Whirr … Whirr … Whirr click … click … click …. the sound of a near-dead battery laboring in vain to start a vehicle.
My future in-laws and I turned around from our Saturday morning garage sale to see who the unlucky victim was. Out of a big, green SUV stumbled my good friend and neighbor at the time, Bryan Mills (we just call him Mills). What happened next was a shock.
You would expect a person in his situation to react accordingly. A battery of expletives coupled with a few door slams and tire kicks, but this wasn’t the case. Where there should have been anger and distress, there was only laughter — big, genuine, red-in-the-face laughter. Hysterical, bowed over with his hands on his knees laughter and a big smile on his face. To this day, my in-laws still enjoy telling the story of the day they met Mills.
I first met him about six years ago while he was waiting tables at a local restaurant in Tyler. We used to play football with the same group of guys, and I quickly learned that Mills is a unique individual. He never met a stranger and always has a smile on his face. If you are reading this and you’ve met him, you know exactly what I mean. He seems to be constantly teetering right on the line that separates those who are happy with those who are goofy (always coming to rest on the happy side, of course). There aren’t many people out there who know Mills and don’t have a story to tell about the day they met him.
Mills grew up a happy child, although circumstances would have made it seem otherwise.
From an early age, Mills learned how to make the best of bad situations. Growing up, his father was gone a majority of the time on long hauls as a truck driver, and his mother raised both he and his brother, seemingly alone.
Although the situation was tough on everyone, Mills adopted his mother’s positive outlook on life. She instilled in him an appreciation for what they did have and taught him not to concern himself with the things they didn’t. This attitude is what has carried Mills through some life experiences that many of us could not imagine.
After high school, Mills joined the Army and was sent overseas to Afghanistan. Recently, Mills recounted, “There wasn’t much over there to smile about, so I decided I would be the one everyone could count on to have a smile on my face. We forget sometimes what we do have here in the United States), and when you’re over there, all you care about is getting home safe … Things like grass and a driveway and a door to your home become luxuries that you miss and appreciate a lot more. I wasn’t going to let the situation beat me though.”
After returning from his tour, like many of his fellow brothers in arms, Mills suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, although not for long.
“I just decided one day that God brought me through all of my struggles to this place and that I was going to look at the world in a positive way and have a positive impact on people’s lives no matter what. From then on, I haven’t looked back.” Mills told me. This decision turned out to be a pivotal point in Mills’ life and the key driver to his ultimate success in the future.
Mills found himself shortly after working in the East and South Texas oilfields as a torque turn specialist. After a few years of learning his trade, and forming hundreds of relationships along the way, Mills decided that he could provide the same, if not better, service to the rigs he worked on, while also providing a better work environment and benefit structure for his employees. And he decided all this could be done by charging much less than the competition. Many of you reading this might be thinking, “That doesn’t add up!”
But in Mills’ words, “I’d rather make one dollar off of helping a million people than make a million dollars off of helping just one.” And that’s exactly how he did it.
Mills’ positive attitude and friendly, outspoken nature is unforgettable to say the least, especially in a place as notoriously serious as the oilfield. When people found out that Mills was in business for himself, they couldn’t wait to get him out there to work. Imagine their surprise when he did show up, but with a big grill and steaks for the whole crew to boot! His philosophy is that if these men were willing to make sure he and his crews don’t go hungry in their new business venture, then he would make sure they didn’t go hungry either.
Today, Mills’ company, Tenacious Torque, has numerous crews operating in much of South and East Texas, and is growing at breakneck speed. He attributes all his success to his positive outlook, friendly nature, and his faith in God’s plan. He truly believes that every morning he gets to open his eyes is a gift, and that he should be using that gift to help others, which is why he also donates 2 percent of his total sales to the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
He is also committed to his employees. He compensates them considerably more than in comparable positions with other companies and provides a work environment that fosters loyalty and commitment as a team. Recently, one of his employees suffered an unfortunate loss in his family. He was excused from work, had no trouble finding someone to step up and pick up his slack, and his travel expenses were covered by the company.
Mills’ internal philosophy within his company is just the same as his philosophy outward in his everyday life. He’s there to help people. He does make it clear that there are two requirements to be a part of the Tenacious Team. Always, always, always be on time, and always have a positive attitude in every situation. There is always something to be learned.
In a recent conversation with Mills, I asked him to share with me a situation where his positive outlook on life has come back to bless him or to reward him in any way. His response was, “Well, you know, you just be there for your friends, family, and anyone you meet, and you never know what good can come of always being there and having a positive impact on their lives. You just never know … they might call you up out of the blue one day and ask if it’s all right to write an article about you in the newspaper.”
Irony appreciated Mills!
Lee Trammell is director of internal affairs for Feliciano Financial Group in Tyler