“At about 1:30 in the morning the phone by my bed rang. A call that early in the morning is never good news. The voice screamed, “You better get down here. Metro-Waterproofing is on fire!” founder, Clyde L. Strickland remembers.
Often it is the worst moments that define our future. As the saying goes, “it isn’t what happens to us, but what we do next that tells us who we are.” Today, Metro Waterproofing is one of the most successful companies serving the construction industry in the Southeastern United States. The company excels in everything from new construction waterproofing and total building restoration to routine maintenance and leak repairs. You can’t drive down I-85 or I-285 without passing a truck with the Metro logo on it. But, gaining the status and respect of the country didn’t happen overnight. Building a business is not for the weak at heart and sometimes you’ll wake up to a punch in the stomach.
By 1986 the company that had started with just a ladder and a pickup truck now occupied an entire city block in Scottdale, the unincorporated area right outside of Decatur Georgia. For fourteen demanding but wonderful years, Clyde and his wife Sandra Strickland had built Metro Waterproofing together and now with over 100 employees they hoped a successful future was on the horizon.
But in October of 1986, all that the Stricklands had labored to achieve burned to the ground.
The fire also caused additional problems. An insurance broker had made some changes to their policy to make it more appealing to its upfront cost but would only cover half of the business’s loss. Meaning in one night, one million dollars in assets had just gone up in smoke. Metro’s bond company denied security bonds, material companies that had extended lines of credit to the business called in loans, and the IRS found that Metro owed $375,000 in back taxes. Rumors of an impending bankruptcy nearly wiped out the positive word-of-mouth that had built Metro’s reputation. All seemed lost.
Then, an arson inspector who had lost his fingers in a previous accident put things into perspective for Clyde. “Here I am worrying about the fate of my business, and this man aint got no fingers!” Mr. Strickland confesses on The Gwinnett Podcast. “I said to myself, I got to get back to work so I grabbed a door the fire had spared and balanced it on top of two concrete blocks to make a desk, I had the phone company run a line over to me and we managed to cover eighty percent of the jobs we had booked for that day!”
With the additional help of friends and two account receivable journals the fire hadn’t destroyed the Stricklands began building things back one job at a time.
In 1996, nearly a decade after the fire, the Olympics would come to the city of Atlanta bringing tremendous demand for the company along with it. Throughout the 1990s until today, Metro continues to grow forward into the future. It would seem that Metro’s near destruction had also become the company’s salvation. Clyde says it plainly as only he can, “The crisis showed me I had gotten away from my roots, and reminded us to go back to our beginnings. We rediscovered our work ethic and faith. We repaid all of our debts and learned to operate on cash. So, when the opportunities came, we were now really ready for them and that is why we are the company we are to this day!”
When things aren’t easy it causes us all to pay more attention. Survival breeds strength. Devastation propels us to our greatest heights. Clyde L. Strickland continues to share his story in our three-part conversation with him on The Gwinnett Podcast.
In this episode you will learn all about how Clyde Strickland first built his company, the reason someone burned it to the ground, and many of the details of how they built Metro-Waterproofing into the successful company it is today.
So, listen to the full episode, and don’t forget to hit subscribe.