I Can Do that
Many people ask me “How did you get into this? How did it all start?”
This is a short auto biography of how Vertical Artisans came into existence.
It has been more than a ten year journey that has impacted my life physically, mentally and spiritually. I hope you enjoy reading it as it has been a delight for me to reflect and write it.
The year was 1982. Custom 77 auto re-builders was the name of the business and the job was sweeping up the place. I was so excited to be working and generating a pay check even if it was only $78 a week. Back then minimum wage was about $3.15 but for a young lad that was a good income. At least I thought it was. You see I got to be friends with the body men at the shop and one of them showed me his pay check after hours. He first asked to see my check and I showed him the $78 check as if to say, look how close that is to a hundo. He grinned and opened his envelope and I saw a seven and then a six and then a zero. I had to look at it closer to make sure I was seeing it right. I was paralyzed with the financial possibilities. It was late on Friday so I had to wait all weekend before I could talk to my boss again. So on Monday morning I was at work 30 minutes early. My boss was surprised of my early arrival and I was more than ready to negotiate the new terms of my employment.
I said….Joe I want to be a body man! I will learn and do what ever you ask of me to become a body man. He was quite for a moment and then smirked as he said, “no you don’t.” I felt my confidence drain a little because that was not the answer that I wanted to hear. So I said again with more bull in my voice. JOE, I WANT TO BE A BODY MAN. And as soon as I finished with my statement he retorted back with more confidence, “no” and then he was calm “you don’t want to be a body man.” I was discouraged as I knew then that he was not going to teach me the craft that I had meditated on the entire weekend. I asked “Why? Don’t you think I can do it?” He said “Yes, I think you can, and I think you would be a great body man.” I then said “but then why are you telling me no?”
The next statement changed my life forever. There are very few statements that can impact a young man whose focus and attention span is that of an afterburner with out a rudder. He simply said, “You don’t want to be a body man, you want to be me. I pay the body man. In fact, I pay several body men to work for me. You saw somebody’s check and you were impressed. Well, if I can pay them all that money, how much do you think I pay myself?”
Then it really hit me.
That day changed my life. I realized what the difference was between an employee and an employer and I wanted to be the guy cutting the checks. The desire was mostly because of the money. It would take many years of my life to figure out how to be a success. I was only fifteen then but I knew that I would be an entrepreneur some day. I really didn’t pass out that day but those words are still ring in my ears.
After high school I joined the Marine Corps, went to college for a electronic engineering degree, and began to try my hand at various types of work. I was good at everything I put my hand too. I thank my father for that because he was a hard worker at everything he did and for whatever he didn’t know how to do he figured out a way to make it work. That is just how the Giffins are in just about every area. Good work ethic is rare today and I for one am very glad to have had a father that taught me principles for life. When I joined the Marine Corps in 1986, he then shortly moved my mom and four younger sisters to south Texas in a little boarder town called Pharr. He still lives in that area today as a missionary to Mexico. In addition to being a man of God he continues to be the hardest working man I know. www.MexicoForJesus.com
I’ve had many failed attempts at being a business man, in fact very few ideas ever made any money. I always seem to end up working for the man. But my first big move was with a friend who convinced me to invest in a new software company he was building selling niche market data to the steel industry. This company was going to make me a millionaire and I was told this often. My investment was ten grand and I was instantly the vice president. The concept was sound, the vision was excellent and the sky was the limit. The concept was light years ahead of its industry and over the first two years with hard work and dedication we began to see progress. That was until he took a six figure paying position from one of our clients and left me with an offer to work for him. That was the beginning of the end. The money was gone and I was seeing the vision of our company take a back seat. It wasn’t much later than that and I had to be let go because there just wasn’t enough money to pay my salary.
I was devastated. I thought I was a vested partner. I owned stock. What about the company I invested in? How could he do this? I later found out that my original investment went to pay for previous debts. I was betrayed, jobless, and angry. I had a wife, a mortgage, and no job. This was not what I had in mind for in my life. I was at the end of my rope and it didn’t look good. I was going to have to find a job and work my way up the ladder again and try to save money to re invent myself for the 100’th time. I did not know if my dreams as a young man were going to come to pass and at that moment my future looked very dim. I felt like a failure. I became depressed. I was defeated. I didn’t have any motivation, and I was very bitter.
