Back in 1985 I had the opportunity to sell a 50% stake in my construction company to a well established building contractor. It was a transaction that was mutually beneficial to both parties. For me it would allow me to bid whatever size project I desired and have the financial backing to really excel. I had had many years of struggles, with the ups and downs of the economy and me not always making the wisest decisions when it came to the business and financial end of things.
By merging with this other company I would still have my own identity, the Lewis Contractors name would remain in tact but I’d never have to sweat a Friday payroll or worry about how to pay the bills to keep the jobs rolling. I basically would continue to run things with my own office and employees.
Not too after we merged I found the need to hire an office person to dispatch trucks, write purchase orders, be sure materials were ordered and duties like that. Joe was a perfect fit. He was mature and grounded in his personal life. He had a vast knowledge of two radios and how to use them. He was actually trained to work on radios. He had a good way of relating to people with great telephone skills. He’s needs were such that he didn’t need to make a high salary, but we were able to offer him more than any prior job he’d ever had.
Joe was the son of one of my long time employees. While he had never done the job we were asking him to do, it was a straightforward position that required someone that was organized, meticulous and a great aptitude. Joe certainly had those qualities.
My new partner had a empty office building down the street from his main corporate office. I had sold my office as we started the merger so it was a perfect fit for us to move in to that empty office. It was a great location and office space. It was actually much nicer than the office space I had been in for the prior 10 years, which was a great place.
Joe started to work. I personally worked with him to help him get an understanding of what we did. His dad, Espinosa, had worked for me from the very early days, so he so our business wasn’t completely foreign to him. He caught on very fast. Within a couple of days he had everything organized much better than anyone ever had before that I had in that position.
My new partner came by the office a few days later and I introduced him to Joe. I could tell that there was some reservations about Joe. I had complete control over hiring and firing of the people within my branch of the company. However Joe was only of the only a couple of people that had to interact with the main office, besides myself.
I noticed over the coming days that my new partner was picking apart every move that Joe made. It wasn’t rational the way he was treating Joe. So one day I went in for a set down. I had to know why he always picked apart what Joe was doing. He said “I just don’t see why you hired a blind man to do that job and I don’t see how we can keep him in that position”, or something to that effect.
I decided to dig in and hold my ground. But as time went on, the nagging and complaining continued. I could see that it was standing in the way of our new relationship, so I finally talked Joe and told him what the problem was. It had nothing to do with his performance. We had talked during the hiring process that we would treat the first few weeks as probationary time. I was beyond sad to let him go but I saw no other way.
To this day I hate that I let me being bullied stand in the way of giving Joe his greatest opportunity to excel. He was doing his job and I let him go. It just wasn’t right. I’m told Joe landed on his feet and has had a good life. I never saw him after that.
Our partnership lasted several more years, with great success. As long as we were making money everything was fine. The 90s brought on some bad times in our business and we had two problem projects that were back to back. Words were exchanged and we each decided to go our separate ways. I think the experience with Joe taught me one thing and that wasn’t to succumb being bullied in business. As we closed out our two bad projects my partner ask me to reconsider and remain in the partnership. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. And I’ve lived my life without too much regret.