Happy holiday season to all,
I love this time of year. Good food, family & friends all go together to make it a time of renewal and thanks. There is something about Thanksgiving and Christmas time that rekindles innocence and optimism - how else to explain grown adults watching cartoons about Frosty and movies made long ago and seen year after year.
The following is a story - for this best of seasons - about vision, optimism, perseverance and success.
In 1994, the EDI manager for a footwear company got fed up with the large, corporate environment and said “see ya later” to the company and his position, without any defined path to follow or options in front of him. He wandered around the woods of New Hampshire, eventually making his way to a figurative mountain top.
After much soul searching, the proverbial light bulb went on. Knowing first hand how difficult it was to find qualified EDI resources, he decided to start a staffing company which specialized in placing permanent and contract EDI professionals. OK, so by now you have probably guessed that the main character of this story is Joe Gilbody, the founder, President and CEO of EDI Specialists, Inc. But do you know the rest of the story?
It wasn’t as easy as you might think. Not only was Joe embarking into an industry he knew little about, he also lacked funding, equipment, employees, an office, etc. Does the word “risk” scare you? This was Risk with a capital ‘R’.
In essence, Joe started the company on his family’s front porch, using a cardboard box to hold about 150 resumes as he had no email. He used a well known booklet as his primary source of leads and candidates, published at that time by the Uniform Code Council, which listed EDI coordinators and the like at companies across the U.S.
Joe mortgaged everything, including his family’s future, maxed out his credit cards, and hired a woman to help him with administrative tasks and put some order into chaos on that messy, front porch. Janice Sylvia, aka Cookie, still works for EDI Specialists. As Cookie relates, Joe’s words to her that first day were, “Cookie, I promise you will never be bored.” She’ll be the first to tell you that she has always been anything but bored.
In the beginning, Joe was able to pay Cookie but took no salary for himself. Without the unconditional and unwavering support of his lovely wife, Dona, this story would be much different. The family endured their share of hardships and basically had to share the house with additional employees that were brought on board. Cookie was able to see Joe’s family grow up. Andria, who now works as our West Coast Account Manager, was a shy young girl, embarrassed because her father would put his old cars up for sale in the front of their home. Aron, who is now our Midwest Account Manager, was so cute in his tux, as Cookie fondly remembers. And let’s not forget Andrew. He was just a first grader when Cookie started and now a college student. One day he did not get off the school bus and Cookie frantically called Dona looking for him. Andrew now works for us during his college break. Then there was Frosty - a puppy the family got for Christmas just before Cookie started. He would start barking while Joe was on the phone with a company – and Cookie would go and sit on the kitchen floor and hold the dog so he would be quiet until Joe got off the phone!
At one point, Joe was able to secure a big mapping project from a company in Miami. He hired lots of people and it fell through after a short period of time. Somehow, he managed to keep all new hires on, 15 people in his home working, with one bathroom!
As the business began to grow, they had two computers and a fax machine, and boxes still on the floor – little heaters under their desks. Cookie still remembers the glee upon Joe’s face when he opened up his mail and received his first fee for placing someone.
However, problems were brewing. In the late ‘90s some unscrupulous employees stole his data base almost driving Joe out of business. These were employees Joe trusted and had over his house for Christmas dinner with his family. After a long battle, Joe overcame this setback and continued to plow ahead.
Eventually, he was able to move his family to another house and continued to run the business from the original home. Some years back, Joe purchased an office building where the company is now headquartered. In addition to EDI Specialists, Joe has another business named B2B Contact. In all, Joe directly employs about 40 people and we have close to 100 consultants currently working for us across the country. EDI Specialists has crossed the threshold of a small company and is poised to grow exponentially and leave the competition far behind. Just in the past 2 ½ years, EDI Specialists has realized growth of 300%.
During the past year, Joe took it upon himself to make a wide range of benefits available to all employees – most at this own cost.
Joe Gilbody is a true success story. As he would say, the best part of this business is knowing that over the years we have helped thousand of people find new opportunities, and worked with the same number of clients to help them as well.
What kind of guy is Joe? Consider that as a gesture of appreciation to employees, during the summer, he flies everyone into MA for a 3-day series of outings consisting of a day of golf, a sailing trip in Newport RI, and a barbecue at this home. At Christmas time, he does something similar, opening up his home to everyone with a catered feast and horse and buggy rides - all this at his own expense.
On that fateful day in 2001, Sept. 11, Joe sent everyone home within the hour to be with their families because that is “What is really important”.
I can honestly say I have never met, and certainly never worked for, a better human being than Joe Gilbody. He is generous to a fault. I admire the risks that he took, the vision that he had, and the determination that made him - and the rest of us - successful. If he has any flaws, it would be that he continues to try to golf without any real skills and he sometimes lets my homemade wine get the best of him! Oh, and he still continues to dream. It would not surprise any of us at EDI Specialists to see us own a tumbler factory, open a training/fitness center, or acquire the rights to a national franchise for sausages sold from vendor carts at ballgames. Obviously, our attempts to administer electrical shocks via his new leather chair have failed. They may actually be enhancing the viewing pleasure of his new 50 inch plasma TV hanging in his office - so much for cardboard boxes on the porch.
All foolishness aside, Joe’s is a story written for this time of year. It reminds me of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, where the life of one man touches the lives of so many others.
May you all enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season – and go into 2008 with hopes and dreams that will be fulfilled.
Wayne from Maine
Wayne Marshall is the President of the New England eCommerce Group (NEECOM) and also the Vice President of Professional Services for EDI Specialists, Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.