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Today on The Jay Allen Show, Jay speaks with Debbie Rodriguez
is the founder of Quality Labor Management, Competitive Edge Partners and Consulting, and part of the board of National Association of Women in Construction.
Take a listen to this special episode featuring Debbie Rodriguez of The Jay Allen Show.The transcript is not perfect.
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Relatively quick Anyways, let's start talking right away about the things that we have going on today. Today. You'll get to hear from Debbie Rodriguez. She has built a solid reputation as a minority woman business owner over the last two decades. He possesses well over 20 years experience in recruiting, sales management, training development in safety In 2000 and eight, she was a vital part of starting quality labor management and she's part owner and operator of two of the locations in 2000 and nine. Debbie Open Competitive Edge Partners and consulting C. E. P is a prime subcontractor specializing in Division One general requirements and Division 16 electrical. So I have to tell you there's a lot of knowledge base that comes upon whether you're having the conversation with Debbie Rodriguez and she'll go down the path on how she built what she has built and helping out the community. I would love for you to hear very closely when Debbie has to say today on the geology. Yeah, safety FM dot com. But really what I want to do is talk about you and the things that you have going on. I will tell you as we went going through some of the portions that we could find. You got a lot of stuff going on. So I'm not even sure where you want to start because there's so many, there's so much goodness inside of here. And I have to tell you, you're one of the very few safety professionals that I have seen at the same place for a very long period of time. So I'm kind of amazed by this and I can I say 12 years, can I say 12 years, is that okay? 12 years. So let's start off with the most important part, which is gonna be the most obvious question out of all of them, what got you involved into this little world of ours of safety? Well, um, so every company that I've ever worked for, the number one philosophy has always been safety, it's always been the first word of all of our philosophies. So It's only, it's only right that I continue down that Mantra when I started my own company 12 years ago. So my philosophy of safety accountability commitment, so you so you decided to jump in and start your own company of safety because of hearing this philosophy from all these other people talking about it. Is that was that the reason behind, wow, you are a brave one. That's for sure. Yeah. So we, I own a subcontracting company, but one of our arms is a safety consulting division because I do feel like there's such a need in such a lack of education and the safety sector that it just made sense to open. That is part of my subcontracting world as an added benefit to our clients. So I have to of course ask the dead obvious question as well. How has it been going through this last 12 years of a male dominated industry? Of course being a female yourself. It has to be interesting, especially with some of the activities that can be sometime inside built into this inside of this world. So how has it went for you so far? You know, I have to tell you that uh it's been wonderful. I know that I certainly am usually the only female in the room. Um but I'm okay with that. I've always been comfortable in my own skin and I've always been comfortable in and what I know and what I say, so, you know, I think that when women are in a male dominated world, they have two directions to go. Either, you know this this isn't for me and hide and run the other way or embrace it because it's pretty awesome. So um I sit on the board of abc, the association builders and contractors and thank God there's three of us now, but for four years I was the only female and I was okay with that. Yeah, I like to play in demand for all that. It's not so bad. Well, but here's the thing and I know that it kind of sometimes it can get kind of weird if people want to make it an issue and that's what I want to kind of reference there because I think that females bring such a great thing to to aboard and so on. But sometimes some people go, well, they don't know as much as me. And I think that kind of puts limitations. So, did you run through any of that as you were first starting off getting into it? Well, I mean, to tell you that it's always been rose roses. I would be a lie. I mean, I've been I've been in the industry for 21 years. So even though I've only had my my company for the last 12 years, The beginning was very different. So at the beginning of 21 years ago, in the construction industry, Um all of leadership were males. And so I got promoted into leadership at 28. And it was it was that was difficult because nobody took me serious because of my age and took me serious because I was a female and I was running people that were older than me, significantly older than me. So that that was also another thing that, you know now this 28 year old chick is going to run these, you know, 30, 40 year old men And even 50 year old men. And the beginning was a little bit. But I will tell you the beginning is what made me who I am today. Because if I didn't have those trials and tribulations and didn't learn at a very young age how to overcome home, I probably would still have