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David Moody is the owner of CD Moody, one of Atlanta’s Top 25 Commercial Contractors.
If you live in or visited Georgia, you’ve been impacted by some of the projects he's been involved with. Projects include the Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta History Center Cyclorama, and Turner Field just to name a few.
After going to school to be an architect, he later decided that he didn’t want to just sit and draw all day, and he wanted to be outside in the field and putting the project together. So he decided to be a builder instead!
He is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Since being open and sharing his story with others, he has been an advocate for sexually abused children. He continues speaking up and being there for others who are survivors.
He is an incredible person and we were honored to chat with him for a little while!
Tyler: Welcome to the Construction Brothers Podcast. I'm your host, Tyler Campbell, and with me like he is every week: My brother, Eddie Campbell.
Eddie: Hello, Tyler.
Tyler: Hello, Eddie. Well this week, David Moody is talking about his journey in construction.
Eddie: All right, David, thank you for joining us today. How about you tell us who you are and what you do?
David Moody: Sure. My name is Charles David Moody, Jr., I go by David, and I'm the CEO and President of CD Moody Construction Company in Lithonia, Georgia and I've been a business for 32 years and I'm a commercial general contractor.
Eddie: Right on, man. Well, we had a little previous conversation before we got with you on the show here, and discovered that you actually have a degree in architecture and now you're running a contracting company. And so there’s a story there. I want to hear, how did you go from architecture to building?
David Moody: I'm a kid who grew up in the 60’s, I'm 64 years old. I'm a young 64, I like to make that clear. But anyway, I grew up playing with LEGO building blocks, Erector sets, all the things that nobody plays with really today, building model planes and all that. So I always liked building stuff. But I always wanted to design. So I thought I wanted to be an architect. I went to Morehouse College and finished there. Then I went to Howard University and got my professional degree in architecture, and I started my career with Bechtel Power Corporation, one of the largest privately-owned engineering and construction companies in the world. I started off in the nuclear power division and started off as a staff architect. And this was before CAD and before computers, so we actually had to draw every day. And we drew every day. And nuclear power is not anything exciting to design, but I was still doing my thing, and I took a field assignment on the nuclear power plant. They needed an architect to go out on the job site and do some work, and I just fell in love with the action. I fell in love with construction. I knew I didn't want to sit and draw every day all day like that. And I realized I could take the knowledge of architecture and use it in construction. Construction fit me as— The outdoors, I love outdoors, the action, the energy. Plus I realized I was just going to be an average architect, ‘cause I didn't really have that patience I think you need for architecture. But I realized I could be a really good builder because I understood the building process. But it was just fun to me. So that's how I went from architecture to construction.
Tyler: I love that self awareness that you had, that you had more of a passion for building than you did for architecture. That's really cool.
David Moody: I tell people all the time, you gotta be careful about mixing passion with what you're good at doing. You know, you can have a passion for singing, but if you can't sing, you know… You might be a better songwriter, though, or producer. So one of the things I tell people is, besides passion, you also gotta know what you're good at doing. ‘Cause there's a big difference between passion and what you're good at doing and how to take that passion and develop it into what you're really good at doing.
Tyler: So how did you start to develop what you were good at doing? So you've started your journey as a builder, what were some of the things that happened along the way?
David Moody: Well, I was working for Bechtel, and then I got married. This is 1982 when I got married in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That's where I went to high school. My dad worked at the University of Michigan as a Vice Provost and I left Chicago at 14. I was born and raised there. So anyway, how it all kind of shifted gears— For anybody who's married, might appreciate this story. My parents lived two miles to the left, my wife's parents lived two miles to the right, and after about six months of marriage, I said, “Baby, if we’re going to be happily married, we’re getting out of here.” And we moved back to Atlanta. Because it was too much stress about whose house we were going to for Thanksgiving, Christmas. It was just stressful. And I mean, we both loved our parents, and we only have my wife's dad that’s still alive, but it was just, we just, I just said, “Baby, if we're going to be happy, we're getting out of here.” So I left a great job at Bechtel, my wife had a great job at the University of Michigan, and I got this job with this small construction company here in Atlanta. You know, told my wife, “I got this great opportunity, man it’s going to be great, and let's move.” And my wife said, “All right, I'll follow you.” And two months after getting here, that company that I thought was going to be great went bankrupt. So now I don't have a job. So fortunately, this is when long distance phone calls cost a lot. So my in-laws could only chew me out a little bit. But what I thought was my worst day actually became my best day. ‘Cause I never would have went into business probably four years later after that. So that's really— So I started working for small companies and just finally my wife and I decided after five years, “Hey, you know what, we're broke. We don't have nothing to lose.” Borrowed some money from a bank, about three or four grand, and we just went for it. And as they say, the rest is history.
