James Anthony “Tony” Seay – February 16, 1955-May 6, 2016
William Shakespeare; from his play Julius Caesar, said. “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
So it is with Tony Seay.
I’d like to dwell for a moment on the good things that Tony accomplished, lest they be forgotten and “… interred with his bones.”
Tony was hired by my company back in the 1970s for a part-time job during an influx of flood damage business. I was a little puzzled by the fact that he had been the manager of a local Pizza Hut whose business had increased, along with Tony’s responsibilities, hours and title. But his salary had not seen a comparable increase.
The restaurant management business can be brutal. Long hours, employee turnover, customer complaints …
I guess you’d say that Tony was exhausted, burned out, and he had seen fit to terminate his Pizza Hut employment.
But his work as a “part-time” employee with my company didn’t last long.
Tony showed up early, carried out his duties in an exemplary manner, and worked hard with little expectation of recognition or reward. In short, he did everything he was asked to do.
The best employees are those with a demonstrated track record, and when the influx of flood business was over, there was no question about a full-time position for Tony. We couldn’t afford to do otherwise.
But Tony was far more than just a good worker. In fact, he epitomized the American dream that hard conscientious work would ultimately bring future reward. He was able and determined to create his own success, with the recognition that my company could serve as his platform for achievement.
We put Tony on as an assistant cleaner – which was well below his considerable capabilities – but his quick mind, customer-oriented attitude and quality consciousness led, within a month or so, to his promotion to Crew Chief with his own vehicle, equipment and responsibilities.
Again, Tony excelled. His job closings and added sales set him apart as a consummate salesman. Within a year, I asked Tony to take over the entire cleaning division, while I concentrated on growing the company’s disaster division.
Once again, Tony excelled, flawlessly and independently organizing and managing the company’s major cleaning division with little supervision by me. All the while he was increasing his store of technical knowledge and his management skills.
The ultimate next step was for him to become the company’s General Manager.
By the 1980s, the company’s fledgling chemical and equipment manufacturing business caught Tony’s eye for growth potential. Thus, he began developing the ProMaster Division into an international distributorship leading to his eventual position as a partner in that Division. During the 1990s ProMaster had grown into a multi-million dollar business under Tony’s capable and consistent leadership.
In that same time period, Tony, Ronda and I partnered to take over and re-organize the nearly bankrupt International Society of Cleaning Technicians, or ISCT, with Tony as its President. I was reluctant to take on responsibility for a failing trade association, but Tony argued that I was wrong. Eventually, I acquiesced. He enthusiastically reinvented that trade association, making it one of the largest and most successful in the cleaning and restoration industry, with multiple successful conventions held in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.
Eventually, with a stable financial status and increased membership, we turned that association over to its elected officers with the stipulation that it be brought to non-profit status. And that those leaders did. That influential Trade Association still exists today as the Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians (SCRT), which is a Shareholder of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification or IICRC.
Today, a SCRT Director serves as Chairman of the Board of the IICRC, and two SCRT Directors serve as Board members of this international certification organization, which boasts some 55,000 registrants in 35 countries around the world.
The point is that, over my objections, Tony’s determination to save a floundering trade association that was doomed to extinction, in no small part has had a profound ripple effect on an entire industry internationally.
In 1997 with the purchase of five acres of land in Dothan’s Oxmoor Industrial Park, Tony took on construction coordination of a 20,000 square foot building, which became the headquarters of both ProMaster and Clean Care Seminars. That property and building today serves as a monument to his organizational skills and meticulous attention to detail.
When Bishop Clean Care and Bishop Disaster Services were sold to the managers of those Divisions in the late ’90s, Tony continued to manage the ProMaster Division successfully. Eventually in year 2000, he and his brother Larry purchased ProMaster.
Again, from Shakespeare: “Let us not burden our remembrance with the heaviness that’s gone.”
Tony and I shared a lot of successes and a few failures during our 40-year relationship. While I am aware of the path his life took in the last decade or so, I choose to remember the long drives we shared to and from conventions, the lingering business and dinner conversations, and our shared optimism for our future.
From part-time worker to business owner, Tony lived the American Dream of success. The Tony I remember today was a good and loyal friend, and business partner.
That’s the way it should be.