Branch Contractors was born in March 1995 when I was 18 years old. I already had a part-time job so my plan was to simply provide a handyman service to help supplement my income to help me get through college. I never intended on it ever becoming anything more than just something temporary. At the beginning, I wired houses, built decks, cleaned gutters and cut grass, anything for a dollar. I quickly realized that if I worked hard and was willing to do random jobs that were often less than glamorous, I would always have plenty of work. Pretty quickly, I found that my marketing niche was centered on doing work that no one else wanted to do.
As time passed and my skills developed I began advertising remodeling services. I was fortunate to actually pick up a few projects that were at the time, well out of my experience level, but through them, I learned to become resourceful and hire people that were a lot more skilled and experienced than me who could help teach me along the way. Toward the beginning of 1996, I was given the idea of doing fire and storm repairs, and although this seemed like a cool idea I had no idea how steep of a hill I would be up against. This was a specialized market that required experience of which I did not have. I was sold on the idea so I had a lot of business cards made and began driving to every insurance agency within 70 miles of Watkinsville.
At 19, it is pretty tough to sell yourself as knowing how to do so much, so I had to really learn how to build up what I was selling and study my trade so that I could actually sound like I knew what I was talking about. It took nearly a year of consistent harassment of agents and adjusters before I was given my first shot. An adjuster from Nationwide Insurance took a chance and hired me to wash his windows; this was my chance! A few months later a storm came through the Athens area and left trees lying all around. I took an old trailer and went out knocking on doors looking for customers whose debris I could clean up.
As I was driving around and knocking on doors, I noticed a house with a small tree that had fallen onto it. I stopped and asked if I could remove it and do the repairs, but the owner said their insurance company was sending someone out. Later that day, the Nationwide adjuster whose windows I had washed asked me to go look at a house that a tree had fallen on; it was the same one that I had looked at earlier! I ended up getting the job and reference letters from the homeowner and the insurance adjuster. Now, I had credentials that I could use as proof that I had some sort of experience to backup my sales pitch.
From there things grew very fast, within 5 years our revenue had grown 35 times the first year’s sales. Things were going along well, but as business builds so does the stress level. In 2003, I was burnt out. I remember praying for the Lord to somehow deliver me from this business because it had completely consumed my life; I had found that I had allowed the business to completely steal my joy and I wanted out. My perspective had become completely distorted and I was being controlled by my work and I had finally decided I had had enough. Then, on March 24, 2004 I received some very devastating news that later on was actually some of the greatest news that I could have imagined. I received a phone call around 10:00 pm from the fire department telling me my office was completely engulfed in flames. As I watched the building burn completely to the ground I came to the realization that Branch Contractors was out of perspective. As I watched the building burn it represented a cleansing fire for me and it allowed everything in my life that was controlling me to go up in flames.
I had been renting my office and warehouse space for 8 years, and I had 8 years of frustration inside the building when it burned and finally it was over. Through poor business management on my part, I was completely under-insured. I only had $5,000 in coverage with about a $150,000 estimated damages but, what Satan meant for bad, The Lord used for good. My entire crew and office staff reported the next day as usual but this time we met in the parking lot. The crews went to work with the tools that were thankfully on the trucks and undamaged, my two office staff members worked from the tailgate of my truck and we never missed a beat.
From that time my perspective was completely changed. This business no longer owned me but I finally owned it. I learned from my mistakes and began building on a more solid foundation, establishing a business not just a company that has “work” to do.
Today we are still in the same location as the previous building, but since then we have purchased the land and re-built our office. I have learned to not rely on the companies you hire to handle my business issues but rather that it is up to me to make sure things such as insurance are adequate. The fire also gave me an insider’s perspective of what my customers go through when a tragedy hits their life and with that I feel we have an unmatched empathy and understanding which helps us give a different level of service to our customers.