Tyler: That's awesome. Well, I would like to kind of clarify for some people, too, what are some of the projects that you've worked on that are more notable that people might recognize?
David Moody: Oh, sure. Well, one of the big ones we just teamed up, we were partners on was of course the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. We did the new Cyclorama for the Atlanta History Center. We did the addition, the renovation at the History Center. We've done a lot of stuff for Morehouse College, we’ve done a science building, parking decks. We did the international terminal at the airport. We did Phillips Arena. We did the Olympic Stadium. We did Turner Field when we converted it from the Olympic Stadium to Turner Field. We did the original Grady Hospital renovation, which was for their original little hospital, which was built in 1896, which is on Coca-Cola Place. It's a little three story building, which was kind of creepy doing that one, ‘cause I was, I went in the original operating room and kind of looked up and went, man, somebody used to get cut on in here. So I've had a wide range of experience and some good experiences, and I laugh now because I was so naive and inexperienced in the beginning that I didn't realize how crazy I was doing what I was doing, trying to start a construction company. But when you’re broke and really don't have nothing to lose, that's kind of the best way to go for it. My wife went back to nursing school, became an RN, so we could have steady income. We had two little kids and we just, we just made it work, man. And God blessed us and we've been through our challenges, but we're still here after 32 years. And what I'm most proud about after 32 years is that I never missed a pay day. Never missed a payroll ever to anybody.
Tyler: Man. I love that. So it's fair to say that you know exactly what you're talking about when you talk about construction.
Eddie: (laughs) A little bit.
Tyler: If Mercedes-Benz wasn't enough for ya, you know.
Eddie: My favorite’s Cyclorama. Oh man. ‘Cause I went there as a kid, and I loved the Cyclorama and when I'd seen on social media, you were doing that project, I thought… I love history and I love construction.
David Moody: Now here's the cool part about that story: Building the building was cool, but we had to help move that painting. And we had to help develop a spindle system to put the paintings on. We split it, they split it in two. But here's the cool thing if most people remember: The original painting was four feet too big for the original building it was in by Grant Park. So they cut the painting four feet out. Well when we moved it, they added the four feet back. They added the four feet of canvas, and then the artist actually painted back the missing four feet. So it was unbelievable watching them restore that whole painting, and then to do the diorama and make it look 3D. I mean, it was just… ‘Cause I like history, and it was just incredible watching some craftsmen, the artists. That was something that I really enjoyed, was watching these eight artists take giant Q-tips, and they cleaned every inch of that painting and then touched it up. So it was phenomenal watching how, being by themselves basically everyday on a scaffolding or lift, with headphones on, and just going over that painting.
Tyler: That's amazing. I really, really am in awe of Mercedes-Benz. I know this is probably one that you hear about a lot, but just looking up at the truss work in that building is— If you haven't seen it, for anybody listening, make sure you go look up some photos of it because it's insane. What were some of the challenges that you guys had to face on that job particularly?
David Moody: Well, one of the biggest challenges was bringing the world's largest track crane into that site. I forgot how many semi truck loads it took, but the cab of that crane looked like most people's apartment buildings, or apartment units. I mean, it was huge. I'd never seen nothing that big. But I'll tell you some of the funny things to me that I kind of chuckled about, was seeing Porta-Johns all the way on the very top. ‘Cause once the steel guys got up there, it wasn’t like they were going to come down every day to go to the bathroom. So seeing Porta-Johns set up around the ring of the stadium. It was just phenomenal watching that many people. And that's what I love about construction. Craftspeople take somebody's drawings and ideas and make it real and make all these things work. The other thing that's cool about construction: This is people from all walks of life. Okay? But we get on that job site, and we just make it work together. And it's just phenomenal. That's one of the things I love about construction is just the teamwork, and I love watching craftspeople do it. The other kind of funny part of that, ‘cause you mentioned the big trusses and everything. I mean, they were huge. I think some of them were over 200 tons, just a single truss. But here's the funny part, you know, we had all this shoring around, right? But we were taking the shoring down. So when we took that last shore down, let's just say we all kind of stood outside and made sure we looked up from outside the ring, But you know, we all knew it was good. But you know, the other thing about construction is just the safety part of it, how everybody really does their best to take care of each other and be safe. It's just great. I just love construction. When I'm having a bad day or feeling a little down or something, I go to a job site and I fly my drone around it or just go out there. I always feel better when I go on a job site. Even if it's a job that’s not going well, that might be having some issues, I still feel better getting outside, going around that job site every day.