the same issues today. So, so as you're going through the beginning stages of that journey, how is it for you though? Because here's the thing, I look at it this way, we kind of have this person that we are at work and then we kind of are slightly different at home. Was it affecting any of your home life when you were first going through these and believe me, we're gonna get to some more positive stuff, but I always want to know how the experiences of course. So um at a very young age, I got married um at a very young age, I got divorced, so it wasn't caused by the job, it had some of it, it was um it was definitely caused by the job. Uh you know, my career started to flourish and my ex husband, I did not know how to deal with that and then I I lived in a male dominated world, so you had two issues, number one, I was growing very rapidly and in my profession starting to make more money than he was. And so his ego was very much much broken and he was six years older than me. So now now I have, I'm 23 he's 20 I think he was 28. And so all of a sudden I was making more money than him and I was going down the path of leadership and I don't think you really know what to do with that because that's not really, you know, when we first started dating, I was still that's pretty young. Um I feel like I've always been an old soul though, but yeah, so, you know, I didn't have a good spring at the beginning, but to be honest with you it I didn't think anything negatively about it. I just felt like we just grew up and grew apart and I'm sure that sounds sad going for years, but you know, you just either grow together as a couple or you grow apart and if you grow apart, at least you could recognize it and want happiness for each other. So I wanted happiness for him and I knew I wasn't it. So let me ask a strange question here because you say that you grew apart, but also at the same time you had two things going on where your career started to flourish. It started having some other issues. Now, it was part of the issue dealing as well, because you were mostly in a male dominated world at the time. So was there a jealousy factor inside of there? If you don't mind me asking the question and of course, if there's anything off limits, you can give me the side and I will cut right there. So it's fine, it's fine. I have zero filter and I um I do think it has something to do with that. I had just started in my career path and the staffing, construction industry. And so yeah, I mean, I didn't know anybody, but but men, I didn't hang out with anybody, you know, as far as work, but men, you know, I was constantly around all of them every day, all day, so it didn't necessarily lead. He I do think he had some insecurities. Um but at the end of the day, you know, we I thought we could overcome them and we we couldn't um I think he had more of a beef about the fact that I had started making more money than he had made and that, and I kept saying, well, we're in this together, so who cares if I make more money, that means we make more money. Um That's what I would do it. Of course, right? But you're but you're a very you know, independent, you know, man that thinks that women can do anything. You would be okay with that. I believe they can do anything. I will tell you I am the only as successful as I am, because my wife does the majority of all the stuff that needs to take place. She runs a joint. I just kind of hang out in front of a microphone and everybody thinks that I'm the brains of the operation. They just don't know the truth, because you have the nicer voice, right? Well, she doesn't she doesn't like to talk in front of people. So I guess I guess that kind of works out well in this. I don't like talking in front of people either, but most people don't believe me. Yeah. Well, I mean, I guess you never I guess you don't really talk in front of people. You just talk, Yeah. And I don't shut up sometimes that's the other problem. So as you're going through his career and of course there's some different changes in everything going on. When do you start following in love with the temp labor side of work? Because there is a there has to be a love relationship there at some particular 21 years, right? So at what point do you go? This seems like it's a great idea and you take I mean you have moved before you kind of moved around inside of this this whole portion of the segment when you were a district manager at one point and then you kind of moved owner operator and so on. So how did you decide that this was the love of the portion of the career that you wanted to move forward with? Because there's a lot there, I mean you're doing safety and you're doing construction stuff, let's just put it to you this way, you didn't take the easy path here, that's for sure. It's so funny you say that because I tell everybody all the time, look if I can do construction staffing, I can do anything probably the two hardest industries in the world. Um You know j I have to tell you, I I love helping people. I love I love seeing somebody with a situation that they can't even they don't even know how to help themselves, but yet you have the ability to help them. Um so I mean I currently run 3 315 craft workers out in the field. So you know, I believe in them before they believe in themselves. So I felt I started in day labor, which I'm sure you know that which that's the third hardest thing to do. So staffing day labor construction like Every single barrier that you can