Chris & Terri Brady – LIFE Founders Part I

Posted by Orrin Woodward on February 24, 2012

When I met Chris Brady in the AC Spark Plug lobby, we were 18 years old – kids fresh out of high school. Both of us had dreams, ambitions, and a willingness to work. After a brief introductory meeting with our student advisor, all of the students was sent off to various facilities for their specific assignments. Who could have predicted then what God had in store for two young men in that meeting? Even so, Chris and I met for the first time on that summer day in 1985, eventually leading to a business partnership that would launch a leadership revolution to change the world.

My second recollection of Chris was in our first semester of GMI-EMI, when I sat in front of him in our history class. I heard a young man behind me speaking boldly about the steps he had planned to climb the corporate ladder and achieve his goals and dreams. My first thought was: What 18-year-old already has his life plans laid out in that detail? Curiosity got the best of me, however, so I turned around to see who was speaking. Looking at Chris, I knew I had seen him before, but couldn’t recall where. One things was for sure. I knew then that Chris, at 18 years of age, was focused on moving ahead in life and leadership.

In truth, Chris Brady has been a dreamer and doer for as long as I have known him. For example, when I was working a full 12 week assignment in Wichita Falls, Texas, I lived in an apartment provided by the AC Rochester plant (one of the reasons I agreed to go to Texas, since I was dead broke.) :) Chris was assigned to Wichita Falls for a six-week term to help launch a new product. Since the plant was already paying for an apartment, Chris crashed with me and several other students during his time in Texas. It was my six weeks with him in Texas that solidified by belief that Chris was different from the rest of us students. Specifically, when comparing his purpose and vision to the rest of ours. Simply put, I had never met anyone so young who was as driven to break free from mediocrity as Chris Brady. His determination and confidence was scary for a low self-esteem person like I was at the time.

However, with that said, his boldness and direction intrigued me as much as it intimidated me. Why did this guy believe so strongly in his purpose? How did he achieve this magical elixir so young? Whatever it was, Chris’s drive led to massive achievements throughout college. In fact, he finished second in his 1990 graduating class at GMI-EMI (not too shabby considering it is a school filled with brains.) :) More impressively, after graduation, he qualified for the coveted GM scholarship program. GM selects only a few of the elite graduates for an all-expenses-paid masters program. Chris chose the prestigious Carnegie-Mellon Institute and graduated with a masters in manufacturing systems. Little did Chris know, however, that beyond his degree, he would gain something much more valuable – the love of his life, Terri (Estes) Brady, whom he met at Carnegie-Mellon.

Chris and I went our separate ways after graduating from GMI-EMI. Basically, it wasn’t until after I began seeking another career path to success that we were reacquainted. In truth, I was not planning on contacting Chris for my community – not because I didn’t think he could do it, but rather, knowing his drive and mission, I believed he already had his path to his dreams. Providence, however, intervened. Thankfully, when I began community building with another engineer, he strongly recommended we share our plan with Chris. He said he could line up lunch together for the three of us.

When Chris and I met for lunch, it didn’t take five minutes for Chris to begin dream building me on the possibilities of getting out of corporate America. Hold on a minute, I thought! I am supposed to be dream building Chris on our options, and instead, he has me imagining flying around the Caribbean, talking about owning a local island business, and living the high life. What gives? I was so discombobulated, that I never showed him anything. Only later did I realize that Chris had recently returned from his honeymoon, and no longer wanted to sell the best 50 years of his life working for someone else. Corporate America’s rose-colored glasses, in other words, had been cracked for both of us. Eventually, Chris and I had another lunch appointment that formed the foundation for a life-long business partnership.

Even though our businesses didn’t grow that fast, our friendship and trust for one another did. To be sure, we worked hard, but we never seemed to get the growth we expected from working so hard. Indeed, after nearly five years of tireless effort, both of us combined could barely gather 200 people within our community. Those were less than overwhelming results, to say the least – especially compared to our business today, since we recently had a brand new couple accomplish more in fifteen months than the Brady’s and Woodward’s did in five years! This couple went from zero to over 300 people in their personal community, achieving the RT level in just fifteen months. In Chris’s and my defense, however, it was a different era. We had to deal with overpriced products, an under-rewarding compensation plan, and a meddling myopic management team.

Our businesses may not have grown, but we did, both personally and professionally. We both came to faith in Jesus Christ during our five-year desert experience. It is immeasurable the impact this has had on both of us in all areas of life. Actually, looking back, I am thankful our businesses didn’t grow during this time, because if they had, we might have been inclined to take the credit. Instead, we struggled for years, building and replacing groups repeatedly. The lessons we learned about ourselves and others, realizing not all people follow through on what they say, were essential for our future success. In reality, many people start in community building with selfish motives, but over time, if they stick around, we see them change and grow into servant leaders. Chris and Terri chose the change and growth route, becoming top servant leaders.

Stay tuned for Part II. Sincerely, Orrin Woodward