I really didn’t know what to do. I began to reflect back to the roots and foundations of my life. I was raised in a Christian home and taught values. I did believe there was a God. I believed that His Son paid the price for my sin long ago on a tree but would my belief in Christ make me a success in life? So I went to my pastor to sort out my life. I boo hoo’d on his shoulder for about 25 minutes about my life, the betrayal, being out of work with no job and all my money issues. He looked at me and said “Grow UP!”
My first thought was what did he just say? Then he said it again and he added these words “Stop listening to what men say and watch their feet!” Now before you go getting upset with my pastor there is something you must know. This man has taught me more about growing, living and giving then perhaps any man alive. It was my deep respect for this man that kept me in my seat and allowed my heart to remain open to receive what the Bible had to say about my situation. My life up until that moment was all about the pursuit of success, money and being my own boss. I didn’t care about what really matters in life, I just wanted my portion. That’s not too much to ask for is it? I was pierced through with many sorrows at that point in my life and I had no peace. I had listened to the man and NOT watched his feet. People can and will deceive you to get what they want and when you no longer have anything they want, they are out of your life. Parasitical relationships! The principle being watch the actions of men not what they say. I realized that I had to believe God for what he wanted me to do and I had no idea what that would be.
I later came back to his office and executed a universal law called sowing and reaping. Simply put, what ever you need in life, sow for it, or give for it. I needed an income, a career and a future to support my wife and hopefully a family someday. So I took some money and gave it to my pastor and told him I was going to believe God for a new business. He prayed for me that day and when we were done he spoke these words.
“Nathan, you are going to be a success and have a great testimony.” I believed him and then left and went out to look for a job. I got a job the very next day working for a friend selling and building fences and decks. Two weeks later from the time I meet with my pastor I meet a man named Irne’ (Ernie). He was from South Africa and we became friends almost overnight. We both played chess, guitar, and made each other laugh with competing humor. It wasn’t long until one day we sat down to play a game of chess and he said “Hey, I want to show you something.” He pulled out a beat up picture book of his fathers business in South Africa of which he was a manager. As he showed me the pictures of crude rock work I asked him what it was. He called it wall cladding or stone facing. In my heart I said these words. I can do that. Then I looked at him and said it out loud. “Irne, I can do that and I’ll be one of the best in the world!” He looked at me and said, “I believe you.” We didn’t even finish the game. We both sat down and began to work out the details of a new company. I needed a company and one that was marketable so I wrote a list of words that best described what it was and what we would be doing. It looked something like this.
There it was, Creative Rock Forming. That was the name that would start it all and say it all. I knew in my heart this was from the Lord. This was what I was waiting for so I created the business and built a web site. www.CreativeRockForming.com We also declared that the CRF had a double meaning, Christ Reigns Forever. The seed was beginning to grow.
I didn’t have many pictures so Irne let me use some of his or at least the ones I knew I could carve. I still had to work every day but my boss told me if I needed to take some time I could do rock projects when ever I wanted. That was great favor. I sold fences and decks in the day and scheduled rock jobs estimates at night. In two weeks I sold three projects. Irne and I did the jobs at night many times under the light of our cars. The clients often wondered at our strange hours but the jobs were relatively small and we got the work done in three to four days. We did three projects together until his visa ran out then Irne had to go back home to South Africa. He has never been back but I hope he and his wife can visit sometime. He still runs South Africa’s largest artificial rock company. http://www.rockworks.co.za/ We are still good friends and brothers to this day.