imagine. So I think at a very young age 23 is when I started in the industry, I I always wanted to help people. I didn't really, I wanted to be a trauma surgeon and then decided I hated school. Um by you dropped out. Yeah. I don't think any visible let me operate on them without having my degree. So, so I dropped out of school. Like, you know, I think I went to one semester, not even, I don't even think I finished um you know, had a full ride to go to florida and and just like I hate school. Um but I knew I wanted to help people. I've known that since I was young um and I've probably been an entrepreneur since I was, I had my own lawn service at 12. Um you know, I far far my parents on more, but I gave them, you know, part of my money because I was using their equipment and about my own gas. So I think I learned at a very young and I come from migrant parents and my both of my mother and father from CUBA. So I learned a lot of my behaviors from them and thank God I was raised in a different culture. I think it really helped me to be very stable meaning I saw a difference. You know, they're, my parents were very different, they mainly spoke spanish, I spoke english and they spoke spanish back. It was always very interesting. I was like mom and dad, we gotta get you better at english and start talking about it. So, um, so I think that was, you know, I saw my parents struggle when they came to this country. Well, I didn't see them struggle, but I obviously didn't say because I wasn't here yet, but um, you know, I heard the stories of my family and everybody struggling when they came here from cuba that, you know, their degrees and all of those things, You know, they had nothing here when they came to the United States. You know what they were in, their country was zero here. So they basically had to start all over again. And I just always thought to myself, well, you know, if I can help people, you know, either from other countries or from, you know, people that have had vices that are now trying to clean up their lives or people that have had past histories, you know, in the prison system, like, you know, I believe in second chances. And so, um, so I guess I've always wanted to help people to the day labor model really taught me how to deal with the most unusual and most adverse situations you could possibly think of. And for eight years or almost eight years I did the day labor model. I mean, I would wake up four in the morning, go in downtown Jacksonville florida, open up the office and here's these, you know, 40 50 men walking in and you're 23 years old. I do often thank God that my parents didn't really know what I was doing because they probably would have never stopped. Especially their, you know, their, their kid is leaving to go to do something in downtown Jacksonville florida every day. So I think, you know, just watching those gentlemen and, and at the time I didn't have any female employees. They were all males. Um, but watching those gentlemen genuinely care about you because they knew that you were there, their lifeline. They knew that you were the one that was gonna pay them. You were the one that was gonna put them to work. You were the one that was going to try to take care of them in their knees, whatever that need may have been. So for 7.5 years I did them and did get promoted within the organization and moved to Orlando Um in my mid 20s. And then from there I got the opportunity to start my own company with a business partner and that's how I started um to L. M. And the great thing was my business partner said to me, you know, Debbie, you can do whatever you want, you build this, this company how you want it. And I wanted it to be a company that truly was. The jobs were temporary, but the people were not temporary. So you know, health benefits, vacation pay safety bucks, we have a safety box program. So for every hour they were safe for crews and merchandise and get certificate. So you know, he let me do what I wanted to do. I wanted to go away from the day labor model and I wanted to become more of a truly like a true staffing model to where you truly had people. You know, you paid once a week, you didn't pay every day. So I had stopped believing in the day labor model because I did feel like I was just fixing people's vices and I didn't, although I think there's a need for it. I just didn't want to be in that. Well, let me ask anymore. Let me ask that question right there because I know that by working at different organizations, some people have the stigma of day labor where they go, we don't want to go that route because they how this belief of something they might have seen on tv or something they might have heard or maybe even someone that they know had a bad experience or even themselves at some point. Can you talk about that real quick if you don't mind on how it's not sometimes what people think that it is? Yeah. So um I would 100% agree with you. It's still saying, I mean it's 2021 people still think that way, you know, and I think there are companies that do things for the right reasons and there's companies that do things for the wrong reasons and unfortunately the whole the whole thing that people say you can do 1000 things right and they'll remember the one thing you do wrong, that's what they believe in the temporary staffing model. Because there's nothing wrong with any of those gentlemen that I employed for all of those years. It was they were just different. They had they liked living in the woods, they