From teacher to home builder – it's not an obvious career path. But for James Green, his professional resume grew out of what he knew and a continuous desire to stay engaged and follow his passion. He's found success in Denison by taking care of the people who take care of him.
Green always had an affinity for building things, but he grew up with a clear idea of what he wanted to be: a teacher.
His family lived in a working class community, so the only people he met who had attended college were his teachers. "I was not familiar with any other professions," he says. "I was never introduced to an accountant, I was never introduced to an optometrist. … I didn't know that there was anything else that you could go study to be."
So when he went to college, he learned how to be a teacher. He graduated from Louisiana State University with a master's in mathematics and became a professor at the University of Tennessee.
And he liked teaching. Only nine hours in the classroom each week gave him time to develop side projects: He bought some commercial real estate and a couple of farms, and he opened a picture-framing business. He had enough diversity in his daily life to keep himself engaged and interested, but after seven years of teaching, as he had decided not to pursue a Ph.D, he wasn't eligible for tenure. So in 1976, James moved back home to Texas, and he took his picture-framing business with him.
Confined to a single project — a retail store that required his full attention — James felt restricted. A time of personal and family transition got him thinking about other ideas.
"I had built one house in Tennessee while I lived there, and I really did enjoy doing it," he says. "And I thought, 'That's what I want to do.'"
In 1982 he bought a plot of land and built Denison's first townhouse addition. He named it Village Green Townhomes, and that became the name for his business, too: Village Green Custom Homes. James had found his passion.
"I love building because you have the freedom of movement," he says.
When he left the framing shop and began his homebuilding business, he regained the sense of flexibility that he had felt with teaching back in Tennessee. And it felt right to be working in the town where he grew up. Of Denison, he says: "Everybody knows you — that's the bad thing. Everybody knows you — that's the good thing."
Running a business in a small town means that reputation is everything. If you stiff someone, people will hear about it. And that suits James just fine. He takes pride in getting the job done well and paying his subcontractors on time. "A lot of people like to delay paying [their subcontractors] for some reason," he says. "I like to pay as soon as the job's done."
This dedication to treating the people he works with respectfully started when he was young and helping his father to install a chain-link fence. His dad said: "Son, watch this. While we're out here digging the holes, they'll be standing over us, watching. When we're getting ready to put the posts in the ground and pouring concrete, they'll be right behind us, watching. When we're putting the top rail on, they'll be watching. But when we get that wire strung out and ready to tie off, you can't find them anywhere."
His father's words taught him the importance of treating workers with respect, especially when it's time to pay them for their services. James pays his people promptly, even driving out to job sites to deliver checks. And that's how he retains the best people for his business.
For James, it's about trust. He looks for trust in a bank, too. He was Landmark Bank's first customer at their branch in Denison. Wayne Cabaniss, whom James had known for years, was president of the new branch. And James trusted him.
"So I went by there, and I opened up an account," James says. "And I just happened to be jumping the gun. They hadn't opened up any accounts, so I was the first one." The bank had to bring the paperwork in from Oklahoma.
James knew he had made the right decision. He uses Landmark for his business and his personal finances. "I like Landmark Bank because they're here," he says. "I like the personal relationship that I have [with them]. And if I'm craving caffeine, they always have a pot of coffee. They make you very comfortable, and they've never said no to me."
As a business owner, James says it's important that "they know me, and I know them. You feel like it's the person that counts."
A banker back in Tennessee had once told him, "We don't loan to the project; we loan to the individual." James feels that Landmark Bank does just that. Back in the old times, he says, you lent a person money because "you knew what he was made of, you knew what his fiber was." Now, he says, with most banks it seems like it's all about the paperwork. But with Landmark Bank, he feels that old-fashioned foundation of mutual trust. It's what he bases his business on, and that gives him the freedom to live his dream.
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