The Olympics come to Atlanta – 1996
It is now 1996 and Atlanta is getting ready for the world to see Atlanta during the Olympics. Everything is moving at a high speed in preparation for the Olympics. The Olympic stadium has to be ready early to host the Olympic trials. The project team is doing an incredible job making sure the Olympic stadium is ready. Construction jobs are still readily available for anyone with some construction experience. I will talk about construction more later in this post.
By 1996 I have been on the board of directors for the First Southern Bank for two years. This is when I got a chance to work with, one of the greatest bankers of all times; James (Jim) Young. He was trained at Chase in New York; he traveled the world doing audits for Chase Bank and then moved into community banking. Jim confirmed for me, to have compassion for people and your staff, to give to the community and always keep God first in your life. I can’t believe I had built a business and was thought of as a good enough businessman to be selected to the board of directors of a bank. I have to be extremely forthcoming about how I often think about myself. I realized over the last 20 years, how much my childhood trauma really affected my self-confidence and self-esteem when it came to me thinking I deserved good things to happen to me. (Read early post to know more the childhood trauma and the impact) I was not the honor student or the person everybody thought would be a great success. I was just the average student that just enjoyed life, with a passion and love of architecture and construction. I dreamed big dreams as a kid and as a young adult, about my career and the family I would have someday. I had these big dreams with a passion and the drive to chase my dreams, yet there is that trickster part of your brain that tells you those negative thoughts that you can’t make it; was working overtime on me. In my core and heart I knew I could make it, but the part of my brain that always protected me from dealing with my childhood abuse, no longer could protect me because in 1992 I finally said it out loud what had happened to me. Once I said it out loud, I kept waiting on the other shoe to fall, that is why I am often surprised when good things happen for me. The best thing about being an average student is that nothing is really expected outstanding from you, so there really is no pressure to do great things. This makes it easier to try big things because if you fail, nobody is paying attention to you anyway. I often think how tough and how much pressure the superstar student must feel in having to succeed, because everyone is always telling them they have to do big and great things in life.
By 1996 I had been working with a young man named Ernest Greer who is my attorney. I started working with him in 1993, and I was his first client. As I write this blog reflecting on my life and celebrating 25 years in business, I think about the people that have been in my life and many I still work with today. I also enjoy seeing how many people have gone on to do great things over the years, who like me, wondered if they would be able to achieve their dreams. Before telling you more about Ernest Greer, I have to tell a funny story about Ernest. Ernest was not yet 30 years old and a graduate of Harvard and Northwestern Universities. I would often tease him saying “ those were ok schools, but Morehouse and Howard were better” Anyway, Ernest was trying to win me as his first client while working at a large law firm in Atlanta that provided legal services to Beers Construction Company. So Ernest invited me to play golf. Well, we go out to play golf and he is wearing gym shoes as his golf shoes. I talked about him so bad about not having golf shoes, that at the 9th hole he went into the clubhouse and bought a pair of golf shoes. I told him, look if you’re going to invite a potential customer out to play golf, at least have the proper equipment. We still laugh about this today. Any way I picked Ernest to be my attorney in 1993, even though he played golf in gym shoes. A few years later he got an opportunity to join a smaller firm; he was so surprised because I decided to stay with him in his move. I told him I believed in him and he was going to do great things in his life. In the last 19 years I have watched Ernest Greer develop into an outstanding attorney, husband and father. He is now the managing partner for Greenberg Traurig. I often think about how our lives evolve over the years and the people that will cross our paths along this journey of life.
By 1996 another person that crossed my path in 1993 and has become a lifelong friend, is Mike Ross of MHR international. Both of our companies were working on Olympic projects and his company provided construction program management services. Mike is one of those people when you meet, that you can tell is extremely smart from the first time you talk with them. He is a good Morehouse man and a UVA law school graduate. Mike is one of those people that really have a command of the English language, is a student of history and really cares about people. Over the years I have been able to watch him build a great company and do work in other states. We have helped each other by pushing each other when the industry or life gets tough, to always see it through. For me I really enjoy people that laugh a hardy laugh, enjoy life and are a person of integrity. Those are just a few of things I enjoy about Mike Ross being my friend.