didn't want they didn't want a home, they didn't want all that, that for themselves and they were, you know, wonderful man. I mean I can tell you, you know, being in that environment for 7.5 years, I was never I was always sure was the most respect. Nobody ever. I think one time I had a situation and trust me, the guys jumped over the counter and got rid of the guy quicker than you can imagine because they knew that I was their lifeline um as far as your income. So yeah, you know people falling on hard times and all of us are one step away from being in that same situation and I would always remind myself of that like just because this guy is sitting in front of you and he you know could be you're old enough to be your father, he's brought here because he needs he needs to eat whatever, you know have a bed, whatever it is. Um And I cared more about the human being than I don't, I try not to put stigmas on anybody because we're people first. And so that's why I just focused on the people and the good people stayed with me and the bad people. I kind of reading through them and we'd there sells out to intuitive and I would imagine so I know that you said that you wanted to help people at a younger age. Is you something that you developed? How did you that place such a hard factor when you were moving forward, when you started saying we're all just human and we're just one step away from this. How did you, I mean at such a young age and I'm not saying you said you were an old soul earlier, so I'm gonna go with that still. How did you have did you come up with that because of what you had seen your parents struggle through when you were younger or the stories that they had told you, is that how you always knew that we were just one step away? Yes. Um because I did, I did and of course being in a day labor model, you saw people go from, you know dealing with addictions and dealing with you know alcoholism and drug abuse and you know, as a person that doesn't, you know, I've never done any of those things. So for as a person that was on the further side of the spectrum, my parents don't drink. I mean I was raised, you know, very differently, but you can, I just wanted better for them and so I just worked really hard to try to show them a better life and, and you know, I think sometimes I believed in people when they didn't believe in themselves and I typically don't give up on people until I just finally has had enough. My staff tells me all the time, like Debbie, you give people so many chances. Well I just feel like if I don't give them the chance then how about if this is like, you know, now they all of a sudden spirit, you know, go straight down into this horrible depression and and I could have changed their life, you know? And so I try to just try to stay positive on people and you know, people make mistakes every single day. I mean I feel like I counsel my team members every single day you took, you took what I was gonna say right right out because I was gonna say you're essentially like a counselor, your counseling these people along the same times two. But you said something that I think is so important, I think that it's so important regards of what you're doing and also in the world of safety that we tend to forget that they're the people do make mistakes and that errors are more normal than what people acknowledge. So as you take a look at this and you're seeing, I mean you're seeing a very wide scope of things they labor safety and noticing errors and you're kind of helping all these people out. What is your mind at the end of the day? Because I mean there's so much you have going on 315 people. I have two kids and I can't I can't manage them so I can't imagine 315 you know, um I think I just focus on them. I focus on the bigger picture, I focus on the impact that I'm making in their lives. Like I've we have literally through my nonprofit which is I build central florida. I mean between the staffing elements, the subcontracting element in the in the in the uh nonprofit elements, they all work so well together. So you have the opportunity to truly change people's lives. I mean I have People that have come to me in tears like I can't get a job, I don't know what to do. And these same people have been with me now for 10 and 12 years and they're foreman's or superintendents now and they're still on my payroll and they get try to get hired on by my customers. They tell me, you know, I'm not leaving Debbie, like I have this said to me quite frequently, why would I leave somebody that takes such good care of us? Like you're if I call you on a sunday night at 10 o'clock at night because I'm stuck on the side of the road and I got nobody else to call. I know that I can call Debbie and she'll be there for me. Like there's no other employer out there that's going to do that. Debbie, what's your phone number again? So you did mention something here about I build central florida, your foundation there. Can you explain a little bit more to our listeners and what exactly it all does here in the central florida area? Yeah, absolutely. So I build central florida was a, was a thought, um, That I had back in 2015. I was just recently joined the board of ACC and obviously being in staffing and being in construction. We had a workforce development committee or we were developing a workforce development committee. And of course, everybody looked at me like, hey, you do temp staffing, you should be the leader of that because you deal with