Owners Corner: 1st Quarter 2021
This article is an excerpt from our newest Quarterly Newsletter:
It was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life. I watched as my husband, his brothers, and their wives circled around my mother in-law, comforting her as she communicated her final goodbyes to her husband. They had been married for 48 years. This scene will never leave me and it opened my eyes to the magnitude of the footprint that a life lived to the fullest can leave behind.
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ~ Shannon L. Alder
I had only been dating Jim for a handful of weeks when I became acquainted with the man who would become my father-in-law. Over dinner, he quizzed me about my college GPA and my salary (you can insert the shocked, wide-eyed emoji right here). Yeesh! In retrospect, seventeen years later, I recognize that his behaviors that night were just Dr. Jim Wall’s way. For each of his children, Jim Sr. cared fiercely, doing everything in his power to give them a good life. This included, from time to time, vetting potential girlfriends.
The impact that Jim Sr. had on my husband is indescribable. He was unaware of the awe-inspiring number of strangers’ lives that the direction and guidance that he gave his son would reach.
From a young age, my husband displayed natural leadership skills, which Jim Sr. and his wife, Jane, picked up on right away. Jim Sr. himself was an entrepreneur and recognized his son’s potential in the field. My father-in-law did not force his son into an entrepreneurial career, but to say that he encouraged it would be insufficient. Instead, the intentions of Jim Sr. fell somewhere in between, which, for to anyone who knew him, would make perfect sense.
Jim Sr. emphasized that one’s work and goals would not always form a harmonious relationship. He also taught his son how to be frugal, while still treating oneself here and there. It was also thanks to Jim Sr. that my husband learned to live life to the fullest, which led to his incubator idea and the five subsequent baby chicks that now share my house. Another important lesson that he passed down to his son was to value curiosity, learning from others, and never shying away from asking questions.
These aforementioned lessons in the soft skills, alongside Jim Sr.’s actions inhabiting the middle ground between “encouragement” and “force”, laid the groundwork for my husband’s success. With his father's consistent voice in the back of his mind, he went on to graduate with a degree in Accounting from a top college and master fluency in a second language, preparing him in every way to chase his entrepreneurial dream.
To summarize all that followed: Everything came together. Dozens upon dozens of ideas for small businesses floated around in Jim’s head from the time he was in high school through his early 30s. The time was ripe in 2009 to finally grab hold of that dream when Jim and I opened the doors of our first SERVPRO franchise in Hunt Valley, MD. Over the course of the next 12 years, our business grew even more as we expanded our geographical reach by opening a franchise in Pittsburgh and another in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Our team continues to grow internally as well, as we’ve taken on 3,100 jobs, 12 franchise licenses, and 133 new employees in just this last year. These numbers illustrate that rippling effect of Jim Sr.’s impact on his son that I talked about earlier. Thanks to one dad who believed whole-heartedly in his son and encouraged his dream, we here at SERVPRO Team Wall have had the opportunity to help our customers, create jobs, support families near and far, and touch countless lives.
We often underestimate just how significant of an impact that we can have on the lives of others. Long after we’re gone, our words and actions live on, leaving behind a footprint. I would consider myself lucky if my footprint ends up being even a fraction of the size of my father-in-law’s.
Words cannot express how much we miss him, but we know that our family, as well as our SERVPRO family, will remember Dr. James R. Wall’s legacy for years to come and keep marveling at the ripples he created as they continue to reach people across the country.