30 Years of First Rate Living in God’s Company
A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for their life,
but only the designs of God’s purpose will succeed in the end.
The Book (Pr 19:21)
What are your hopes and dreams? What are your primary interests? What about your life’s purpose? Maybe you’ve thought about God’s intent for your life. The First Rate story is a story of dreams. My dreams. Your dreams. God’s dreams.
As we celebrate 30 years, three things come to mind: 1) I remember the dream God gave Trina and me that launched us into the First Rate story. 2) I know God has been adding dreams to His First Rate story. And 3) I believe He’s going to add many more dreams to the story. The key is people dreaming with God.
On July 15, 1991, the Texas Secretary of State officially recognized First Rate, Inc. as a Texas corporation. Trina and I had a company name, articles of incorporation, bylaws, an office in our dining room with a phone and computer, no customers, and a big dream – a dream from God.
The story of the dream begins in the summer of 1990. In July of that year, we felt called by God to start a company in North Arlington to reflect His character. He gave us a dream that had two parts that were very different than the dreams we had at the time.
First, God wanted us to start a new company. Neither of us came from business families or entrepreneurs. Both our dads were doctors and our moms were stay-at-home workers. Our careers consisted of working for big companies. We were corporate people. I had aspirations to be president of a company one day, but I never dreamed of starting a company.
Second, God wanted us to stay in North Arlington. After moving to Texas in 1983, we always hoped to move back to the east coast. We thought our journey to Texas would eventually lead us back to the Carolinas. Trina’s mother gave us a weekly reminder in her South Carolina drawl, “When y’all coming hoooome?”
So on July 15, 1991, we were already one year into God’s dream. I was 34 and Trina was 33. We lived in a rental house in North Arlington with our three preschool children aged 6, 4, and 2. However, it was not what some people would call “living the dream”. In the previous twelve months, we encountered many challenges and heartbreaks: we had financial setbacks, moved twice, Trina’s fourth pregnancy ended with a still-born boy, and I lost my job. The business incorporation certificate from Texas was good news for our souls!
July 15, 1991, also marked three months into trying to get our first customer. After losing my job on April 5, 1991, I was busy trying to get the foundation of the business in place. I had a simple business plan. We’d sell consulting engagements to all the firms who knew me from the previous eight years. All my prospects knew me and loved me (I thought).
We also had two more months of severance – with no customers yet. My worst-case plan was to use our $18,000 in retirement savings to carry us until the end of 1991. If I couldn’t sign a customer by year-end, the dream would be dead. I’d have to get a job.
That certificate from Texas on July 15th gave us a good feeling that things were “official”. I needed good news! I was president and Trina was vice president of a Texas corporation! That sounded really good to us. Except, we had no customers.
Granted, we knew that starting a business would be hard. We just didn’t know how hard it was going to be. When pursuing a dream, there will be hardships. The financial hardships we faced in 1991 had us consider giving up and quitting. One of the things we’ve learned is that the dream has to be bigger than the obstacles or we give up.
Another key is people. It takes other people to buy into the dream and help. Our friends and faith community encouraged us. Our families were very supportive. The list of names would number in the 100s. Of course, PNC had to buy into the dream. They agreed in December of 1991 to contract with First Rate beginning January 1, 1992. We had our first customer! There’s no such thing as self-made.
Our big dream? A company that would be judged by its character – God’s character. Our four values anchor our growing understanding of God’s character: Love, Give, Serve & Enjoy. First Rate would influence and transform its coworkers, customers, and communities to be more like God. We want to be godly in all our ways, with all our people, in all our places. It’s called the Kingdom of God living. Not in a religious context, but in our business context. I call it “First Rate Living in God’s Company”.
In July 2021, we sit 30 years and hundreds of people into the First Rate story. Since our beginning, we’ve embraced God’s dreams for other places and people. We’ve embraced Rachel Guy’s dream for Camp Impact. We’ve embraced Tricia Duffy’s dream for CCA. We’ve embraced John Carter’s dream for South Dallas‘ Turner 12. We’ve embraced Kate Baird’s dream for Arlington’s Levitt Pavilion. We’ve embraced John O’Farrell’s dream for Homes of Hope. We’ve embraced Sarwar Animi’s dream for Afghanistan. We’ve embraced Praveen Pagadala’s dream for India. We’ve embraced John Choi’s dream for Singapore. We’ve embraced Deb Repak’s dream for global and UK. We’ve embraced Trina’s dream for a woman-owned business. The list goes on because our coworkers are dreaming with God.
To our coworkers, customers, and communities, Trina and I want to express our appreciation for your participation in God’s dream. For our first 30 years, thank you! God bless you!
How about the next 30 years? Has God given you a dream? Have you embraced God’s dream for your life? Has First Rate embraced your dream? Let’s dream with God about our journey to express His character to our coworkers, customers, and communities. In new ways. In new places. In new relationships.
That’s First Rate Living in God’s Company!