Imagine one person struggling by themselves to start a business, and eventually having over 800 employees and a thriving business he built from the ground up.
That person is Dale Armstrong – one of the most successful business owners in New Mexico. He has over seven businesses, one of them being the biggest plumbing companies in the state.
When I had the chance to sit down and talk with Dale, there was no doubt in my mind I wanted to do it. My biggest takeaway from all his advice was his single guiding principle over the years: Believe in people.
Colt: What would you tell your 29-year-old self?
Dale: Keep focusing on young people. I started when I was 22, and a lot of people gave me a chance because I was young. And right now we have 41 people under 21 at TLC (his plumbing company), in training and so on.
Colt: That takes a lot of resources to train young people, teaching them discipline, responsibility…
Dale: Oh yeah. And a lot of it is encouraging them to improve their lives in general, rather than just learning protocol. It’s actually really fun.
Dale built his company from the ground up, building his businesses into a regular part of our day-to-day lives. We drive by his billboards. We pass his massive buildings, his armada of service vehicles. His army of employees affect our lives each day.
Colt: What’s your “Why?” What motivates you to do everything you do?
Dale: I believe my “Why” is that I want to see things better than they are.
Colt: Where did that come from? Parents, school?
Dale: Oh I had great parents, and I had some great mentors too. I think everyone should have mentors to model themselves after. If you’re struggling and have people you can lean on it’s really helpful.
Colt: How many employees do you have total now?
Dale: About 870.
Colt: And I would assume the first employee was you?
Colt: You must wake up joyful knowing that you did that.
Dale: I do, but it was never about that. Success to me isn’t a revenue number, it’s a people thing. If you want opportunity for the company to grow, you have to allow for personal growth within the company. If the workers grow, then the company will grow… I think one key is learning to trust people, believe in them. All the way. I always say start on a foundation of trust, and then just preserve it.
Colt: How old are you right now?
Colt: What do you think your 65 year old self would tell you now?
Dale: I think he would tell me “keep your focus.” When you’re 65 you know you’re fifteen years from 80, and I don’t want to let the “old man” in. I just want to keep rollin’.
Dale continued to tell me about how his businesses focus 30% of their training procedures toward personal development in general. It’s truly a company that considers people as the core value and expends a lot of effort and work to allow people to become their best self. There’s something deeply inspiring about that, and not so easy to find these days!
Colt: When all is said and done, what do you want to be known for?
Dale: The impact I’ve had on people. That’s the real legacy. I conduct my life like “what would they say at a funeral?” If you go to a poor person’s funeral and a rich person’s funeral, they’re more or less the same. What really counts is if they were a great father, a great leader, a great worker.