Hometown icon, Pat Godwin Sr., celebrated 55 years in business recently and he did it by running his business with his motto: “I am not smart enough to know that I can’t do it.”
In fact, a sign proclaiming just that hangs on a wall in his office.
He said what he tackles, he achieves.
“I’ve been able to accomplish anything I set out to do,” he said. “I have never been scared to take a risk, not in any way shape or form.”
Tired of being a Pepsi truck driver and knowing he could do better, Godwin came to his home in Dunn on April 1, 1966, and told his wife, Judy, that he had delivered his last case of soft drinks. With two toddlers in diapers at the time, she thought it was an April Fool’s joke.
“It may be April Fool’s Day, but I will not be going back,” he said.
When Judy Godwin, who is now deceased, left during the day to work as a grocery store cashier, Pat Godwin would unplug the stove and plug in his welder that was in a detached garage.
That was the footprint of what would become Godwin Manufacturing. He would eventually purchase dump body plants in three other states as well as a snowplow line creating The Godwin Group, which is the nation’s largest family-owned truck equipment manufacturer. His tenacity earned Dunn the title of being the “Dump Body Capital of the World.”
Having jumped out of his school window in the sixth grade to go back to his family’s farm, Godwin said the most surprising thing that has happened in the last 55 years is, “Where we are... our success.”
He attributes his success to God and his God-given gift to make the right decision at the right time.
“I ain’t scared of nothing when it comes to business and business decisions. I’ve never been scared to commit myself,” he said.
Godwin also credits his staff with helping him achieve success. He says he has surrounded himself with smart people who also make good decisions.
And there have been community members who believed in him and supported his success such as the late Hoover Adams, Daily Record founder, and Charlie Carpenter, a retired banker.
His children, Pam Faircloth, Pat Godwin Jr. and Phyllis Godwin, grew up in the business. Faircloth and her husband would go on to start their own successful dump body business also in Dunn, PJ’s Dump Bodies, and the two younger children would become president and vice president of Pat Godwin Sr.’s business, respectively. There are two grandchildren involved in the business, as well, and soon a great-grandchild will join the operation representing the fourth generation.
Godwin said his businesses all over the United States uses technology created within the company to improve assembly line work, making his dump bodies the most competitive price-wise as well as dependable.
“Being a good leader is about doing things your own way, but making sure it is the right way,” Godwin said.
“Pat has never been interested in golf, hunting, fishing or anything else like that,” said his national sales manager, Kristie Stockman. “He is a truck equipment manufacturer and a very good one. That was enough to keep him busy. He can often be seen riding around Godwin Manufacturing even when it is shut down just checking things out.”
Many things have changed since April of 1966. When he started out in the backyard, all he needed was his welder. Even as the business grew, the press brakes he used were much simpler than the million dollar pieces of equipment he now purchases.
Godwin said the complexity of the machinery used today from when he started has been the biggest change he has seen throughout his career.
“At times he has had to decide whether to spend a few million dollars on one piece of machinery for one facility. He knows the investments will pay off, as they always have, but it does take considerable thought,” Stockman said. “The decision to continually reinvest large sums back into the company each year in order to improve the products and efficiency is the right decision to make sure the company continues moving in the right direction.”
Godwin said he puts his money where his mouth is.
“In order for me to have grown at the pace I have grown I have spent my own money to avoid paying interest,” he said. “If you spend your own money, you won’t go broke.”
He said back in the day he signed many a note, which he repaid. But, “In the in last 20 years I’ve spent my own money.”
In fact, he has no long or short-term debt.
Godwin said he feels the company will stay in Godwin hands for years to come.
Are acquisitions over, he’s asked.
“If the right thing comes along, no. We’ve always been open to future expansions.”
Since Godwin made his fateful declaration 55 years ago, he has never looked back. He said there was no need, he had already been there, and he just needed to keep moving forward. He said he knew he was on the right path.
Lisa Farmer is personal assistant to Pat Godwin Sr. of The Godwin Group and is the former managing editor of The Daily Record.