In the back of my mind, I always wanted to launch my own business - based on my skillset. In one way or another, I was afraid to take action, due to the massive competition of other companies.
All of a sudden, when I received a phone call of an American company (they built Airboats), I was lost for words:
"Hello Sir, it's me Mike from floral city airboats".
We had a conversation that lasted over 30 minutes: he asked me about my skills were and tried to convince me to buy a plane ticket and come to America.
Thanks to Franky Nuyts (my brother from another mother and owner of Bullit Classic Cars in sunny Florida), I was contacted by Mike. Franky is my god-role model (but please, don't tell him this...oh wait...he might read this blog :-) ).
1 ticket to go....
After calling Franky and telling him about my crazy adventure, we decided to meet in Florida. Once landed, customs asked for my reason of traveling: business or pleasure? That one was easy: both ;-).
Just before I left to building, another officer pulled me aside and asked for my passport. He kept on staring at me...trying to intimidate me...but after an eye-staring-contest, we both started laughing. He couldn't understand why I was not intimidated, my answer was quit simple: we live in a land where several terrorist attacks were made...I don't scare easily (anymore). A fist-bump later, I was in Orlando Sandford with the same vibes you get when visiting a country like Spain: warm climate, palm trees...the whole nine yards.
Franky was picking me up at the airport and we drove on those good old country roads. When we passed Inverness, I've started noticing a lot of classic cars (oldtimers) and some real American people combined with that authentic attitude.
As an outsider, you feel the difference between my country and this part of America (not a lot of rules and regulations). Almost everyone carries a weapon, but I feel safer here than at home. Also: respect and caring go hand in hand in here.
I was also run along a horse ranch by a very cool couple from Antwerp, they have a bed and breakfast, and also breed beautiful horses, when you visit, you really feel like you're in a movie. unbelievably beautiful
The next morning, we were getting ready to visit the business of Franky. He and his wife Ann decided to leave Belgium (5 years ago) and started a new life in this city. I admire the craftsmanship of Franky: he can solve any problem for his clients. Ann takes care of the clients and does this with a perfect American accent: it seems likes she was born in this country.
Meanwhile, Mike came by to say 'hi': a nice guy with a big posture but a golden heart. ‘When are you gonna visit my business, sir?'
Franky told Mike to take me with him, because I was a deadbeat (all fun and games between us ;-). Yet another day passed and Franky drove me to Mike his shop with these words: "show him what you got, it's now or never!'"
There I was, being nervous in the parking lot. All of a sudden, I saw someone saluting the American flag, a beautiful moment which calmed me down: it's now or never, remember what Franky said... .
His wife took me further into the shop: I got a warm welcome and met some entrepreneurs like Jeremy, Daniel, Chief and a soldier who served in Afghanistan. But once Mike entered, everyone came together in the center of the room: you could feel the energy level rising. He gave the daily briefing, everyone confirmed his task with 'yes sire', as they continued working.
Mike came up to me and asked me: "So, what is you level of welding or better yet: the maximum thickness you can deliver?" When I gave him my answer, he started laughing and everyone joined in.
"Well, pretty boy from Belgium: let's do this."
A Lincoln-machinary was handed to me...which I never saw or worked with, in my entire life! Even when I dared to ask how this can be handled...you could feel the tension in the room: I was nervous as hell!
Jeremy noticed my level of nervousness and came to help: he gave the right equipment and some parts. Now it was up to me: I can not fail, just do it!
And I did: after my first try, I inspected the goods. Never in my life, I've welded with this level of quality. Almost if the nerves pushed me to do better.
And son? Are you done?
But still, after my own approval, I was anxious....but then: "you mothaf*cker, you did it!" The piece that I welded, is now a center piece of the office. I've set the bar for the next one, that's for sure.
After receiving a disturbing phone call, Franky called me and said: we need to go to Mike, he wants to tell us something.
We arrived at his property and saw him working on a airboat. When he saw us arriving, he dropped everything and went to his office. He wasn't looking to happy at all?
"Ben", he said, "you need to make a decision. I've got to much on my mind and I need someone like you. But I don't have time for waiting, so you need to decide now."
There I was, thinking about this great adventure in America and now, I need say to him what I want to do, knowing that I have a wife and kids at home.
Franky started getting into the conversation and when I was dawdling, they both became angry. But I had to say no, and when I did: they both stormed off. I was baffled and walked to the shop...when entering, everyone was laughing: still not understanding what was happing.
“Don't you get it? April Fool’s!" After everyone went back to work,
Mike came up and told me I was like a son to him. “
So no pressure of signing the contract, you need to talk with your family about this. I have the possibilities and I want help you. We need people like you.”
These words are still in the back of my mind. That’s why we kept in touch.
Franky also advised me to check with the family and really think this trough. Even though I had several people around me that were helping me, it still was a big step.
Days went by and every day, I saw Franky doing business. Haggling was a part of life, a sport you might say. He stood his grounds, each and every time. Even the biggest badass tried, went home and came back while saying: let's do business. Those skills are part of his DNA.
One of the many locals I've talked to is SIR Butch, during my stay, was a 73 year old Vietnam veteran. Every day, he drove his Harley Davidson and never once complained about his health. Moonshine was his daily driver, I could tell ;-). I even shared a first Moonshine with him, early in the morning. (damn, that tasted good).
Wild Bill, a well known guy from Florida and a real American man. He came by the shop and we had some Core Beers together. After talking about my experiences in Belgium and all the rules we have, I told him: "You guys have all the freedom and you can carry a gun, no safety issues here".
When I added we are not allowed to carry a gun in Belgium, he just could not understand. "You can take mine, if you want... . "
Time to say goodbye
I was ready to go back and see my family again, but first it was time to enjoy one final evening with Franky, his wife Ann, Butch and Mia. We ate an amazing Black Agnus (love those).
Also, Butch and i folded the American Flag by the official military procedures. And picture this: we drove our Harleys by those same roads you see in a movie: prisoners working by that road, with an Officer and a shotgun in his right hand. Only in America...I love it.
America is a country where you can really launch a business, a place with a lot of opportunities (if you got the balls to deliver)
I wanna thank Franky, for taking me on this great adventure: keep up the good work and I wish you all the best. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I'm still with you guys!
thanks to translate : www.agere.be
Thank you for the invite to your beautiful horse range : http://www.rockpointeranch.com/