everybody. Okay. He sounds like, okay, mind you, I had even really started the board yet. I started the board in the january. That was the october before leadership and I was like, oh, okay, let's, let's, let's see this. Like I can sit. And I'm like, what does that mean? And they're like, yeah, you'll figure it out. So honestly through that hole, I was like, well, So how do I get for 20, the past 20-30 years? We have had such a shortage in the trade. So how do I, how do I start fixing that? I can sit here and talk about it for another 20 or 30 years or I can start fixing it. So then I build central florida became the nonprofit that, so I brought the education system in central florida and the construction industry together. And now we were working on the same platform to try to get more people in the industry. We were taking guidance counselors on field trips to the job sites and showing them like these incredible, you know, the trades and watching drywall hangers, framers and finishers and carpenters and it's like you would see these guidance counselor spaces going, oh my God, I was like, yeah, because so those kids that are bad in your class, they're phenomenal for the construction industry because they want to just go out and do something, I don't want to sit at a desk all day. And so, you know, so I just started educating the industry and the people, the parents, you know, I'm gonna be honest with you, my generation was a generation. I thought everybody should go to college and I was like, no piece of paper doesn't define you what college you went to when you graduate to. Really? I mean unless you're going down a career path that, you know, you're a lawyer or a doctor, I mean, how many career paths really, truly needed degree? I mean there's there's a handful of them, but for the most part your drive and your, you know who you are as a person is what gets you to where you want to be. So I started to try to talk about, let's stop talking about college, and let's start talking about career paths because that's really what the important part is, because who cares where you went to school? Um So that was, that was one of the things that we started to really with the six um surrounding school districts, we started to really talk about, let's talk about careers, let's stop talking about college. And so so the education system was there and then the industry, the construction industry was like, I can tell you that the construction industry was the hardest part to get on board. Uh I mean, and I was so upset because, you know, coming from the construction industry is like, how do these people not see that if we can band together with the education system, that we can truly change this? Like a four year apprenticeship program is just as important as a four year degree. It's just a different way to get to dr Armbruster would say it's a different way to get to Jacksonville. There's more than one way to get to Jacksonville. There's more than one way to be successful. So, so really it was, that was it. I that's why I started, I build central florida and thank God I got a whole bunch of people had the same feelings and thoughts and came along the ride for me and I have a phenomenal board that continues to surprise me day in and day out. I mean, we have the, I build invitational on saturday, which is our skills competition, our job fair signing day. I mean, it's it's grown to be something that honestly jay is so far beyond what I ever thought it would be. I mean, we just started in the gulf coast, we're looking at north florida. So you know, it's, it's really just showing people that through education and through apprenticeship You can, you can be, 50, 60 $70 $80,000 a year in this industry. Um, so it was just that, it's educating the people just, you know, in the school system, the kids, the middle school, high school kids, the guidance counselors, their parents, because like, so I have an ex that calls me all the time, Can you please tell your to your two daughters or two step daughters that they need to go to college? I was like, I can't, I would be a hypocrite, like I don't think but, and then of course I get, but Debbie not everybody's like, you, not, everybody's driven like you and I'm like, well why not? So. So yeah, I get that phone call frequently and then I have three other step kids from my most recent or my recent marriage and those kids are, you know, one of them works for me and has proven his, he works in the day labor for three years and I pushed him and pushed him and pushed him because I wanted to make sure he had what it took before I brought him on, you know, as a permanent employee of my subcontracting company. And there were so many lessons that he learned. I mean, I remember sitting at the dining room table one night And you know, at the time he was 20 and I put them through heavy equipment operating school because he really wanted to heavy equipment operating and this is also the eyeballs program. And and he came home one day and I said, hey I have a labor job but I need to go on tomorrow because I don't have anybody else. And he looked at me and he goes he goes, I'm not a labour, I'm gonna have the equipment operator. J man if I could have flipped that table I was so mad. I was like, you know what? You are no better than anybody else. So for you to sit here after you gone too heavy equipment and heavy equipment operating school and to sit there and say that you're you're better than that. I said I do labor job. Nobody