I have been the Managing Owner of HVJ North Texas, headquartered in Dallas, Texas for the last two years. HVJ North Texas is a franchise of HVJ Associates, a geotechnical and construction materials engineering and testing services consulting company. Becoming a business owner has been a big challenge and opportunity for my team and me, but we have done well with our revenue increasing from $4.2 million to over $6 million since 2016. But this hasn’t been my most meaningful accomplishment during this time. Let me tell you why.
I joined HVJ Associates in 2014 partly because of the impending opportunity for a franchise in 2016 and was told by Herb Johnson, the CEO of HVJ Associates, that a requirement to be a franchisee was to do the Generative Leadership Program (GLP). I didn’t know what it was, and even though others in the company had positive things to say about the program, I had to experience it for myself. So I attended the opening conference for GLP and experienced a new spark of energy and ambition in my body.
I had been looking for this “spark” because, although I was doing well in work and business, I felt like I was missing something. It just wasn’t totally fulfilling. What I found through generative discipline was the question of “what did I care about” and the exploration of how to connect my care to my actions. It also introduced me to team leadership while including this inner aspect of my care. In this exploration, I found my passion, which is to help members of my community to succeed. This discovery has helped me to find deeper meaning in my life and generative leadership has contributed to success in my business.
Let me share my passion with you. I was born in Sri Lanka and in the midst of civil unrest when I graduated from high school in 1983. I wanted to pursue a career, but there were few options due to continued conflict. My uncle was a civil engineer and this inspired me to want to study civil engineering, but due to ongoing unrest, most of the universities were not functioning continuously. I wound up going to India through a special program for displaced Sri Lankans and graduated with my BS in Civil Engineering in 1988. I returned to Sri Lanka but, again, found continued unrest in the country and decided to continue my higher studies in the USA. I was admitted to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I graduated with my Masters in 1992 and decided to stay in the US with a work visa due to the continuing situation in Sri Lanka.
I wound up going to Houston on a Greyhound bus and finally got a job with HVJ Associates (yes, I started with them, later left the company in 2007 and returned in 2014). They didn’t have an opening for an engineer so I began as a tech in their concrete-testing lab. But as I stayed in the company, I advanced to graduate engineer, project engineer, project manager, and department manager. I then opened the new HVJ office in Austin, Texas and got involved in business development, where I developed my business strengths. Later, I returned to HVJ headquarters to do corporate business development. I was advancing in my work but not yet following my passion. In 2003 I became a US citizen and the civil war in Sri Lanka continued until 2009. I started my family in Houston and everything I am sharing with you would not have been possible without them. They have given me the support to live this story.
When my passion for helping my community became clear to me in 2014, I decided to found a charity to advance education back in Sri Lanka. This was another learning edge for me because my prior pattern was to start things but not follow through, to quit when the problems came up. Generative learning showed me that we hit plateaus and have breakdowns and that these are part of the journey, so I have learned to stay the course. The charity is called Care for Education and we place laptop computers in primary schools in Sri Lanka. In three years, we have placed 225 computers in twenty-six schools. The first year of the charity, we collected $7000, but in the last year we collected $42,000 and are expanding our network.
We purposely selected one of the lowest rated school districts in Sri Lanka where the poverty rate is 28% and many students lost their immediate family members in the civil war. We believe that learning in technology will create opportunities in the future for these children.
After a couple of years, we found that in some of the school the computers were locked away because they didn’t know how to teach the kids. So we now provide computer consultants who conduct weekend classes at four schools for the kids with computers. After the first three months, we found that kids who, at first, didn’t know how to use a mouse were becoming Internet savvy, learning Word, Excel, typing and taking coding instruction. We want to prepare these kids for the future that is coming with workforce changes, the Internet of things, virtual reality, and so on.
I spent three days at these schools on a visit in 2017, and we are preparing future programs to provide more computers, network access, and resource staff. Our objective is to eventually see more college students taking IT courses, which is now at only a ten percent rate.
My personal development in this journey of generative learning, new action, and the challenge of business ownership is one where I have seen myself go from a person who would have left in the face of big challenges to staying steady on course. I have become calmer. I stay focused on what I care about. I am taking better care of my business and my passion than ever before.
I now see myself as a different person. The Generative Leadership Program (GLP) enabled this learning for me with the support of my personal coach in the program and with the power of recurrent practice. I actually didn’t study very well academically, but I practiced in my life and work and have produced new skills that support my passion and responsibilities today.
If you really want to change your life then I recommend the GLP program to those who are ready to make big changes for their future through in-depth practice and developing new skills. I continue to practice and look forward to my future unfolding through a lifetime of practice.