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EDUCATION: I graduated from Palmer High School in Palmer, Mass. I have attended courses at some community colleges (NOVA and GCC), and have earned an advanced degree from the school of hard knocks. I attend conferences and seminars whenever I can and do as much reading and hands-on training in new techniques and materials as often as I can.
FAMILY: I am divorced and live with my girlfriend, Diane, her adult daughter, Sarah, her son, Ryan, and one of my twin daughters, Linda. My other daughter, Karen, lives with her mother.
CAREER HISTORY: I enlisted in the Air Force as a computer operator shortly after high school and was assigned to the Pentagon for the six years I served. After my honorable discharge, I went to work for GE Aerospace. I spent eight years working on various government computer contracts. I worked for Aerospace Corporation for a year and then on to SAIC on a Y2K contract. I later joined a team of information security professionals at U.S. Customs from 2000 to 2006.
FIRST JOB: I was a dishwasher/busboy in a small restaurant in my hometown from age 14. Working there through high school and after graduation taught me the virtues of an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.
WORST JOB: I worked as a telemarketer part time for a newspaper in northern Virginia while in the Air Force. That lasted one evening.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
HOW DID YOU END UP OWNING YOUR BUSINESS? I started this business in 2004 with the encouragement of a friend and fellow contractor. The goal was to start working part time until the business could support itself and the household. It has taken some time, but I finally took the plunge in late 2006 and have dedicated myself full time to making this a success.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS? Delivering a quality product. That means doing the work right and as promised. Honesty, integrity and communication combined with quality work are what have helped us develop our customer base. We have gained numerous repeat customers and referrals.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I no longer commute 135 miles a day, I set my own hours, I have total control over the finished product, and I have the opportunity to mentor young people such as Linda and Ryan on the importance of a strong work ethic and taking pride in everything that they do.
ARE TIMES TOUGH NOW WITH THE HOUSING SLUMP? Times have gotten a bit tougher lately as a result of the housing crunch, and fuel expenses are also taking a significant bite out of our bottom line. I think more advertisements and a more aggressive approach to marketing is what is really going to help us grow and succeed in this competitive market.
WHO IS THE MOST INSPIRATIONAL BUSINESS LEADER YOU KNOW? A close friend of mine, Randy Creel of Randy's Cycle Service and Restoration. I met Randy in 2002 after purchasing a motorcycle and finding it in need of maintenance. We developed a business relationship that eventually grew into a strong friendship. He has shown me that while there are ups and downs in any business, it's the way that you handle the lows and survive the difficult circumstances that will dictate how you succeed.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS TRYING TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS? Do your homework, take pride in that business and persevere. Find out all you can about the business to make sure it's going to suit you. Make each product or service the best you can without compromise, and don't let anything keep you from your dreams. Life is too precious.richdionneconstruction.com
--As told to Bill Freehling