Eddie: That’s the mark of a builder right there. I love that, that you want to be in it, want to be around it. That resonates with me in a big way, man.
Tyler: Well, I would love to hear some more about some of the things that you've had to overcome in your life, and just kind of how that played into your career.
David Moody: Sure. Well, I'm very public about this. It took me a lot of years to speak publicly, but I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and I didn't speak publicly ‘til 2012 about it. In 1992, our business was four years old and I finally told my wife what had transpired ‘cause I was just feeling the urge that I needed to get this off of me, ‘cause I really thought I was going to die with that secret. I told her, and then within a couple of months or so, I had my first panic attack. I had never had something like that. I mean, I played college football and I just kept myself real busy. And I think that's kind of how I kept myself from ever dealing with what really happened. I thought I had buried it. And then it got to a point that I actually had a complete nervous breakdown. But I couldn't tell anybody, ‘cause my business was four years old and people didn't talk about that. I was concerned they would think I was weak or it was wrong. So I had to heal in private and I suffered in silence. And that's one of the reasons I started speaking up, because no one should have to suffer in silence from a trauma. We tend to make people feel weak or something is wrong when these things happen to us, and we react in a way that I did. But that was one of the toughest years of my life, lasting for about two years from ‘93 to ‘95, just first trying to figure out why I was having these panic attacks and the breakdown. And we finally put two and two together, it was from something that happened when I was nine years old. So going through that whole process was tough, but my wife and God just had a plan for me to get through this, and I really believe so I could get to the point in 2012 and on that that I could help so many other people deal with anxiety, deal with childhood traumas such as sexual abuse. There were other abuses also that many of us dealt with as children that affect us as adults because we haven't addressed it. But construction was always the one place that I could go and kind of forget about what I was going through at that time. But that was the most challenging part of my life as an entrepreneur was trying to navigate that with a business that was four years old and continue to make it. And somehow, like I said, God just had a plan for me, ‘cause I don't know how I survived, ‘cause I never stopped working when I really should have been somewhere healing. You know, I probably should have been in a hospital or something. But hey, I got through it, and I made it, but it was not an easy journey. But that was probably the toughest part of entrepreneurship I've ever had to deal with.
Eddie: Help us understand a little better, as people that are running businesses and a part of construction in the fast-paced industry we're in—I mean, you get to teach us now, how do we better deal with our stresses and anxieties?
David Moody: You know, one of the things I've learned about, going through what I went through and speaking up about this and the research I've done, is that we have to not be ashamed or afraid to take the first step to deal with anything that we know is impacting our life. It doesn't mean you got to go publicly and talk about it, but don't be ashamed to get therapy. Don't be ashamed to get a coach. Don't be afraid to address anything that you know is impacting you being all that you can be. Because we all have a story, okay, just some stories impact us more than others. So I think the biggest thing is, as an entrepreneur or wanting to be an entrepreneur: One, if you're married, your home life's gotta be tight. You know? Because my wife fortunately was very supportive. I didn't have a certain materialistic level I had to provide for her. You know, she’s always been very happy, if we just have pizza and a beer that was a good night’s deal. So it was very easy for me to leave money in the company to struggle through the tough times because we didn't have this lifestyle we needed to show or whatever. Then we also realized this is what we really wanted to do also as a team. You gotta take, don't take this too serious. And what I mean, take it too serious: You're gonna make money and you're gonna lose money. The biggest thing is standing up for truth and honesty and fairness, and do it the right way. And not every client's a good client. You know, the contractor, unfortunately we're always the person they like to cram all the stuff down that, you know, when an architect misses this or leaves that out, we're the ones who still have retainment or whatever. So they always try and cram it down us. And we just gotta make sure that we manage these processes right and stay on top of it. I tell people now, construction is not hard, it’s people that make it difficult. You know, we spend more time now trying to figure out risk management, who's at fault—you know, everybody's pointing fingers today—than building the building. And a lot of the fun is kind of gone from construction because it is more about who can take, who can I pass this risk down to, who can I blame regardless of what the facts say? So those are some of the things that I find frustrating in today's marketplace.
Eddie: Do you have a specific success story? You've mentioned your enjoyment of teamwork and bringing people together and some of the cool projects you've been on. Is there a project or process you've been a part of that just kind of rings the bell and you went, man, it really came together there?
