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On the Job with Bill Martin

Bill Martin is the owner of Albany Nut and Bolt located at 107 Flint Ave.

Bill Martin is the owner of Albany Nut and Bolt located at 107 Flint Ave.

Bill Martin, owner of Albany Nut and Bolt, credits much of his success to employees.

Martin says treating his staff members like family and making sure they have time off to attend family events has paid off in many ways.

The Terrell County resident says he has always preferred working for himself. His work habits were formed early by doing tasks such as pulling weeds and selling boiled peanuts.

Martin, who also has been involved in the real estate business, recently shared a question-and-answer session with reporter Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. My first job was pulling weeds in a peanut field in Terrell County for Mr. Bill Whitaker. I pulled weeds all summer long.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. I got paid $25 week and he had an old car, a ‘49 Plymouth, so I paid him $20 a week for the car and I kept $5 a week. At the end of the summer I had the car paid for and the battery was dead. I asked my father for $20 or $25 to buy a new battery and he said I’d just have to save up my money. I finally did get one but it was kind of hard pushing that ‘49 Plymouth. They’re a little heavier than the cars today.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. I’m real fortunate to have really good employees and we try to treat them like family. We try to be flexible where they can have time off to be with their families when they need it, and we just look after one another. Many people are just happy to have a job with the economy like it is and we’ve been fortunate we haven’t had to lay off anybody. We’ve added employees over the last five years.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. The ability to hire good people. You’re only as good as the people who work with you. We’re fortunate to have real good people here and in Columbus and Macon, and they’re the backbone of this business. Without those people, the business would not be what it is today.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. That’s a hard question. We suffer with a high health cost here. My cost of insurance for my employees in Macon and Columbus is about 25 percent less than what it is here in Albany. That hurts us when we try to attract large industries. Until we can do something about that, I don’t think we can attract these large industries which could really help us employ the people we have here.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I love all kinds of music. I love soul, I like South Carolina shag music. I like rock and country. I just like it all.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I just don’t think we’re in a situation to grow here until we can get some good, big industry in here. I think you’ll see some smaller companies here. We’ve got a good Small Business Administration that really helps in that aspect.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. The best vacation was my honeymoon with my wife. We spent two weeks in Italy, and we plan to do that again real soon. We just really enjoyed it.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business during the past few years?

A. We’ve seen more and more products coming from China. China’s just growing. A lot of the products we use are from China. We’re doing a lot of business with the government, and the government won’t allow us to use products from China. We can’t sell them on our government schedule, and so that hurts there. We can use products from Taiwan and some other countries. Another thing has been the Internet. It’s enabled us to sell all over the United States and abroad, and that is really the thing that’s going to grow this business.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. I started out when I was a little boy selling boiled peanuts and picking up coke bottles. I always just worked for myself. I was a real estate appraiser, a broker and an investor. With real estate going down I decided to look into another field and my accountant knew this business was for sale. I wanted a business I could grow and develop and that’s what we’ve done the last five years. We’ve opened two new branches in Macon and Columbus and plan to open another branch in about a year and a half.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. My father was my role model. He was a dentist and he taught me some good principals I try to live by. I think that what I’m doing would be right in my father’s eyes. He always taught me I was no better than anyone else and no one else was better than me. If I made a deal with somebody whether it was a good deal or a bad deal — fulfill the terms of the deal.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. I think it’s the diversification of the customer base. You can’t put all your eggs in one basket today. Through attrition we lose people every year so we’re looking at various fields to try to sell our goods. We’re working on the Internet trying to sell. We’re working with the government, with corporations and with the construction industry. We try to stay diversified.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. The computer. It’s really just like a part of your body now. You’ve got to have a computer in today’s business. It’s enabled us to attract business all over the United States and internationally, so we use it every day. We can’t live without it.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. Thanksgiving. I grew up with a hunting family. My father hunted every Thanksgiving. I’ve continued the tradition and always will.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I read a devotional every morning. I’m reading “The Sanctuary” by David Jeremiah. I believe everything I have has come from God and I appreciate it. We really can’t take anything with us. God just lets us lease it for a while. I’m so thankful for everything I have and what my family has. I like to read self-help books. I’m not much for fiction.

Q. I’m up and going by?

A. I get up about 6:30. Usually I have a cup of coffee, read my morning devotional and pray for my friends. Then I’ll look at the Internet, read the news and do a little exercise.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. I think if I could meet anyone it would be Warren Buffet. I think he’s one of the best investors we’ve had during our lifetime. I could probably learn some important things from him.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I like to play golf and I like to hunt.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I purchased a farm. It was a big purchase for me, the biggest purchase I’ve ever had in my life. It was a kind of fevered sale. I really wanted it. I hadn’t realized the irrigation systems needed as much work as they did and I would have spent a little more time in negotiating that deal. I think I paid a little too much for it. But I enjoy living on the farm.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. the best thing about my job, without a doubt, is the people I work with and the people who come in every day. I go around town and people say “you have the best employees down there,” and we do. The people are real considerate of other people. We like to sell big orders and make a lot of money but at the same time, Andy and the other guys on the counter — they have a little lady who comes in, if she wants her fan fixed he’ll fix her fan for her even it it’s just one screw. We try to help people any way we can.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. My major competitor. I’ve got a very large competitor that can kind of pull some strings that I’m not able to do. They’re all over the United States and in various other countries. I can’t do that, and sometimes they can get contracts with some of the bigger companies because they have locations there. That kind of hurts us because we know we can do a good job and give a good price and good service.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. That would be real estate. I’ve been in real estate all my life. I was a real estate appraiser for 26 years and a real estate broker. I’m still a real estate broker in Florida and Georgia. I’ll continue to enjoy real estate the rest of my life.

Q. Finish this thought: “On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …

A. I don’t think I’ll ever retire, but when I slow down a little I’d like to travel abroad with my wife and buy furniture and different items that people in the U.S. don’t have access to. My wife has a really good eye as far as decorating, and I think we’d enjoy just seeing the world and having a little something to pay for the trip.