August 10, 2018
The social expectations of high school dropouts aren't great. We live in a society that tends to value higher education over life or career experience. But every so often, you come across someone who's defied the odds, literally and figuratively, to not only survive this life, but truly thrive in it.
Ed Amos of REV Drill Commercial Drilling in Frederick, Md., is that person, times infinity.
Can't keep me down
Amos is quick to tell you that, while raised by great parents in a strong family, he didn't have much growing up, something he sees as a good thing. "I had an amazing mentor in my father, who was a Spanish teacher with many other jobs, doing what it took to support his family. He's my hero. I just love my dad to death. While we had the important things, we definitely weren't wealthy."
Dropping out of high school was a tough time for his parents, but it wasn't as bad for Amos. He began to discover what he was good at and the value he could offer the world. "I ended up going into cars sales and just crushing it. Living in my parent's basement and doing extremely well. But I knew I didn't want to do that forever. I sold about 30 vehicles to a deep foundation company. He came in one day and wanted me to work for him. So, I did."
Amos started working in the field and eventually became a partner in the business. It was during this time that Amos and his partner created a drill that attaches to an excavator, solving a market problem and saving their clients time and money by not having to haul in an expensive rig to do the same job.
Just as things were looking way up, they weren't. "The industry handed us a tough blow and we had to let go of all our employees on a Friday. It left me hanging for sure." The two drills they'd built were now Amos' responsibility, whether they were making money or not. He'd always thought he could rent them out and decided to follow his own lead. "I took one drill and went to all the big boys... and got laughed out the door. Nobody would help me. Eventually, I went to Doosan and anything they could do to help, they would. I'm a big all-American guy, but they were the only ones who would help me at that point, so I went with them."
Suddenly, Amos found himself back in business this time, on his own. "My first yard was at a dump, with a sea container and a tarp, working out of my home office. I was working as everybody. I'd answer the phone in one voice, all serious, and then put them on hold and come back as myself. And it worked!" Being in business is a constant stream of learning opportunities. Sometimes, learning the same lesson more than once is necessary to really reap the benefits.
"My partner came back around and wanted me to get into business again. He rented all my equipment in a contracting company that we started. It was the worst and best decision of my life." Soon after forming his new-old partnership, Amos was on the edge of bankruptcy and on the hook for a cool half million.
"We ended up doing a job that ended very badly, even though it wasn't our fault. I was cosigned on everything; it really turned my life upside down. I got divorced. I had to write hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks to pay everything I was owing. I had nine trucks that the bank owned. I thought I'd clean them up and sell them myself, so I shined them up and got them ready to sell. Then a disgruntled employee came by on a weekend and put bricks through all of them."
Talk about a low point in life. While he says he's never been depressed, Amos remembers being in bed for quite a while after his trucks were ruined. He had almost lost sight of the glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Yet, something inside of him wouldn't let him quit.
"After two weeks, I got up and went down to the bank. I got in front of anybody who made decisions; I broke down and just said I needed to clear these trucks, as-is, and clear the titles. I promised them I would not screw them out of the difference. It was like $127,000. They gave it to me; it got me loyal to local banks! And I paid them back in 11 months."
Rise and grind
Amos is truly grateful for the difficult times he has endured throughout his life. At just 46, he is now owner and president of REV Drill, a provider of economical drilling solutions; REV stands for revolutionary, economical and versatile.
"We do a lot of pre-drilling for driven piles," Amos said. "One of our big projects was for Clark Construction when they were doing The Wharf down in D.C. They did all the foundation and pile driving for that project. We had two drills there for seven months. We'd drill down 40 feet, make sure there were no obstructions, then they'd put a 110-foot concrete pile in and just drive it."
Being a member of PDCA is very important to Amos, as it helps him continue to move his business in the right direction. "PDCA helps me build my company by doing all the research and staying ahead of the industry, making sure I know about things I wouldn't otherwise know about. I'm grateful for that support and knowledge-base."
Staying competitive with "the big boys" is about making sure you know why you're getting up every morning and that you're not afraid to fail at it. "Our philosophy is give and grow, every day. You gotta learn something every day; you gotta walk that walk. For me, there are two types of goals in life: means goals and ends goals. Means goals are the things we think will make us happy, like boats, cars and planes. Ends goals are life experiences and memories that build an inner strength and solid foundation within you. Watching how your success affects so many other people is wicked."
Enjoying his success means Amos gets to indulge in his passions: deep-sea fishing and giving back to his communities and to charity. His right-hand man is his Golden Retriever, Tebow, named after someone he greatly admires. And he'll keep doing what he's doing simply because he loves it.
"One of the coolest things about this industry is putting the time and energy into something, knowing it's going to be there long after you're gone. Whether it's the laborer digging the ditch or the engineer who's designing it or the owner who's funding it all of us together are a really, really special group of people. It's a big high to be part of something so epic." t
Photos courtesy of REV Drill