David Moody: You know what I would say, every project actually is that, because there's always a different set of circumstances and there’s always a point that people gotta come together and get it done. So there's no specific project that I go, man, that was just perfect, ‘cause there is no perfect project. But there are many projects where everybody just worked as a team immediately, and every now and then you're fortunate enough where everybody is big enough to say, “Hey, I missed that,” or you know, “That isn't your issue, that's my issue, let's work together.” Those are the projects that are fun to me, when everybody is professional and will admit a mistake or error and say, “Hey, let's work together to solve that issue” versus “You need to take care of this, even though it ain't your fault.”
Eddie: I love how you describe your relationship with your wife, because you're holding marriage high and I really respect that.
David Moody: 38 years.
Eddie: And so, I mean, how did your teamwork together really kind of get you where you're at? I want to hear a little more about that.
David Moody: Well, I think our teamwork came together because one, she went back and became a RN. So she decided, “Hey, we'll have a steady income.” So that took that stress off. But there's an important part, now: My wife started in the business with me. That lasted about six months, because I told her, “I'm going to be the boss one place. I'm not the boss at home, and now you're bossing me here at work.” So we decided she was better to support me emotionally and all that kind of stuff that we work together. So I want to make that real clear. We got a great relationship, a great marriage, but working together, that just wasn’t going to work. You also got to know that. But I think, I always tell people, there's so much stress and stuff being an entrepreneur, or just even working every day: Home has to be the one place you can go that 99% of the time, that's the one place you can go and there's peace. You're always gonna have the little moments with each other, but 99% of the time when I go home, I know there will be peace. I will have support. She'll kick me in my butt when I need to be kicked in my butt. But also when she carried me in ‘92, and this is what I tell folks: There comes a point in everyone's relationship, whether it’s friendship, a husband and wife, boyfriend, girl, whatever. There comes a point in every relationship where something's going to happen, where either the person's going to run to you or run from you. The research and stuff, I've got a chance to speak to a lot of people who've gone through what I've gone through, the childhood sexual abuse and dealing with it as adult. A lot of marriages broke up once the person dealt with it. Like a lot of people couldn't have handled me having a nervous breakdown and what I was going through. My wife ran to me, even though she was scared, she didn't know what was going on. And she's had her challenges where I've run to her. So when two people run together—and that's what I mean by why I love construction—when a team runs to help each other versus trying to blame each other, that's what makes a good construction project, that's what makes great relationships, and that's what makes great friendships, is when people hold each other accountable, truthful with each other, but we don't abandon each other. And to me, that's my point of view.
Eddie: You've shared recently a good number of pictures with your parents. And there was one that I saw, it was your father, I believe, and Nelson Mandela.
David Moody: Right. Well actually what it was, it was, my dad was the Vice Provost at the University of Michigan. And then he became the Director of the South African Initiative for the University of Michigan. So actually what it was— When Nelson Mandela was released from prison and things were changing, my dad went down there to give him an honorary degree and meet with him, and he worked with him to help with their education system back and forth in the University of Michigan. Well, what happened, there was a video I found— Both of my parents recently passed within the last year and they passed 67 days apart, and both were unexpected. So it kind of took us for a loop for sure. But I found the disk that had the video. Well, when my parents first went and met with Mandela, and what it was, my mother was giving him gifts, and she gave him my construction company hat and said, “This is my son's construction company.” And he put my hat on and I have that picture and video, but I'm probably one of the few people that Nelson Mandela wore his company's logo on his head on a hat. So my mother was always a big cheerleader of mine and that's probably one of the coolest things I ever had, and some of that for the first time in that video. I've always had the picture, but it was great to finally see the video of that process.
Eddie: Yeah, that was just cool. And I mean, it strikes me that your parents were pretty amazing people in their own right.
Tyler: One of the things that I've been hearing kind of as a common thread throughout your story, is that you attribute a lot of your success and a lot of what you've achieved to your relationships and the people around you. Right now, I'm seeing a trend in the industry where we're relying a lot on technology to fix these problems. I'm just kinda curious if you've seen a lot of the same things, like everybody's thinking that technology is the answer, but I'm hearing with your experience, that is not the answer.
