Al Bradham is no stranger to life’s lemons. In fact, the man has done pretty well making lemonade out of those lemons. More important, he says, he has enjoyed the blessing of sharing that lemonade wherever he can.
A Lowcountry native and owner of Carpet Care Services and DisasterCare, a successful disaster care business, Bradham is a much-revered, well-respected member of both this community and his business community.
In conversation, one quickly finds that Bradham’s business is disaster care cleanup, but his personality – indeed, his life’s mission – is about helping people.
That probably never would have happened the way it has if not for a bit of adversity of his own.
“I worked for the Department of Defense for many years,” he said. “In 1992, I was laid off from the Navy Shipyard. In 1994, this business was offered to me and I bought it.”
It was supposed to be a simple, “take-it-easy” kind of business – one truck, a carpet cleaning machine, and enough work to make a decent living for his family, wife Barbara and daughter Brandy – but not necessarily be all time-consuming.
Now, nearly 20 years later, he owns hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment, employs 20 people, and does business literally all over the world.
“I found out quickly I’m not one who likes to take it easy,” he said.
No doubt. The man still puts in 60-70 hours a week, not only in managerial/administrative details – but also out on service calls, not because he has to, but because he loves it.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. “We recently went to North Carolina on a job and someone asked me what I was doing there. I said, ‘This is the part I like.’”
There are many facets of business ownership that appeal to Bradham, but the best part is that owning his own business has allowed him to be in a position to help people at so many levels, he said.
Helping victims of a disaster restore their home – and peace of mind – never ceases to be satisfying and customer service is the number one business priority, he says.
Seeing his employees succeed – and virtually all of them have been with him many years – is another satisfying benefit.
“I owe a lot of my success to the employees I have been able to maintain,” he said. “So it’s wonderful to see them grow and excel.”
Being able to help the community is especially important and satisfying, he says. To that end he has worked with and contributed to many community organizations over the years, including Rotary, the Greater Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce, Children in Crisis, MUSC’s Kid Helping Kids, and the Frances R. Willis SPCA, to name a few.
“I feel like this community has blessed me and I feel some obligation to return those blessings – but it’s also the fun part of the business,” he said. “I don’t ever tell an organization ‘no.’”
His work in the community has not gone unnoticed – indeed he has been honored many times over the years by a variety of organizations, including the Ralph Bloss Award, a national honor conferred by the disaster care industry to an individual who greatly contributes to the industry, and the T. Ashton Phillips award, which is a community service/fundraising honor given by the Charleston Riverdogs baseball organization – in fact the organization has only honored two people with it.
“I am greatly humbled,” he said. “It’s nice to be recognized for doing what I like to do anyway. But there are many, many people who do those things every day who don’t get that recognition who surely deserve it more than I do.”
Ultimately, the most important facet, the one that underpins everything else, is relationship building and friendships, he noted. He can get things done because he has been fortunate enough to get to know so many people, he said. One example was the devastating fire that destroyed the building in which his business was located in 2010. In moments, the place was burned to the ground; thankfully, no one was injured, he noted. But after it happened, the outpouring of love and help from all over overwhelmed him, he said.
“I have made friends literally all over the world that I might not have, had I not gotten into this business,” he said. “After the fire, a woman told me that I was lucky because I would be able to find out who my friends really were before I died. She was right – and I am truly blessed.”