The President of the company walks into the office looks at me and says, “I don’t have an appointment today.” I said: “no, sir, I don’t have an appointment with you, but I drove all the way from Florida to see you because I didn’t think I had a chance to explain my business to you over the phone yesterday. And if you just give me a chance, I’m just looking for somebody to believe in me” – he says, “okay, son, I’ll give you 15 minutes.”……(one foot in the door!!!!) We went back to his office and 15 minutes turned into three hours. He was fascinated with my tenacity, my will to win, my determination, and my business plan. And he says, if everybody was this determined to do business with me, we’d have a great business. Then he looked at me and said son, how much line of credit do you need?
And I knew from experience that you ask for twice as much as you needed. I said, “I need a $300,000 line of credit to grow my business.” He said, “okay, I’ll give you $150,000.” I started saying under my breath, thank you, LORD. I took that $150,000 line of credit. I went back to Florida and was on fire building my business. It was the break I was praying for and after that, we never looked back. In fact, the gentleman who gave me the line of credit, would in the ensuing years, call me to ask me for advice on other companies in our sector of business and how I was doing so well, and others were not. It was the FAVOR of GOD on me and my company.
It was just amazing. My business grew, and we would have a triple revenue growth year after year. We were on a vertical climb. The business was just rocking, and we were hiring people and creating the right culture. It was so much fun, and things were really rolling.
Twenty-five years later, I looked back at the company that I started in that one-room Truckstop office, and it was the eighth largest refrigerated transportation company in North America. We had created a giant with a $150,000 credit line and a Dream. We were doing $189 million in annual sales (annual revenue) operating 1500 trucks with 2000 employees, 23 terminals all over North America, and our business was on fire! We were dominant!
I look back at that experience and I ask myself, how did I get to where I am? And the way I got there, was having a dream, but also the failures and disappointments along the way…the failures and the disappointments are always your best teachers. You know, you can have a great education. You can understand the financials and all of that, but you’re going to learn your best lessons….Your best teachers are going to be your disappointments and your failures in your life.
Remember, failure is never final unless you allow it to be. I remember one time, one of my biggest failures was when I tried to get into the rail business. The plan was I would put my refrigerated trailers on the train car and deliver green tomatoes up into the Northeast. The trailers were designed to gas the tomatoes in route and start turning them pink in color, so my tracks could pick up these trailers and deliver them to stores. And on paper, I made a billion dollars, but in actuality, I almost lost my company with this venture. We started out in our first month and I thought I had a big-time winner and right away, I realized I had a big-time loser. Why, because my competition saw me get into their marketplace and they immediately tried to put me out of business. They were cutting rates. It was one huge railroad company against me. And I knew I couldn’t last because my financial pockets were not deep enough. And so what do you do when you have a loser? You get rid of it!!!!
Immediately I started trying to get rid of it. I was ruthless. I bought some other older trailers so I could trade the trailers, I had to another intermodal company. It worked and five years later I recouped all my investment and losses from the rail fiasco. I know that GOD was with me and HE saved me. And that’s the short story of the pain and agony I went through. But that was one of my greatest teachers. And I realized, I got into the refrigerated transportation business, not the rail business. And so I’m going to focus on what I am good at and that’s what spurned our growth and fueled our success. And I was more determined than ever. And….what you’re going to learn in life is from your greatest disappointments. You’re going to learn from your failures. You’re going to learn from the things you did wrong, that you know you shouldn’t have done, all those things. And there’s not one person walking on earth who hasn’t done something that they’re probably not proud of. And certainly, that’s my case. I learned that I serve a GOD of second chances; third chances; fourth chances and a God of forgiveness. And so, I’ve always done this – when I’ve had failure and disappointment in my life, I’ve always dusted myself off and prepared myself to go again. …one of the hardest things that we must do is forgive ourselves when we have a disappointment or a failure in life. And certainly, that was the case for me in the rail business. But I went on to build a huge business and bless a lot of people; it was certainly a joy in my life to have an impact in other people’s lives and to create a company that others believed in and had respect and prominence in our industry.
In 1994, I sold that business and decided to get into the real estate business. And a partner and I started developing commercial real estate. And after four or five years, we had a portfolio of over $140 million. $140 million of shopping centers, office buildings, medical buildings, things of that nature. And we were on a roll, and I thought at that point I could never lose at anything in my life.