In 1996 I joined Young Presidents Organization(YPO), an international organization. My sponsors were Larry Gellersedt and Jerome Russell. My parents also recommended that I should join when I mentioned it to them. They knew some members and thought it would be great for me. This has been one the best groups I have ever joined in my life. The education, the people, the experiences have been invaluable to me. At 50 years old, they move you to WPO, World Presidents organization. I am still an active member today. One of the best things I have taken from this group is meeting and getting to know other entrepreneurs and third and fourth generation family business owners. This has been so inspiring for me over the years. Check out the website of YPO and read about the organization. I have learned over the years in business that it is good to expand your world by surrounding yourself with really good people that you can learn from and that you may be able to teach them something.
By 1996, the business is running on all cylinders. We are working on some great projects and gaining new clients. I am still guessing my way through being a business owner and leader. I now have some really good young people and experienced people. Some of these people have gone on and started their own construction company and we still talk today and they ask me for advice. In 1996 I am still trying to hire the best people and also be a social worker at the same time. I often tell people sometime I feel like I run an adult daycare center, but those of the pains of building a business from scratch and learning how to be a better leader.
I was really feeling like I was grown and I had my first project at Disney World. I was one of those kids in the 1950’s that wore Mickey Mouse ears and stood in front of the TV and sang the Mickey Mouse song at the end of every show. My wife, I and family have been to Disney world 15 plus times. I just love Disney World, I love the architecture, construction and it takes me back to a time of childhood innocence. When I go to Disney I am a kid all over again, and I love taking someone that has never been before to Disney. My wife and kids just laugh and say look at daddy with his new person to show everything too about Disney. I can’t wait to have grandkids and start taking them there. Let me stop and get back to the Disney project. We were selected to renovate a shopping mall into offices for the Disney Imagineering department. I was so excited to have a project at Disney world; I would have done it for no fee. It was a tough project and Disney is a tough client, but I sent down a very experience superintendent and I flew down pretty much every week and the project turned out great. I remember flying down and going to the site and working for Disney and saying to myself, David you are real business man now. I will say, a lot of the smaller contractors didn’t like me coming down to Disney to work. They said I was taking their work and I even had one person tell me I didn’t get their permission to come to town. That is when I realized how nasty it can be in business. With all that being said to me by other contractors, we still did the job and we did a great job. Working for Disney was a great business experience and allowed me to grow.
The first quarter of 1996, the big push was on to get the stadium ready and the team was successful. Our joint venture team was led by Chuck Winstead who worked for the managing partner Beers. I learned a lot about construction and managing complex projects from Chuck Winstead. Chuck and I are still friends today and still laugh about our time working together. By 1996, I had been exposed to some of the best and brightest people in business and construction.
The Olympics finally comes to town and it was a blast. I got to attend many events and see the Olympics up close and personal. A few of my favorite moments was meeting the world record holder Michael Johnson, hanging at a few events with my Morehouse classmate and the greatest 400m hurdler of all times, Edwin Moses. I attended events with my family and friends. My parents came to town, and my brothers were here also. The dearest moment for me was hanging with my favorite cousin and his son. My cousin unfortunately would lose his life a few months later while being carjacked in his home town of Chicago. I often look at the picture that was taken at Centennial Park during the Olympics of him, my son and his son, and smile.
The close of 1996 was great, we were building some fun projects, our Olympic stadium was completed on time and a success, and we completed our project for Disney World on time and under budget. Our company team was growing,and we were winning awards for construction and doing our part to help others in our community. My family was doing well in all areas of their lives and Karla and I were starting to have just a little more time to enjoy some peace and quiet together.
I was still learning to live with the fear of panic attacks, and I was really learning how to not let the worry of them consume me. I had gone another year without panic attacks, and I am slowly learning to release the past.
I pray that each person that reads my blog will know anything is possible in life, if we are willing to never quit, work hard, and do it the right way. Life is so exciting. Even when we struggle .Every day I make sure I try to find a reason to smile and say today was a good day and tomorrow will be better.
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday that you are able to celebrate this time of year.
I hope you are enjoying the blog, the pictures and my journey. See you next week. Enjoy the pictures from 1996.
Next week learn how we turned the Olympic stadium into Turner field for the Atlanta Braves in 7 months.