UBC: What would it mean to you and to your business to win the UMaine Business Challenge?
Henry: First of all, I would like to thank the panel of UMBC judges for selecting me as a finalist. It is an honor to be in this position and your recognition of my work is greatly appreciated.
Winning the UMaine Business Challenge would be a significant boost on both personal and financial levels. Personally, I already know I can successfully run my business, however putting it on paper to sell myself to judges, “investors”, and other audiences, besides a client in “the real world,” is something I see as a great accomplishment. In the financial realm, winning the UMaine Business Challenge would help my business in the immediate future. I can think of several expenses coming up this spring that will require upfront funds typically drawn from my personal bank account. These expenses range from making repairs to the back-hoe or dump truck, to paying liability insurance on my equipment, to stockpiling wholesale priced aggregates for the summer months.
UBC: You have many challenges on your road to entrepreneurship and to conquer these will inevitably take hard work and dedication. With that in mind, what is the inspiration behind starting your own business?
Henry: Owning my own business has always been a dream of mine. When I was younger I used to spend the summers working for my father’s mobile home moving company. He was always open with me in the ways of which he conducted business, teaching me lessons in the field that I deem irreplaceable. Between being raised by him and my self employed mother, I was able to gain a clear perception of the positives and negatives that running your own business entails. This was what first made up my mind that I was not fit to be employed, but rather be the employer.
My inspiration for starting a construction company can be derived from various things. However, one event that truly solidified my decision took place during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school. At this time I was working for my father’s mobile home business as a member of the crew. My father had landed a contract dismantling and moving seven double-wide classrooms from the Thorndike school before it was to be torn down my Steve McGee Construction. During the week we dismantled the classrooms, McGee’s equipment worked vigorously around us, moving more earth in one day than I had seen dug in my entire life. I was in awe at the size of McGee’s equipment as well as the long hours that his crews were putting in. My father talked highly of the man while we worked, but I never had the chance to meet him in person until the last day on the job. All week I had my eye on a pair of handrails that would be a perfect addition to our local mountain’s terrain park, but I needed to get permission to take them. Finally, at lunch I went to find Steve McGee himself to ask if I could cut them out of the concrete to take home. I still have a vivid memory of one of his workers pointing him out to me as he walked across the old gymnasium floor, talking to an engineer and project manager on one side, his mechanic on the other, and a few members of his crew that were following behind. Originally I had viewed construction as a blue collar career, but seeing him calling the shots on a project of that magnitude made it clear that he was a well respected man. I approached him timidly at first, not wanting to bother him with my request. However, my admiration of him was ensured when he turned away from his colleagues to meet me and follow me out back of the school to see which handrails I was talking about. After confirming my request he shook my hand and told me that he had seen me and my father’s crew working hard all week and that if we needed anything at all he was only a phone call away. At that moment I realized that that was the figure I wanted to grow up to be. I wanted to be in his position where hard work and long days is well respected. He told me he graduated from the University of Maine as a Civil Engineer and upon graduation decided to go into business for himself. Since that encounter I’ve done everything in my power to make my dream of owning a construction company, like Steve McGee, a reality.
Just like the challenges I’ve been faced with in earning a degree in Civil Engineering, I realize that the path to such success in the construction industry will not be easy. However, the idea of putting yourself out there in the market as a single entity, representing nothing but yourself and the people you hire to work towards your own cause, is extremely intriguing to me. Instead of working a regular nine-to-five, where theres a limit to the amount of money someone can make annually, due to a “glass-ceiling” set by an employer, I’d rather hustle for every dollar earned, knowing there is no guarantee or no restriction to how much you make. These principles of self employment, along with my upbringings and encounter with Steve McGee, inspire me everyday to forward my progress as a Maine business owner.
UBC: Part of the mission of the UBC is to take Maine from 51 to 35 on best states for business. Why have you decided to start your business in Maine?
Henry: I believe that our ranking has a direct correlation to the politics in our state. Today, the laws and regulations that are imposed on business’s today definitely favors big corporations while making it nearly impossible for small businesses to stay afloat. However, I believe that Mainers are some of the most hard working and good intentioned people in America. Therefore, I am confident that a movement towards making Maine a better state to conduct business in is definitely achievable. Building upon Maine’s economy by one newly established business at a time is exactly what I think this state needs in order to improve it’s rankings. Besides my sense of pride associated with this state, I have decided to start my business in the state of Maine to “do my part,” if you will, in contributing to the economy and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.
UBC: We love our Alma Mater, so we have to ask, what’s your favorite thing about UMaine?
Henry: I’d have to say that my favorite thing about UMaine is the students and faculty. I’ve had nothing but pleasant encounters with the people here and feel as though I share a mutual feeling of pride for having grown up in Maine. It’s inspiring to know that in the near future my peers, that share the commonality of graduating from UMaine, will soon contribute to and help shape the economic and social faces of our state. As for the faculty, I believe that they enhance this effect by seeming truly concerned with our degree of understanding of various subjects. In addition, I’ve felt extremely fortunate to know that they are always more than willing to provide extra help or offer themselves as guidance to any topics that aren’t understood.