Homeless teen to CEO
Long hard path
If you have ever been homeless, you know firsthand how bad it feels. Being homeless is dehumanizing; it is not a healthy way to live, and people will see you as a criminal and undesirable person. The longer someone is homeless, the worse it gets, and the harder it can be to crawl out of that life. To be clear, no one chooses to be homeless. Even now, years and years since I have been in that situation. I still struggle with health issues and psychological challenges from living that kind of life.
Suppose you have not lived a homeless life. Be thankful for that, and be sure you stay humble about it. There are a significant number of homeless people. Who used to be successful and live everyday life. All it takes is one unfortunate or tragic event to change all that. In my 30s, I spent some time as a minister and worked with the homeless population in my area. I listened to story after story about people having good jobs, being married, and having a home, and then suddenly that all changed. Usually, it was a tragic event, like a death. But not always; some of them got fired and couldn’t find a job in their field. So be thankful, be humble, and remember that we are all human beings.
Getting over obstacles
The first obstacle I needed to get over was my education. I knew that if I was ever to find any success, I needed to learn as much as I could. Street smarts are only good on the streets, regardless of what some folks may say. Getting a good education from a real college or university is one of the most valuable things we can do for ourselves. That diploma is not just a piece of paper. It represents years of hard work and dedication. Especially for those who had to fight for every scrap of education I could get.
I did learn a lot from the streets. And most of what I know about how to run a business. I learned from my struggles in my early years. That was not enough; I needed to know more about the world. To hone my critical thinking skills, to become a better problem solver, and, most importantly. I needed to learn how to become an expert and a leader in my industry so that I could be in a position to help others find their success.
Another obstacle I needed to overcome is the psychological challenges you will inevitably get when you live such a rough lifestyle. People treat you like garbage; most see you as garbage and less than human. Without even knowing they are doing it. They will dehumanize and abuse homeless people. After a while, being treated that way will chip away at anyone’s self-esteem, making them think they are garbage.
I can’t say that I have entirely overcome this one. I went into ministry and attended university, majoring in psychology, learning to cope with and overcome some of these feelings and struggles. Doing this helped me better understand the human condition. And let me be face-to-face with others who are fighting their own battles. Allowing me to walk with others in their suffering for a time helped me understand my suffering better. I still struggle with CPTSD and must take time away to clear my mind. But overall, that experience helped me grow and move forward.
Starting and running several companies
My great-grandfather and first mentor helped me in so many ways. When he learned I was living in the streets, he gave me a place to live. But more than that, he pushed me to get out and make my path. Not to wait for the right job but to make it myself. He taught me to work smarter, how to treat other people and what it means to be a professional businessman. He died a long time ago, but to this day, I can hear his voice in my head. He was still guiding me and chastising me when I needed it.
At the age of 17, I started a roofing business; we did roofing, painting, siding, and home repair work that you might need. That business lasted for several years before I moved to Arizona. From then on, I started a few handyman companies and a few more roofing companies in Arizona and Oklahoma, where I lived for a few years. I also ran a printing company and a graphics design company. And for fun, I was a wedding officiant for a few years. I did that to overcome my fear of public speaking.
Becoming an industry expert
As I said previously, it was important to me to become an industry expert. To be an industry expert, someone else must recognize you as such. Saying you are, but without any verifiability, is just arrogant. In the same way, I fought for every scrap of education I could get. I did the same about industry training. If I could get into a certification program in roofing, I would do it. I learned from each one of those programs things I would not have learned otherwise. And more importantly, my expertise is not just my saying so. It has been honed by so many training programs and is all verifiable.
The best part of any training program I was part of, and I was part of a lot of them. Are the other students in the program? Each one with a different life experience to bring to the table. Different perspectives and understandings challenged and enhanced my own. Had I been more persistent in getting all the training I got. I would have missed so many beautiful conversations that helped me become a better roofer, businessman, and human being.
Becoming an industry leader
There is a story I heard once about a wolf pack operating. The leaders are in the back of the pack, ensuring the older and sick dogs are ok. The parable about the sick needing a doctor in ministry stood out to me. Being a leader does not mean being upfront and yelling orders. However, that is a requirement from time to time. Being a leader is a humbling experience that requires patience and great caring. If caring and patience are missing, that’s not leadership. That’s a dictatorship.
As a leader in the industry, it is my role and obligation to help anyone I can. And to encourage people to get an education. To get as much training as they can. Treat others right, and never stop learning to be better. We are an industry, but we are an industry of human beings. I lead from the rear and push others to keep moving down their path. It is the most important thing I can do at my age now.
It took me decades to learn this lesson. And I feel comfortable enough to call myself a leader. And to stand behind the great people who join my team. Empowering them with all the resources that I can. To help them find success, even if that means that sometimes, they leave us for other opportunities.
I want to be your go-to roofer.
I am sad to say that most of the contractors I have dealt with over the decades. Are great up until the bill is paid in full. We don’t work that way at Factory Direct Roofing, LLC. We understand how hard it is to earn a client’s business. And super easy to lose it. I don’t want to be your one; we are gone, roofer. I do everything possible to empower my team with old-fashioned customer service skills. My own life experience has taught me never to take anything for granted. Our clients are the people who feed us and pay our bills. We appreciate every one of them, and our appreciation by providing nothing less than the best service possible. Even long after the bill has been paid in full.