Chris Dambach: Marine veteran Builds Multi-Million Dollar Landscape Business
A former Marine turned CEO of a multi-million dollar landscape business, Chris Dambach shares how he built his company and what he learned during the growth process.
Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Chris Dambach had an entrepreneurial spirit that he traced way back on his childhood. He even got his real estate licence when he was 18.
Then, in 2007, he joined the United States Marines Corps and was assigned as an Infantry Scout to the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Marine Corps unit in Mattydale. However, when he suffered numerous injuries while on his deployment in 2009, he had to be out of service.
While facing recovery, he then bootstrapped a small residential lawn service which now grew into a huge company named Industry Standard USA that provides snow removal, grounds maintenance, facilities maintenance, and general construction.
Currently, he is also managing his new business venture, Empire Material, wherein he provides construction materials all over New York.
BUILDING HIS FIRST COMPANY
When Dambach was out of service after his accident in 2009 and he didn’t know what to do, he decided to start a lawn care business which he called Veteran Lawn Care. He then bought used equipment and started mowing 30 residents.
When the business grew, they provided more services than just lawn care and this is when he decided to change the business name into Industry Standard USA.
“I don’t want to be boxed in and have a potential contracting officer not pick up the phone to get a price for me because of my name. I don’t want my name to be the reason why I get boxed in.”
Thereafter, Dambach also got interested in the federal marketplace as he considered the commercial sector a more difficult marketplace. They had their first federal contract after three weeks.
Then, to get more past performance, he also worked with huge companies like AvKARE, Inc. for their Long Island contract worth of $3.5 million wherein they had to take care of a 350 acre national cemetery for five years.
“One thing I learned in the Marines that I’ve carried into the business is that never give up and mission, accomplishment, attitude. There’s always a way. There’s always a way I’ve learned. And as long as you have determination and grit and that never give up attitude. Not to sound cliche, but it’s so true. You just can’t give up. You’ve got to make it to tomorrow.”
PROBLEMS THAT HE FACED
Over the years, Dambach also faced major problems and one of these is a lawsuit against something that he wasn’t wrong.
In a project where his team needed to pick up equipment, he is supposed to pay the travel time in getting the materials from one VA hospital to the other. However, he didn’t and the Department of Labor caught it.
The investigation made Dambach so nervous and scared of what will happen to him, his certification, his company but he had to handle it because he knew he was wrong. Although it cost him $50,000, it was a huge education to him.
“You know, they just want to go ahead and make sure if anything was done improper that it’s corrected. You know? And the biggest advice I can say is be completely open book with the DOL and, you know, give them anything they need, and you know, be helpful in the process because it is an education.”
PRACTICES THAT HELPED HIM
1. Take time for yourself.
While managing his company, Dambach makes sure that he has a time to distress every single day. He does deep breathing, cold showers, meditation, listening to ambient music while driving, among others.
“It brings me into a deep thinking state where I can kind of slow everything down around me. I think you’ll agree. When I say this world we live in right now with all the technology, everything is go, go, go, go, go, go. Everybody wants instantaneous information right now. They don’t want to wait.”
2. Balance work and life.
Dambach learned from Larry Broughton’s mastermind program that there’s many facets to your life and you can’t focus on just one to excel at.
For instance, if you only focus on your business, then you are surely missing out to the other facets like your friends, mental and physical health, leisure, travel, and your family.
So, as a family man, Dambach makes sure that he has time for his children and his wife. Everyday, he ensures that he’s already in their house before five so that they can eat together and bond thereafter.
“So, I’m just trying to be there for them at the same time, you’re building a company. And it’s just a balancing act and I don’t think anybody’s ever figured it out. So, I think we just have to go out and every day take the temperature, you know, are we filling up each bucket properly? Are we going out and are we filling up each bucket equally?”
3. Sleep and pray on your doubts.
Dambach knows that he really can’t erase every self-doubt that he has. So, as a way to deal with it, he sleeps and prays on it and he always has an answer the next day. Some answers might not be the right one but he didn’t regret anything that he does and if something goes wrong, he just adjusts the fire.
“Now if you’re going to be a business owner, you’re going to be the one making all those big decisions. There’s gotta be a small level of self-doubt but don’t let it creep in and cause you to, you know, have no decision because indecision is worse than any decision.”
4. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Making decisions as a business owner is difficult and the best way to deal with it is to learn from other people who already have experience. Join organizations within your industry. Ask questions from others. Don’t let pride stop you in getting answers.
“What I do is I pick the brain of other CEOs that have been in my position. I don’t ask people that haven’t been in my position, that don’t own companies. I need people that have the ultimate buy-in, that have all that risk on their shoulders, all that liability, their house on the line, their reputation on the line.”
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046: Marine Veteran Chris Dambach Builds Multi-Million Dollar Landscape Business