David Moody: I'm concerned about us thinking technology is going to fix everything. Technology is great for program management and sending information, but I'm kind of old school. So when I give this answer, you're talking to a guy who's 64, who's kind of come through a journey. You got to remember when I was coming along, we actually had to draw every day on the actual full size drawing. Our BIM was a light table where we put a drawing on top of a light table, then another drawing on top of it, and that's how we found conflicts. What concerns me today from a design point of view, I've gone by architectural offices and I never see that architect or the team actually have a full-size set of drawings. They do everything on a computer screen, and they trust the computer to check and know everything. And the engineer’s sending their information, and there's something to be said about the old-fashioned way of turning page-by-page drawing and actually looking at it and marking it up. You know, you can trust the computer to a point, but there's a point—to me, construction technology can help to a point, but it will always be craftspeople that get to make it happen. Okay? I mean, I'm sure you'll find a robot that might be able to do some masonry right here and there, but no robot's going to build the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. No robot's going to build the Cyclorama. I mean, I'd love to see robots hanging steel. I’d love to see a robot, you know, being a crane operator, you know, roughing and plumbing. So I mean, I'm sure on a residential end it might be able to do some of that. But to me, what I love about construction is it’s always going to be a people business. Technology helps to a point, but there's nothing better than rolling your sleeves up with other people and scrubbing those drawings together. And those are the kinds of things that we have to do.
Eddie: That's knowing your project, right? That’s taking some pride in your work.
David Moody: Yeah. So that’s what's going on.
Tyler: I love that. I mean, one of the things that we continue to go back to in the show is we look back at history at some of the other projects that are impressive. And one of them recently that came up was the Empire State Building and how they were able to build it so quickly.
David Moody: Yeah that was impressive.
Tyler: Golly. Like I think a lot of us kind of go back to that as, you know, just kind of a peak in engineering. I think of us trying to accomplish the same project today. We'd probably end up five years beyond what they actually were able to do it in. We may not have as many deaths, but you know—
David Moody: That was during the Great Depression. People needed work. There was no OSHA, there were no, you know, certain work laws that we have today. So it was a totally different environment. We need the safety that we have today. And it's just one of those things that is a unique feat. One of the things I always remember about Bechtel was that they helped build the Hoover Dam. That was one of their first big projects. It was them and three other contractors. And I always think back about whenever I go to Las Vegas, I always go to Hoover Dam just to admire how those people built that. And unfortunately, there were a lot of deaths there, too. But I look at that and it's just amazing. I think we can build just as fast and much safer, but in today's world, it's going to cost more, because it's just a different environment. And again, the Empire State Building, if I'm not mistaken, was during the Great Depression or when people really needed work. And it was a big difference. Like going to Europe and seeing some of these buildings that are a thousand, two thousand years old. I mean, those actually amaze me more than anything, ‘cause I know there was no electricity, there were no cranes other than however they rigged it up. I just find those things impressive. But I also find the ones where it took a hundred or two hundred years to build, and I always laugh, I said, no contractor today ever wants to become behind another contractor without criticizing what they've done. So I wish I could kind of hear the stories, how that all transpired. So that's where we are.
Tyler: Well, I think this is a great place to ask you our megaphone question, which is our favorite question of all. So if we gave you a megaphone that the whole industry could hear for only 60 seconds, what would you tell them?
David Moody: This is an awesome, awesome profession, but you've got to take it serious. You got to take safety serious. And always just be honest, if you make a mistake, if there's an error. Work as a team. It's not that hard, you know, we can solve things so much easier. And here's the other thing I think about technology: We've gotten to a point that texting and emails have replaced verbal communications. And we can solve so many things on a project if we just pick the phone up and talk. I get guilty of that myself sometimes and I go, “Hey man, pick the phone up.” I mean, we've got to stop being afraid of verbally communicating. And really, enjoy construction, but also enjoy life. I mean, it's a short ride. I mean, I look back now, I can't believe how much time has gone by already. And I'm like, man, you know, if I'm lucky I got 20 plus years left and I want to use it wisely. I tell anybody who's young, make your mistakes early in life. You know, try this, try that, you know, and pick yourself back up. I'll close with this, and I know it firsthand from what happened to me in ‘92 when I had a complete breakdown: We are all much stronger than we realize. We will all be knocked to our knees one time or more in our life, but we will always get up. Don't ever forget that. You're going to get up and you're going to get through it. And thank you so much for having me on your show.
Tyler: Hey guys, thanks for joining us today. I wanted to take a second and point you at a couple of things before you go. Number one, make sure that you go check out our website. It is www.brospodcast.com. We're constantly posting new blog updates on there, thoughts of things that we're seeing in the industry. Also, make sure while you're there, go check us out on social media. We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. We're constantly asking questions there, trying to get people involved and engaged and learn more about what's happening in the industry so we can keep bringing stuff to you that’s relevant and also share it with somebody. If there's something in here that you thought was valuable, forward it over to your friend, let them know about the show. Again, that's going to help us out a lot. And finally, please leave a review. If you found this interesting or helpful at all, you could help us out in a big way by just hitting a review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. So thank you so much for joining us this week. Have a good one.