Reflecting on My Dad’s 92 Years of Life

As I watch my dad struggle with cancer over the last year, it has given me an opportunity to reflect on all of life’s ups and downs and how many men his age have endured numerous trials during the last 90 years. They have witnessed many wars over the last 10 years – from World War II, the Korean War (the war my dad served in), Vietnam, and the conflicts in the Middle East. But this is not just a talk about struggles, rather a story of triumph in so many ways.

My dad graduated as a mechanical engineer from Georgia Tech in 1950 and started learning how to run a successful business from his father. This was an interesting clash of a journeyman steamfitter working with a college graduate with an engineering degree. His dad taught him what hard work and sacrifice was in a loving, Christian environment. But running a contracting business as an entrepreneur is long hours, a lot of mental stress – in addition to raising a family.

What I have learned from him is how much patience and sacrifice over a longer period of time is required to succeed. Not just in terms of financial success but a genuine feeling of accomplishment of a job well done. To do that requires more than just a few years of growth and success. You have to assemble a very dedicated group of players who want to be on your team first. Then they must respect the leader and want to follow his vision. Then you can start to develop a culture of trust with both your team members and customers.

I marvel at how that has happened in our company over the last 75 years (1945-2020). To think about all the challenges from 1945 to present-day is hard to do. We have reinvented ourselves several times over and somehow kept the spirit described above alive. I have been fortunate to watch this process and participate in it for the last 43 years. But I know without my dad’s work ethic and his father’s desire to start a business, I would not be here today.

Business is not always up and to the right, as you chart your growth. As we deal with a pandemic, we tend to forget all the other challenges we have dealt with over the years. Because the country seemed to be doing so well before COVID-19 hit us, it shocked us to see how fast things could change our thinking. You have to be financially prepared but being emotionally prepared is what my dad had a handle on during any previous crisis in our company. He kept a calm resolve to ask good questions and allow others to suggest how to find the best solution.

So, what does this mean today and how do we apply it to our business now? For me and the people who follow our vision in the company, it is a real hope that – given enough time and patience – we can survive and prosper for another 75 years. We know cash is king and good financial management is a must. But embracing my grandfather’s drive and determination along with my dad’s mental toughness has been the real key to a successful company. My job is to pass down that spirit and make sure I leave our people with the same sense of trust and gratitude for each other and our customers. At the end of the day, this is what makes us great or not!

Thanks, Dad, for your 60+ years of total dedication to our company, its mission, and leaving a strong foundation for future generations to thrive.

Cal Hays