I have always believed that it’s the people behind the business that make it a success. This statement could not be more accurate when we talk about Gary Grisham. Our former Operations Director recently retired, and we sure do miss him!
Nearly 20 years ago, Gary showed up on our doorstep looking to join the Dow Smith Company Team. He had been employed at the local Nissan plant for 10 years before going out on his own to subcontract carpentry and tile work. After a few years, he decided he wanted to be part of something bigger, so he knocked on our door and we invited him in.
“Dow Smith Company was looking for some help. I had been in the area for years and knew about Dow Smith through its reputation for being an honest general contracting firm and a great place to work,” remembers Gary.
After a short period of time doing carpentry work at Dow Smith, Gary was promoted to Superintendent where he managed everything on the jobsite, including subcontractors, materials, safety and daily project activities. His most memorable project was one of the earliest projects he ever supervised—the Woodfin Funeral Chapel project back in 2000.
It was a significant project—a 30,000-square-foot steel building that posed a lot of challenges. It was a complex project because it not only included a funeral home, but also a chapel, an embalming facility and a crematorium. Jerry Lowry and Bubba Woodfin were in a tight spot. Their original building burned down in a fire and their business was without a home. They had no place to take care of their clients who were in need of their services. The project was on a very tight schedule and I knew Gary could handle the project and its challenges.
During his tenure at Dow Smith, Gary learned all aspects of the business and was ultimately named Operations Director in 2003, overseeing five or six construction projects at a time. In 2007, Gary earned partnership status and became part owner of the company. Gary credits the company’s goal of continuous learning as helping him grow in his career. “Dow is just so good to work with. He places a lot of importance in the process of growth. He gave me the freedom to learn. That's kind of unusual today, I think,” says Gary.
One of my earliest memories of “Grish” was when we did a one-day retreat for our office staff. In the early part of the session, we were sharing about ourselves and what is important to us. As most people do, the majority of us were talking about how important “God” is to our lives but Grish, in his Grish way, says “God is very important to me, but it is about Jesus.”. That took a lot of guts to say that at the time and it was a key point on where we would go as a company.
As Gary saw it, there was no challenge too difficult when you are working with the right people and you focus on what is important. “Construction is sometimes a difficult job, but working with Dow and Joey has been so worthwhile,” notes Gary. “It's important to have the right people around you. They know how to build relationships with employees, subcontractors and clients. I learned how important those relationships are. It's really the most important part of the job.”
Gary faced and overcame many challenges on the jobsite. He now faces an even larger challenge: cancer. “I had a brain aneurysm at work. Dow knew something wasn’t right and he got me help right away. It was then the doctors found cancer in my kidney that has since spread to my lungs and my brain,” says Gary. He has recently had surgery to remove a brain tumor and is currently receiving additional treatments. We celebrate that his treatments are working and that Gary is winning the battle. He credits his wife Vickie for her constant strength and support. “She has been standing by my side all these years,” says Gary.
We care deeply for Gary, Vickie and their family and we stand with them in support of Gary’s fight to beat this disease. “They do everything they can to support you. That's unusual these days,” adds Gary. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Dow Smith.”
Words cannot describe how much Gary means to me both personally and professionally. Gary is one of those very people in my life where I could text him “Gary, I need your help to bury a body.” and his reply would simply be “Okay, where do I need to go?” And, he would be there as quickly as possible with a shovel (and maybe even a backhoe). No questions asked. And, I would do the same for him.
Gary has had such a positive impact on the culture at Dow Smith Company. His integrity, strength, faith, drive for quality are just a few of his gifts and are big reasons why we enjoy success. We pray he is victorious in his fight with cancer, so he and Vickie can fully enjoy his retirement.
About the Author:
After earning a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University, Dow became a lifelong Tiger fan, and likes to say he “bleeds orange and blue.” He’s also a Bobcat from John Overton High School in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, he loves his Smyrna High School Bulldogs.
Dow has worked his whole adult life in the construction industry, where he has overseen the construction of numerous projects in the church, medical, educational, retail and specialty sectors of commercial construction.
He is a a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and we worship our Lord in the Methodist tradition.