Diary of a Drywaller: Chapter 23

Doug Bellamy / December 2019

Three Life Altering Phone Calls …

I will finish this portion of my writings in the here and now and on this very page, and I will leave you with something special to think about.
I spent the next 15 years working for someone who was as different from Rob as night is from day. People are all different, unique.
I should not fail to mention that Rob showed up at my front door and apologized about a week after I left Alta. He reconsidered and probably would have honored his original commitment, but by that time I was already working elsewhere.
Returning to Alta was the natural thing to do. I easily could have picked up where I left off. That’s where my heart and soul had been since the beginning. Consequently, I faxed a letter of resignation to my new employer, intending to return to Alta.
Shortly thereafter, my phone rang. The president and newfound employer insisted he would not accept my resignation. “I want to meet at the office. I don’t like to have these types of conversations over the phone,” he persisted in a determined tone. I felt I owed him that much, though our time together had been very brief. Upon arrival, I was ushered into his office, which was encased in two way mirrored glass. He promptly closed the door and asked me a question I’ll never forget: “What’s it gonna take to put a smile on your face?”
I must admit I was somewhat flattered. He continued to emphasize that he wanted me to stay and wasn’t taking no for an answer. “You aren’t going anywhere” he insisted. He proceeded to make me an offer, promising a significant bonus based on gross sales that over time would more than triple my starting income.
In fact, by the 15th year we were about six times the size we were when I hired, and my bonus alone had grown to about 150 percent of my agreed-upon salary. The combined total, in addition to subcontracting the spray texture, translated into an enviable sum.
As is evident, I stayed. I was torn. The natural thing to do was to go back to Alta, and I hate to admit that I was bought, but I kinda-sorta was. By that time, my credibility had fully returned and my reputation was sterling. If I had played a significant role in building Alta, that was the only thing a competitor needed to know. If I were willing to bring that same stamina and capacity to any organization, I was well worth having around.
So, I stayed, we worked, and together we built that company and it remains today with a remnant of the management team that I initially set up for them more than a quarter-century ago. It continues to be one of Alta’s only local competitors.
Now for that second life altering phone call that I briefly mentioned in the last chapter. I was somewhat surprised to hear Rob’s voice on the line. As I said, our relationship wasn’t in the best shape during that decade and a half. I felt thoroughly betrayed. I had heard he was sick. Colon cancer. “I’d like to meet,” Rob said. I wasn’t sure why. Was he dying? Did he want to make amends? As it turns out, both but something more. More than I ever could have imagined. Alta. This business that I had poured my heart and soul into and treated as though it was my own was about to become mine.
The following day we met for lunch and he looked me squarely in the eye and said, “I’d like to give you Alta.” He quickly corrected himself: “I’m not going to give it to you, but I’m going to make you a great deal and help you through the transition.”
That meeting changed everything. Though my current employer made a final play for me to stay, it wasn’t meant to be.
I was just about ready to take Rob up on his offer when … that third and final life altering phone call. It was about 1:30 a.m., Jan. 30, 2005. A date I remember but wish I could forget. When your phone rings at that hour its either absolutely nothing or something dreadful. It was the latter. Our firstborn son and his son, our grandson, had been in a terrible accident, a suspicious truck fire. They were both dead.
For weeks, my wife and I didn’t get out of bed with a dry eye. We awoke each morning hoping it was a bad dream, but it was an unreal and unnatural nightmare. Our child and his child were gone in less than an instant. Selah, which is to say, “Pause and think of that…”

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Contact him at doug@altadrywall.com.