The style I learned from Irne was the grout style technique most common in vertical carving. The stone style was kind of crude but what I saw was a diamond in the rough. So I began to work on my own look and style. I knew that the carving would have to look better than cultured stone if I was going to compete in the market place. I was so hungry for any knowledge and tool, anything that would advance me in this craft. I found very little advise and those I did find were tight lipped. In fact most people had no idea what I was even talking about when I described it. There was one guy in California that told me I could come out and watch him for $1000 dollars a day and that I could stay as long as I wanted or as long as it took for me to learn the craft. But his methods were regular artificial rock hard scapes and water features. The basic principles I learned from Irne I could not find anywhere on the internet or in the work place.
The year was 1999. I’m sure somewhere it was being done but it was very obscure. Stamped floors were just starting to become popular and there were some companies that offered some form liners. But artificial rock really didn’t include wall cladding at least from what I could tell.
For three years or so until 2002 I still had to work a day job and be rock man at night. There were a few companies beginning to surface in the market place that offered vertical stamping. In 2003 I took a step of faith and declined the sales position at the fence company and said I was a full time rock man. It was a challenge but I succeeded. I would stone face anything that stood still and was even temped to stone face my van as a moving advertisement but I’m glad I didn’t. My wife had her doubts through the years as I would pine away in my garage at night working on a rock. My mother later told me she secretly thought I should just go and get a job. My dad always had a smile and would even buy more sand and cement for me or anything I needed at the time. I love my dad, what a great encourager. There is a lot to say about those years but the dream in me was bigger than what was manifesting in my life. I felt held down, reduced to just what my crew and I could do. I wanted exponential growth but I knew hiring 10 more men was not the answer. I began to pray and ask God for more wisdom for my business. I specifically asked to be exponential. In my heart I heard him say if you want to be exponential then you must first position yourself to be exponential.
That was the first time I considered sharing this craft with anyone. Up until then I actually had all my workers sign trade secret agreements and other documents to try to protect my innovations and skills. Despite these fears, I began to formulate a company that would be the largest information site of its kind on the web and in the world. But in order to achieve that goal I needed people that were very good in their craft. Furthermore, I needed them to be willing to share their ideas and innovations in a protected environment. I needed more artists like myself and if I couldn’t find them, then I would train them. The decorative concrete arena was booming with floors and counter tops but I was strictly vertical. All I wanted to pursue was vertical and I wanted vertical artisans. Hmmm. That’s a good name.
VerticalArtisans.com was launched January 18th at the World of Concrete event in 2008. I was a guest artist at the event and opened some eyes and the doors to Vertical Artisans. A site designed to illustrate the methods, styles, and techniques of stone facing. I had been developing the site for the past 2 years. I wanted to offer an incredible aid to fellow artisans who had a desire like I did for this craft. I wanted to give them something that I did not have many years ago. I wanted them to have access to the data I so desperately searched for but could rarely find. To this day I still record all my projects and innovations that are added to the site almost monthly. I have no desire to stop adding value to my site.
I have purposed to network with other like minded artisans in the industry to produce the most comprehensive video web site data base on artificial rock and themed environments.
We are no longer obscure and are fast becoming the hottest trade in the industry. It may have taken a decade for decorative concrete to become a house hold name but it will not take as long for vertical to be the next leader of the innovation and creation in the world of concrete. There are four times as many walls and I feel we have not yet even scratched the surface of what can be done. Vertical Artisans is going to be there filming it every step of the way and offering its subscribers the best data in the world of its kind.
My story is one of perseverance, hard work and faith. Perseverance – never giving up even in the face of depression, failure and financial hardships. Hard work - because you are not entitled to anything in life, not even food. Faith - because with out the Lord I would be a slave to sin and death would be my future.
It is my desire that you Examine Yourself. Please Download & Listen to this message from Ray Comfort Called "Hell's Best Kept Secret"
I never would have thought that I would be making a living in vertical decorative concrete. All I want to do is to emulate the most realistic work and teach others who are willing as well. My desire is that as you read this you will be challenged to produce excellence in your life in the work place as well as in your private lives. I thank God for the talents and innovations He has given me and I pray your talents are unlocked and revealed so as you can prosper in this wonderful craft.
Time is a precious non renewable commodity.
Thank you for taking your time to read my story.
I Can Do that