is better than anybody else in this world. And I and I took him right back to day one. He had worked two days as a laborer and then he was almost on his way to finally getting in the company. And he started on day one and he's like what? I was like, yeah, no, you haven't gotten it. You don't get it. You don't get it at all. There is nobody in this world better than anybody else. And I think that that's so important about mindset in regard to really saying, hey, you have to kind of look at the whole paradigm here opposed to just one aspect of it. Now here there's something that you mentioned a little bit prior to what you just said that it has been very curious. You said that you had the construction industry not wanting to jump on board with this? What was their hesitation? I mean, you're doing something inside of the industry that I have not heard of before. So what was their hesitation marks that they didn't want to move forward with this? Well, I will tell you this. So the construction industry is and I hate the way this is about to sound because I love the industry. So sometimes in our in the construction industry we get in our own way. So we So they believe that the education system has always been fought to help in the construction industry and in a way they're right. But what we were bringing to the table now is is completely different. Like the education system is on board. Let's this is a time this is a time for us to change the thoughts and the processes and and start looking at apprenticeships. And so so honestly, I think they were just scared because they had thought they had tried to have this relationship before. And it just didn't pan out. Well, because I hate to say it. But the education system has a lot of red tape, I mean, and they do, and so the construction industry was like, there's too much red tape there, it was too many hurdles for them to want to overcome. So I think at first they were like, let somebody else could try that and then if it works, you know, later on down the road then we'll jump on board. And I think that's kind of what it took. I think there were some leaders at the very beginning that that said, okay, you know, Debbie, you say that the education system has changed and they're here to support us and they kind of came on board and, and, and then so those situations started to change other people's mindsets. Um, and so like modern plumbing was, you know, the frank rocco, we have our grant, which we have a grant, we do not have a scholarship, we give money for people, for tools for apprenticeships, um, to fix their cars, whatever it is. Uh, because I didn't want it associated to like scholarships, which is an educated, you know, as far as like the college path, so we do grant. Um, so you know that that grant was named after Frank Bronco and because he started in the trades in 1975 to start in the back of his pickup truck, a plumbing company and I was, he was one of the greatest men. I mean ever so humble. I learned from a lot of great men that just came from nothing that we're very humble. So I mean it started with people like that, so you connected with them and where they started and so those things started to reveal themselves and the bigger and the more that, you know, some very reputable companies became members of my bills. Then it started to change the thought process and I, the first year I was like, why am I doing this? Like how in the world am I going to get these people to realize that if we don't fix this now, we're never gonna fix this, like, this is the time for us to truly change the industry and change what the education system looks like. Um and I do think that, you know, people at first are very, very quick to just I don't want any more on my plate, like, I'm already, I think, I think they wanted to see it to work, you know, and and see what could happen before they really wanted to jump in, and I understand that now, but the first year I was like, and if it wasn't for dr Aaron brewster and Crystal Davidson, um which is my vice president I built, I don't know that. I would have stayed. I mean, they were like, Debbie, you're so close, so close and I'm like, yeah, but I'm so pissed off, We'll be with you doing all of this. I know that, you know, as well, that there is a need for this outside of the central florida area as well. Have you, have you thought about yeah, growing it slightly bigger? I'm not trying to put pressure. I'm just asking the question because you said, hey, we're looking outside of the six school districts that are here. How far is that? Is that growth looking So, um, so yes, of course I thought of that. Um, we did move to the gulf coast areas that we're in like the Tampa Pinellas, um, Hillsborough County area in Pasco County. We did just recently um, start expanding the north florida, the Jacksonville Orange County or, or orange park, you know, the ST john's like all that area. So we are starting to expand. You know, the problem is on a nonprofit world, there's only so many of us and so we're only as good as our weakest link. And so time, time is what we don't have enough of. And obviously I run, I run a very successful subcontracting company and I'm still very much affiliate with my staffing company. So there's only one person, I'm, I'm sure myself would be like, no, please. Uh, um, so I think that as we continue, like I've thought about trying to latch onto like a knee with the National Association of Women in Construction or tag onto um, an abc