Georgia Transportation Builder - Summer 2010 - (Page 12)

Michael Williams Takes a Conservative Approach to Business Success By Mary Lou Jay WHEN MICHAEL WILLIAMS was a college freshman heading to the University of Georgia, he intended to become a dentist. So in his early semesters there he took all the “extraordinarily hard” science courses needed to prepare for that degree. Somewhere along the line, however, his career goal changed. “I was missing out on all the fun that my fraternity brothers were having while I was in three-hour lab classes,” he recalls. “I was also asking myself, ‘Do I really want to look in people’s mouths the rest of my life?’ So I switched to the business school and majored in management.” So today, instead of operating a dental office, Williams is president of the company that he founded, Sunbelt Structures Inc. of Tucker, Ga. He also is beginning his term as the new president of the Georgia Highway Contractors Association. Construction has always been part of Williams’ life. His father moved the family to Atlanta in 1955 when he took a job as a foreman of a small bridge culvert contractor called Gentry and Thompson Inc. Williams himself worked on the company’s culvert crews during summer vacations in high school and college. Williams’ father went on to become part owner of the small company before it was bought out in 1971 by a larger contractor. 12 | GEORGIA TRANSPORTATION BUILDER “My father stayed for five years, then started his own company when I graduated from college in 1976,” Williams says. “So from 1976 to 1985 I worked for my father. My task was to learn the inside of the company; he would run the outside. “I learned through the school of knocks and bruises what to do and what not to do,” Williams continues. “My father never had any formal education, but he did the best he could and we had success and we grew. We had just 15 people when we started out, and we grew to about 150.” Success through conservative growth But by 1985 several factors—lack of work, low margins, high interest rates, bad weather and Williams’ father’s bad health— forced the company to close. “At that time my father recommended strongly to me that I look at a career in a different industry. But by that time construction had gotten into my blood, and I wanted to do the same thing. So my father cautioned me: ‘Start small and conservative, and don’t get in over your head.’” It’s advice that Williams took to heart when he opened Sunbelt Structures in 1985 with 15 of the best employees from the old company.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Transportation Builder - Summer 2010

Georgia Transportation Builder - Summer 2010
President’s Message
A Message from the Commissioner
Executive Director’s Message
Michael Williams Takes a Conservative Approach to Business Success
2010 GHCA Convention
2009 GPTQ Quality in Construction Awards
Transportation Legislation Passes Georgia’s General Assembly
News & Notes
Index to Advertisers

Georgia Transportation Builder - Summer 2010