In 1998, just a few years into Curtis’ employment with his father’s company, a door opened when McLemore Building Maintenance lost a member of its sales team. Since his son had already learned the ropes as a floor tech, Don McLemore figured it was time to give Curtis a new test: sales.

Curtis says his communication skills have often been one of his greatest assets, so the move to the company’s vice president of sales and marketing went according to plan.

“I’ve always had a gift for gab,” says Curtis. “Obviously we have a good story, so it’s not hard to sell a good story, especially when your name is on the letterhead.”

Once his lips started moving, Curtis let frank, honest discussion win his customers over. He would tell customers that, since his name is attached to the business, he had no choice but to succeed. If he or the company failed, he’d be suffering as much as anyone.

By moving up the ranks, Curtis was helping to fulfill his father’s goal of having both his sons working important positions within the company — provided they earned it. Keith, who Curtis describes as being the “good-with-the-hands” talent of the family, had been working on the company’s operational side. Both men would have to brave professional and personal highs and lows during their rise to the company’s top.

McLemore Building Maintenance was very much Houston-centric for the longest time, says Curtis. When Curtis took on his new role in 1998 the company was growing. Service expanded to the Texas-Arkansas border, then further into Arkansas and eventually Louisiana and Colorado as well. (Under Curtis’ leadership, the company has expanded to Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, Virginia and Maryland.)

Don retired in 2003 with the company in a good spot, but not before planning the reconfiguration of its power structure. Wanting to leave his family in control of the growing company’s legacy, he spread power among Curtis, Keith and their respective wives, Stephanie and Elvira.

Curtis stuck to sales and Keith, operations, while Stephanie handled finance and administration and Elvira oversaw HR.

“He had divided us into four different departments so we didn’t kill each other,” says Curtis, jokingly. “So each one of us had our own little kingdom we would of course start war and fight and throw rocks at each other.”

Don’s retirement wasn’t full blown at first. He’d pop in and out of the office every few weeks, not yet ready to step out of the work he loved completely. However, the family soon realized this type of arrangement was a bit problematic.

“What we found out in hurry is everyone would just save their questions and wait for the leadership to show up and they would never look to us — my brother and myself — for the leadership on the organization,” says Curtis.

The company had to basically stop its operations to bring Don up to speed — it was hard to know what he needed when he wasn’t around. So, after about six months, Don decided to turn his attention to something else: animal collection.

“He went and found himself a piece of property and bought it and started collecting animals two-by-two, and this gave him something to do, so he didn’t have to have anything to do with the business anymore,” says Curtis. “Once he bought that property he had donkeys, chickens, goats, cattle … I mean he had 500 head of cattle at the end. So he created this state park, basically. The damn thing was as manicured as a golf course, but he did the work himself and hired a full-time hand.”

Don died a few years ago, but not before helping out McLemore Building Maintenance in a big way.

Like companies the whole nation over, McLemore Building Maintenance had to brave the Great Recession. While this period caused the company some discomfort, Don’s own experiences helped his sons weather the storm. Curtis says the tribulations the company faced in its early years taught Don to diversify before retirement so that vulnerabilities would be minimized after he was gone. While growth was stunted a bit during the Great Recession, there was no loss.

Unfortunately death hit the McLemore family hard once again when Elvira died, compelling Keith to understandably place his focus outside of the company. As a result, Curtis took up his big brother’s portion of McLemore Building Maintenance — separating a duo that spent summers together building toilet paper forts at the company headquarters.

Not all the change was hard. Stephanie went home to raise their first-born child, meaning Curtis would be the only remaining member of the company’s four-person hierarchy.

previous page of this article:
Earning Respect In The Workplace
next page of this article:
Leaving A Legacy