and then maybe be an extension of those organizations like being their workforce development side. Um, but I haven't had a partner yet that has come to me and said hey Debbie, let's let's go do this globally and I'm gonna need a partner like that to make something like that happen. I even thought about using my Q. L. M. Um model, our staffing company. We have 23 okay 23 locations throughout the south east of the us. So you know I thought about how do we make it to where this is in everyone's market, but you have to believe in it and you have to totally totally invest in it. And I just, I haven't gotten the rest of the 22 locations to do this because they just, they still don't see it. They and I don't have to go look for business. Business finds me and that's what I tell everybody. Like it's going to suck the first two years, it's gonna suck like you would not believe but after that it's it is so much easier. The people, the people will find you, the clients will find you because you're bringing something to the table that nobody else has brought and but I can't get them. It's hard work. It's gonna be two years of just pure hard work and like I said, I I just can't get them to see it yet. But you know, I'm the number one office every single week by a lot. I mean we we build you know, 250 to 300,000 every single week. And my number two stores is typically in the eighties or nineties. So and I try to tell him like that didn't happen just because I mean that happens from a lot of hard work and a lot of positioning people and things in the right way. And and then of course we have the highest rate of people that get hired by our clients. I mean are people I believe that we are stepping stone for what the future looks like for them and and we are the ones that open up the door to the possibilities of what they could possibly do. So I I love the fact that we have a staffing company and a subcontracting company and the I build Montreal because I feel like they just help one another so much to grow in the right direction. No, I mean it sounds like it sounds like you have something that you have built, that it's quite successful. I mean based on what you're saying, I mean 23 locations of course is great. Now, here, now here's the here's the thing that that I would ask as you look at this and your business has done well during this time. How was it during the pandemic? I mean, I know we're still a part of it. I mean let's let's say that I would love to say we're out or something along those lines, but I'd be lying. But how has it done during that time? Because of course the world entirely changed. So have things still been striving for you during those times as well? We had the most most growth on my subcontracting business in 2020. We um we went from a $6.7 million $16 million dollar company. So uh I had, most people ask, telling me, hey Debbie, do you know that there's a pandemic going on and I'm like, is there? They're like, yeah, you didn't know. And I said, well I can either allow that to control me or I can just continue down the path and Act like it's not even there. And so, you know, my staff of, I think there's 25 of us. There's probably more, there's 300 craft workers out in the field and there's probably 25 in the office. Um They never, they looked at me for their leadership. They they knew if Debbie wasn't panicking or Debbie wasn't stressed out or Debbie wasn't upset about the pandemic and they weren't going to be upset either. They knew that we were gonna work right through it and we didn't we didn't skip a beat. We opened a covid cleaning division. We opened up a temperature reading division. I mean it was, you know, I I lost a lot of work during the pandemic. Um But we re adjusted. You know, we we lost work but then we turned around and gain work at the airport and other sectors that that made us okay. So We had like 23 weeks when it first hit. I remember the day it was March 16. They shut down all of our Disney projects. I was like, Oh my God, like that's 120 people. And in three weeks I had them all back to work somewhere else that wanted to go to work. The hardest part then was trying to get them to be okay with what was going on. Because you know, the news media made it seem like this horrible and it was for a lot of people, it was horrible. Um But I just stayed the course and said, you know what, we're gonna get through this and if you don't feel well, don't come to work. But you know, we took our temperatures when we came to the office and we just, we just stuck with it. We, we said that, you know, this too shall pass and it's gotten a lot better and so I guess I just as a leader, I never feared it. I mean I had it myself and I was like whatever, so I wear a mask, you know every day and still came to work um which is very much, you know, some people may stay away from everybody, but they actually did wonder like why are you sitting way over there? I'm like, well, you know, I'm trying to be respectful and they're like, are you sick? And I'm like, no, no. Yeah, they would walk over to me and put stuff underneath my nose and can you spell that? I'm like, so, um you know, I just, I feel like as a leader you dictate, you dictate what, what your company looks like, what your people, even our field people. I mean they saw me come out to the job sites and check up on them. Like I wasn't fearful at all. I mean and and j I'm one that believes that my time will come, it's already written. There's nothing I'm gonna be able to do