My family has done this kind of work for far longer than I can remember. I have early childhood memories of hanging out at the Moss Construction yard and office, playing around equipment, and piles of gravel. I ran around with my sister and cousins while my uncles and dad’s friends hung out in the office (only later did I realize they were Moss Construction employees).
For me, Moss Construction was always a family. The company, my family, and all the employees blended together. I even remember riding ATV’s in the construction yard and hitting high jumps on piles of gravel while the mechanics and truck drivers worked around me (imagine the safety nightmare today).
My dad always told me he wanted me to grow up and get into the family business. I grew up sort of a nerdy kid who loved computer games and eating. I didn’t have much time or desire to work in the business. I never wanted to run an excavator, and I didn’t want to spend summers on a pipe crew, but as a spoiled kid in Plano, TX, I thought running a company one day sounded pretty cool.
School came easy to me until public school turned into college. In 2006, I ended up at The University of Texas in Austin, TX, and realized I would have to study to get good grades, which wasn’t jiving with my time.
A few years later, the 2008 recession put the nail in the coffin for Moss Construction. Some may look back and blame the recession; others say it was the owners’ ego; others say it was key employees leaving and starting a competitive business. None of those things matter anymore. Moss Construction, started in 1989 by 4th Generation Moss family, was no more and my life on easy street was over (right smack dab in the middle of my college career).
I decided to extend college another four years and become a professional partier because they easily gave out student loans. That sounded better than deciding what to do with the rest of my life. (Lots of people spend seven years in college — yeah, they are called DOCTORS!)
Eventually, in 2012, albeit I still can’t figure out how, I got a piece of paper saying I graduated and moved back to Plano, TX, with my parents. I got a job for $12/hour at a now-bankrupt company called The Brinkmann Corporation.
A few years later, in 2014, I ended up with a job back in utilities. A recruiter found me and suggested I get back into it. He and his whole family were killed in a car wreck about a week after I started my new job in 2014, and I’ll never forget it. It was so incredibly sad, but he completely changed the course of my life, and I’ll always be thankful for his impact.
I’m not sure where or how, but somewhere along the way, a spoiled kid from the suburbs in Plano, TX, decided he better get a work ethic. I think it came from my wife, who I met in 2013 and married in 2015. She changed my life, and one summer, while working for a now competitor of ours, I came home and told her about my crazy idea to start a business.
I finally found another person crazy enough to pitch the idea as well. His name was Case Whitfield. Case was a Superintendent, and I was a Project Manager, and we found ourselves hitting it off on our projects. Our skill sets were polar opposite, but they meshed well on our projects. I had zero field experience, but as a nerd, I was pretty good on the computer stuff while Case couldn’t even open Excel.
I invited Case to Starbucks near the office one day and told him I had this burning desire to start my own company. I needed someone who knew how to put pipe in the ground, though, and Case seemed like a pretty good candidate for that. Case grew up in a family business doing residential plumbing for over 15 years and then found himself doing utility work for the last 5 or 6 years and had a knack for it.
Case and I talked, and we both had the same frustrations with our previous employer and felt like our future was capped. It didn’t take much convincing for Case, and we were off to the races with ideas.
We turned in our two-week notices in late September 2016 (they only let us stay a few more hours), and we looked up and had no projects lined up and two employees coming with us.
With absolutely not enough experience, capital, or industry knowledge, two guys set out on a dream working out of my house’s upstairs bedroom in Dallas, TX.
My grandparents lent me some money out of their hard-earned retirement fund to get us started, and I found a banker who gave us an SBA start-up loan. I’d tell you the sums of money we had to get started, but you’d probably laugh because they weren’t nearly enough, but we had no idea. I lived off my wife’s salary as I couldn’t take a paycheck for about a year.
Four years later, we have 160 employees and over $40 million in revenue. We own our office building and own most of our equipment fleet. We are building a reputation as one of the best utility contractors in Dallas/Fort Worth.
While I’d love to say it’s been easy, that would be a flat out lie. Stay tuned for more on Moss Utilities.