Interview with Joe Hardy – Founder and CEO of 84 Lumber and Accomplished Business Leader
Occasionally in life you meet somebody that has a profound affect on you. Recently I met just such a man – Joe Hardy. Joe is a true American success story. He started his career selling vegetables door-to-door and ultimately became the founder and CEO of 84 Lumber. I met Joe in a meeting he hosted at his Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Joe welcomed the meeting participants and shared some of his wisdom. I admired how down to earth and practical Joe is. He has that rare combination of vision, determination and common sense. I knew immediately that Joe’s story represented the quintessential example of Brand America’s promise brought to life. I want to share a bit of Joe’s story with you. I hope you enjoy this interview with one of America’s visionary businessmen. If you want to learn even more about Joe, his book “Nothing is Impossible: The Legend of Joe Hardy and 84 Lumber” is a great read.
- Joe, your personal success story is an American legend. Rising from a college graduate selling vegetables door-to-door, to become the founder and CEO of 84 Lumber – the largest privately held building materials supplier for professional contractors. You left a successful family jewelry business, started Green Hills Lumber in 1952 and in 1956 created 84 Lumber. When you think back on your success, what is special about America that you feel helped inspire and enable you to take the risk and win, or do you feel you would have been as successful anywhere in the world?
My mother was a strong influence in my life. Like many Moms, she always told me I was special and would amount to something. She instilled in me the value of hard work and the importance of not being wasteful. By the age of 10, I knew the value of a dollar. My Mother taught me that America is the land of opportunity, and I could be whatever I wanted as long as I was willing to work hard for my success. Seventy-five years ago, growing up in Pittsburgh, I was exposed to the children of wealthy business executives. I saw the life they had and I knew that all I had to do was work hard to create that kind of life for my family and me. I believed I could succeed because my Mother said so, and because I was fortunate enough to live in America. Today I believe America is still the greatest nation on earth, and with hard work we will get our economy back on track.
- Question: In 1987, you bought the property to create Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. It is an amazing destination for people to relax and enjoy being pampered. But, it is more than simply a destination for the well to do. You made Nemacolin Woodlands Resort accessible for guests and the community in which it is located. It is a wonderful experience that continues to be shaped by your vision. What are the similarities you see between the promise of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and the promise of America?
The Nemacolin Woodlands Resort promise is “Expect the Unexpected”. It is a collage of great ideas, great things and great methods all fused into a business that has a little something to please everybody. We work hard every day to bring something new, something fresh to the experience. I started this journey back in 1987 when I bought the property at auction. We had a vision, and we knew that with hard work we could make it a reality. I believe if you are mentally and physically healthy, there is nothing you can’t accomplish. We found the best ideas, improved on them and then introduced them into Nemacolin to share with our guests. We hired a staff that is always curious and seeking ways to do things better. I encourage them to listen with their heart, not just their ears. I want them to really see what somebody is saying, not just hear the words. When they really see what is possible, then I encourage them to act on it. This is why we created Falling Rock, Chateau Lafayette, Mystic Rock, our Wildlife Academy and many more experiences for our guests. In America, you should also expect the unexpected. This is a country that put a man on the moon and will continue to accomplish things that astound the world.
- Question: Your philanthropic generosity has been recognized by a number of awards. What drives you to give back to the community? What thoughts would you offer to others in a position to help improve the lives of the people in their community?
I wanted to make a difference. 84 Lumber is a company that helps build America, and I wanted to be certain I was actively involved in helping build my community of Uniontown. I decided to become a county commissioner. It gave me an opportunity to cut through the red tape and help the economy in the region grow. I got involved, and I’ve stayed engaged. In my 87 years, I have seen a great deal. I believe strongly in policies and programs that promote lower taxes, increased investment and sustainable job growth. I have seen the pendulum swing back and forth. But, I believe the best years for America are still ahead. Our nation is educated, entrepreneurial and innovative. These things will help America compete and stay a leader in the world economy. I would encourage everybody to get involved directly in helping their community prosper. It is a rewarding investment of time.
- Question: The image of America has been challenged over the last decade. Some people predict that the “American way” is no longer as relevant in today’s global economy and that America has seen her best years. Is America on the decline? Are America’s best years in the rear view mirror?
America is not on the decline, but we need to stay ahead of the pack. Our nation must continue to design, develop and manufacture products the world wants to buy. Technological innovation is critical to long-term success. I think the best years are yet to come.
- Question: You have the unique perspective and wisdom of time. What counsel would you offer to people working to help strengthen the American image both domestically and abroad?
We need to lower taxes and focus on job growth as a driver for wealth creation. We cannot become complacent. We need to keep testing the boundaries and challenging ourselves to be better. We must continue to learn and grow. Steve Jobs is a great example for all Americans who want to be successful. The Apple story is a testament to the promise of America. Steve had a vision and he worked hard to make it a reality. The amazing thing about America is anybody can be the next Steve Jobs. The opportunity and resources are here to make success happen.