to change it. So why would I stop my life? Because we have a pandemic, like we have we have one life to live and so I'm living it to its fullest. So well it sure it sure sounds like that now. Debbie if people want to know more about you and the things that you're doing work, they go out to find out more information. Um Well um obviously our website is www dot you know comp edge LLC dot com is our subcontracting. And um my staffing company that I started was is my two lM dot com. And then I build central florida dot com. So those are the three websites that you can see me and um all of the people and I'm gonna tell you we're having this conversation, but I couldn't do this without my team members out in the field and I certainly couldn't do this without my staff. So although I'm the one that gets a lot of the praise, I try to give them as much praise as I can because I couldn't do it without them. I mean they're I have an amazing group of people that I will tell you have all been handpicked. There's only one person on my entire staff that has not been handpicked and um he is, you know, a very young up and coming but I've seen them all in different elements and old there, you know, past jobs and I saw something in them. They help people and they cared about people and like I would watch them talk to their employees and I was like, he's like, that's that's the guy I want on my team because he gets it. He gets it that his most valuable asset for his people. Like. And I think a lot of ceos forget that. I mean the most you can, you can put a piano on my desk all day long and I'll be like, yeah, if we're doing right by the team members, by the clients and by the staff, my numbers will always be there and I focus on the people and that's, that's unusual for a ceo to focus on the people and not focus on the numbers and the biggest thing that we have to is safety. Like I want people to come home the same way they went, you know, to work. I don't, I mean the safety and you have to have the culture. I mean if we're currently right now downstairs, we're having an OSHA 10 class with 25 of our team members. Because big thing for me is that we all need to have, you know, we all need to be educated in OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 and so, and they give me their time. I give them the class for free. But it goes beyond that. It goes, they care about each other. I, I had to move upstairs to my, to my subcontracting company because downstairs, I wouldn't have been able to hear you because they're having such a good time and they're OSHA trading. Um, so, but it's great to see that and they care about each other. I think that's another thing too, is we have a culture that we look out for each other. We truly generally like each other and, and I think that's what makes us great. Everybody asked me, you know how I think we just, we love what we do. So it doesn't feel like work feels like a lot of fun. Well, and I think that's important. And what you said there is about how they care for each other. I think that's so crucial. And I will tell you, you are one of the very few people that I have ever interviewed that has taken a pause just say, hey, I'm the one that's here, but I'm here because of my staff and I really do appreciate you doing that. It really means a bunch. Well, I can tell you this, j I wouldn't work this hard if it wasn't for them. I mean, I, I tell them all the time, I didn't build this company for me, I built this company for us because I wanted them to know that they had a place to always have security because in the world that we live in today, especially through the pandemic, I think a lot of people forgot that our people should be the most important thing to our company's period and I still think they're still trying to figure that out. And the companies that finally have figured that out and are and are implementing things that keep people there are going to are going to be here through the worst of the worst. Um And I think that's where I get really distorted. The other thing too is teaching them Like teach them to be better every single day. I don't care if it's you know, I tell everybody I want you to be one better every single day however that looks and they teach the people if you know more than the guy standing next to you or the girl standing next to you, teach them what you know because your knowledge will make this world you can spread that to everybody. So that's the other thing too is we have you know, mentoring and mentoring people up. I mean we've we've done a lot of that in our career. I mean I have I have people that can't even speak english worth a lick but they're certainly running some of our jobs now of course it's my job to now foster them to say you need to learn english. Um but I mean it all comes in time and like I said I get emotional when I talk about my team members and when I talk about my stuff because I wouldn't work this hard if it wasn't for them. And like I said, it doesn't, it doesn't feel like work because I care so much for all of them. Well Debbie, I appreciate what you're doing for your staff. I also appreciate what you're doing for the central florida community and something tells me you're going to be doing something for a larger scale of people. You're setting a blueprint out there that are not even recognizing. I appreciate you coming on to the show today. Thanks jay. Thanks for everything. The views and opinions
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