26 years ago, I took a job at Windemuller.
At the time, I was trying to find a new path for myself. While I’d been exposed to the trades in high school – through an innovative building trades class where we literally built houses from the foundation to the roof – I hadn’t initially thought of a career in that niche. Instead, I headed off to the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, figuring I’d spend my life aboard a ship deck. Then I met a girl and fell in love, and decided that being on a boat for 10 months per year was probably not conducive to the relationship and the family life I wanted to have.
A funny thing happens when you realize that your “first choice” for a career isn’t your first choice anymore. It gets you thinking about where you’ve been and what other passions you might have missed along the way. In my case, I started thinking back to that building trades class and how much fun it was – how much challenge and reward I got from the projects we took on. And then, in the blink of an eye, I was working in the trades.
It started small – working for a one-man operation in a job I wasn’t sure was the right fit. But I fell in love with the work, and my boss eventually said to me, “Hey, if you want to turn this into a career, you need to leave me and go talk to the guys at Windemuller, because they’re like the New York Yankees and I’m like the Montreal Expos.” That was the better part of three decades ago, and I’ll never forget his analogy because of what it communicated to me: That everybody in this field wanted to work for Windemuller. They paid the best, they had the best and newest tools, and they were doing the big projects. Who wouldn’t want to work there?
So I put in my application with Windemuller and I waited…impatiently. I remember calling every other day for three weeks because the operations manager had told me they wouldn’t have any work available for at least a few months. My persistence paid off: When a Windemuller team member got hurt in a car accident, the company needed someone to pick up his shifts. I guess they figured, “Why not hire the guy who’s been keeping our phone ringing off the hook?”
From day one, I fell in love with the way this company does business. From ethics to safety to company culture, Windemuller felt like home. I started as a parts runner, moved into construction work, ended up as an account manager in the service department, and then moved back into the construction department as a project manager. Through every stage of learning and growth, I knew there was always a team around me who had my back and would help me get wherever I wanted to go.
26 years later, whenever people ask me why I stay at Windemuller, I still rave about the tight-knit feel: the teamwork, the cooperation, the collaboration. What I like to say to the younger guys is that, if you just want a job, maybe this place isn’t for you. But if you want a career – if you want an opportunity to thrive and pursue any facet of this trade – there is no better place to be.