I thought I might do with my life. Remember I am person born in 1956, and listened and witnessed the turmoil of the 1960’s. I never knew a real successful entrepreneur; I had no family members or family friends that were big business people. So I really never had a bench mark that was real to me to set a goal for business. During my younger years the people that were professional to me were teachers, preachers, postal workers, steel mill workers and, construction workers, the hard workers of this country. This is why whenever I am asked to talk to students of any age, I make time to talk to them, and hopefully inspire them. I have talked to as few as 3 kids to being a university graduation keynote speaker. I try my best to help them set a bench mark and then a goal to exceed my business achievements. I tell them they can do whatever they wish in life, if they are willing to put in the work, and education needed for their dream. I also spend a lot of time talking to adults that want to pick my brain about life and business. I always let them know my life has not been easy and they too can make it in life. I have had so many nice things said to me as a thank you. I often wonder do my actions and words make a positive difference in someone’s life. Recently I got the answer and the answer is yes. I received a two page letter from a young man in 2012. He told me how I spoke to his class in 1998, his senior year in high school. I was the first business person he had ever met and I was so down to earth, he listened to me. He said my words and actions inspired him and he went to college, graduated in engineering, became a nuclear submarine officer, and was now in business for himself and just wanted to tell me thank you. I must admit, I got a little misty eyed, because I often wondered did my words and actions make a positive difference in a person’s life. This young man’s letter said to me, keep doing it the right way, keep God first, stay humble, laugh and always be the type of person that people feel they can approach so that I can share my story.
In 1994 our company adopted our first school Stoneview Elementary and we still work with them today. The ceremony that they held for us was great. Please see the pictures in the slideshow. I was so touched by the effort of the school and the excitement in the young students’ eyes. We continue to donate money, go to career day, and we provide prizes for the students that improve the most each year.
Our foundation was doing well and awarding scholarships to students’ in financial need. My mother was busy running the foundation and helping kids get an education.
The super bowl came to Atlanta in 1994, and my wife and I attended the game. We were busy and having fun in Atlanta in 1994.
This week I am going to close with this quick story. In 1994, I was getting to know a person named James (Jim) Young, the bank president of First Southern bank and then Citizen Trust Bank. We never know the impact a person will have on our lives. I will talk more about Jim Young in my future post. Jim told me when we met, if I give him a chance to be my banker, he would never let me down. Little did I know Jim would become one of my dearest friends, and teach me so much about life and business? We helped each other through some rough patches of life. Jim passed away in 2012, and I am still recovering from losing my friend.
Make sure to remember every day is precious, smile, give of yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. We are all only here for a minute, so make every minute count and make a difference in a positive way in this world.