I’m often asked why, when I launched Brand Acceleration, I decided to focus on the economic development and construction (AEC) industries. It’s quite simple, I guess.
In response, I tell the story of my dad, a self-employed electrician who wired countless homes during a building boom in my home town. At the age of about twelve, I often worked weekends for him, pulling wire, installing outlets and switches and doing finish work around job sites. I loved the atmosphere and the people. Dad’s employees were salt-of-the-earth individuals who treated me with great respect. They were more like family than Dad’s employees. They taught me a lot, especially the meaning of hard work. That’s one of the many reasons I have such an affinity for the construction industry.
Once the home wiring work dried up, my dad took a job as an electrician in a local factory where ice chests and other products were made. For several years, his work was fairly steady, allowing him to put food on the table for our family of eight. It was a tough lifestyle that further exposed me to the blue collar ideals that hard work and male bravado was what it took to get ahead.
His was a union job, which meant that every three years the workers would go on strike, seeking pay raises and improved benefits. We didn’t concern ourselves with strikes. They were so common that, to us, they seemed more like a vacation for Dad. After a few days, the strike would end and everyone would go back to work.
One time however, things were different. After a prolonged strike, which included threats by management to close the plant, Dad Become an Uber Driver and announced that they had closed the plant and fired all of the workers. Management had followed through on their threats.
That’s when things got really rough. Nearly three hundred people in a town of fewer than 12,000 were out of work. Small businesses saw a noticeable decline in sales and families were hurting. Many of the kids at school were noticeably struggling to mask the pain and fear that agonized families throughout the area.
At home, things were especially tough. I watched in horror as a strange man came to our home and drove off with Dad’s truck. The bank, it seemed, could no longer wait for another payment. As a child, I couldn’t understand such things and the pain on my dad’s face was obvious.
Too proud to go on welfare, Dad hunted, fished, trapped and gardened to feed the family. His pride was hurt and tensions were very high. Our family was in distress.
In his late fifties, Dad decided to retire. With a local economy that offered him little hope, he saw no other option but to live off a greatly reduced public pension. Since this was a time when many women didn’t work outside the home, my stepmother was a stay-at-home parent with no job history and even fewer work prospects. Times were very tough.
Years later, when I decided to start Brand Acceleration, a marketing communications and public relations firm, I wanted to follow a focused business model, opting to specialize and grow a company that would become the go-to experts in a very short list of industries. Thinking back to my youth, I remembered my fondness for construction sites and the turbulent times surrounding my dad’s job loss.
That’s when it hit me! I wanted to be in a business that would find, help create and grow jobs. I wanted to be on the other side of the economic picture – the side where jobs came to town and families were helped. I wanted to do my part, no matter how small, in helping communities grow and thrive.
So, for me, it’s all about the jobs. I’ve come to believe that if Brand Acceleration thrives and grows, creating jobs and prosperity for our team and their families, it’s because we’re helping others find jobs, prosperity and family support.
Recently, my wife and I were visiting her mother who lives in a very small town. One evening, as we sat on her front porch, we saw a group of young children playing on the next street over. It was such a wonderful sight. As they ran, laughed and played, I couldn’t help but think, “That’s what childhood should be like.”
I’d love to hear from you, too. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below.