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Home | HOUSTON | Spotlight | Spotlight - Robert Randall, Charter Drywall, Houston, TX

Spotlight - Robert Randall, Charter Drywall, Houston, TX

image Robert Randall, President/Owner, Charter Drywall, Houston, TX

HOUSTON - Robert Randall was always a keen observer of business operations and of the people who ran those companies. Nearly three decades ago, he put all of that observation to good use when he founded Charter Drywall and turned the business into a four-branch success story.





Share a little about your background.
    I was born at Carlisle Air Force Base Hospital in Harrisburg, PA. My dad was in the military in both World War II and the Korean War and my mom was mainly a stay-at-home mom who later worked at Sears. My dad was transferred to Japan when I was 6 months old, and I lived there for a year and a half. He was then transferred back to the States to Sherman, TX to Perrin Air Force Base. He basically finished out his career at that base and I grew up in Sherman.
    I went to college at the University of North Texas in Denton and got a bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in administrative management. I was always a bit fascinated with large corporations and the people that ran them and thought that is what I would like to do or be in business for myself someday.

Did you have a business sense from a young age?
    I’ve always been a little bit of an entrepreneur. I was in the Boy Scouts and every year we would go to Boy Scout camp on Lake Texoma. I would walk down to a marina by the lake and buy out the vending machines, take it all back to the camp, set up shop and sell the candy and also magazines to the kids and double my money on it – until they threatened to turn me over to the police for not having a business license!  I used to deliver grit newspapers and did things around the neighborhood, like mowing and cleaning yards for spending money. I had a good work ethic; my dad was super military and I had two older brothers, and we were a strictly organized family, you might say.

How did you support yourself during college?

    I worked my way through college by selling life insurance to college students. I was not a bad salesman at all; in fact, I really did quite well! I did not want to be in that line of work once I got out of college but at the time, I was already married and had one child. I would go and sit down in a classroom and anybody sitting around me would get up and move away because I would try to sell life insurance to them! I wore a coat and tie to school and when I got finished with the courses, I would drive to my office and spend the rest of the day and the night selling life insurance.

What path did you take after college?

    When I graduated from college, I went on the open job market trying to find something to do out there and I ended up going to work for CertainTeed Corporation, which is a manufacturer of roofing insulation. I was in Dallas/Fort Worth territory sales for about five years and did very well since it was easy to sell. I was promoted to district sales manager for the insulation group for residential insulation in 1976 and did that for the next five years.
    By that time, I had set my sights on a direction, and that direction was to have my own company. I went to work for a guy in Houston in 1982 that had developed a gypsum concrete used on apartment floors for fireproofing and sound control. He had a very small operation – a nice business, but not a very profitable business. That’s why I joined him; I wanted to help him build the business and get him on the right track. I opened up an operation in Dallas for him and ran that for a couple of years before we sold that to a large contractor in Dallas. I moved to Houston and worked national sales for five years setting up contractors to install our product all over the United States.

How did you ultimately become a business owner?
    In 1990, one of my old installation customers did drywall work and wanted to sell his business. I went to work for him about six months to see if we could work out an agreement, which we did not. I ended up starting Charter Drywall in October of 1990 and we’ve been in business ever since.

Besides you entrepreneurial spirit, what motivated you to start Charter Drywall?
    I was always very much alert to the problems that were in the large corporations. Between the time of high school and college I had even worked for IBM at one time as a press operator making data cards. I watched the large corporations and I was intrigued with the way they operated. After a few years, I decided I didn’t like the big corporate life but running your own business looked like it was pretty rewarding.
    I started this to give people a very nice job on drywall, to stand behind my work, to be a man of my word, and to grow the business, put up some branch operations and expand into other markets and I did that through the years.

How has Charter Drywall evolved since you opened it 28 years ago?
    In 1996, we opened up a branch in Dallas. We later opened a branch in Atlanta and we opened up a branch in Denver. Those operations are still running to this day. We mainly utilize subcontrac-tors to install our products in residential but overall, I have about 30 employees full-time that work for us.
What lessons have you learned as a business owner?

    The only thing that I saw firsthand early on is that people don’t always pay you when you do your work for them. That always bothered me and that’s why I worked so hard to create a company with excellent reputation, quality service, and quality work; we stand behind our product and we do whatever it takes to satisfy our customers. But I’ll still have one or two every once in a while that will back out and not want to pay us. That was always the thing that kind of irked me. Even today, I am the head collector of our company. I handle a lot of the pay problems – and we don’t have a lot, probably less than the typical percentage.

What do you enjoy about your work?
    I enjoy the gratification of running a successful business. We’ve been in business now 28 years. We have the Dallas, Denver and Atlanta branches. We also have a commercial business, Charter Drywall Houston, located here. Each company has their own separate corporation: Charter Drywall Dallas, Charter Drywall Denver, Charter Drywall Atlanta then we have our commercial which we call Charter Commercial Drywall.

Can you believe that Charter Drywall will soon celebrate its 30th anniversary?
    Nope! I hate getting that old!

What do you enjoy in your free time?

    I‘ve been a golfer, although I don’t play much today. My hobby is boating; I boat and I fish. I have a boat in the salt water in Galveston Bay and my wife Laura and I also have a lake house on Toledo Bend; I go up there and bass fish.
    I have an old house that was built in 1923 that keeps me pretty busy doing things around there. Of course, I still work every day. I live an hour away from my office and get up at 4:30 in the morning and am at the office by 6:30 and I don’t necessarily work all day any more; I take off after lunch, but I do watch everything that’s going on.

Share a little about your family.

    I have two children. My oldest, Zach, has worked for me and in fact started my Atlanta operation. He moved back to Houston and now sells RVs and motor coaches and does very well in that. My youngest, Jeremy, has worked with me at Charter Drywall for 15 years and specifically worked for me in the Denver operation. It’s fun, but I try hard to draw the line between business and family.

What do you think the future holds?
    I’m nearly 65 years old and I’m looking at selling the company. It is on the market through a business broker. I don’t expect to see a much activity from that because drywall contractors have never been the hotspot for that. But this company would be an excellent base for somebody who is looking to expand further in other markets.

If you do sell the business, what plans do you have?
    I’d like to take a boat to the Bahamas and the Caribbean for a few years and fly back and forth. After that, maybe my wife and I will take a motor coach and tour the U.S., find a nice little place and settle down again. That’s something I can pull off. Our business has been successful and life has been good. I have no complaints.
    Subcontractor Charter Drywall special-izes in a wide range of drywall installations. –mjm

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Author Info

Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net