Overcoming Obstacles

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Brothers Tim (left) and
Ron Lowe, owners of Lowe Contractors, have turned
their shared challenge into a thriving partnership

Ask anyone who has ever had brothers Tim or Ron Lowe, owners of Lowe Contractors, work on their home and its likely theyll praise the Lowes work and recommend them to their friends. In fact, the majority of the work the two have contracted over the past 12 years has been through word of mouth.

That alone may not be very notable, but what is unusual is that Tim, 43, and Ron, 45, are both completely deafa fact they agree set them on a course to start their own business.

In two years of training school I learned carpentry, plumbing, electrical and brick masonry, Tim says by signing to his wife, Julie, who helps with the business. I got a job working for two years in construction but never got promoted; I was considered just a laborer.

Tim says he was given only the simplest tasks, even though hed proven his skill and ability. I wanted to become a foreman, but I think that because I was deaf I would have never been promoted. I dont know how the bosses that Ive had in the past ever viewed me. I had the skills, so maybe my deafness was a barrier that prevented them from promoting me. Thats when Tim left construction and took up house painting, starting his own business in 1982.

Meanwhile, Ron was working on plumbing, drywall and carpentry for a prefab homebuilder, but eventually the company went under. I worked for several others jobs, he says. I did computer work and forklift work, but I noticed Tims work had increased.

The two joined forces in 1983 and worked together on and off for 9 years. During that time, I also learned carpet, wood flooring, vinyl and ceramic tile installation, Ron says. So I started developing skills in flooring. I would do the flooring on the jobs and Tim would do the painting. But it wasnt until 1992 that the brothers decided to incorporate as Lowe Contractors.

Since then, Tim and Ron have worked for several homeowners in Alpharetta, particularly in Horseshoe Bend and Country Club of the South, and have handled the maintenance at the Renaissance on Peachtree building for seven years. When we first started working at the Renaissance, we would sometimes have a hard time finding each other because it is a 16-story building; we couldnt just pick up our cell phones and call each other, Ron explains. Before we were mostly in small houses so that was never a problem. But now we have pagers with e-mail so we can e-mail back and forth.

Another challenge the brothers have had to take on is meeting with new clients to schedule jobs. The first job I did on my own I had my mother call the manager of an apartment complex to ask about turnkey painting services, Tim says. They said they were interested but they didnt know I was deaf until I showed up. The apartment manager gave me one apartment to see if I could do the job. I guess they were impressed because I ended up doing that for three years.

Because most of Tim and Rons clients are referrals, they already know the men are deaf. We can both read lips, so we dont have any problem communicating, Ron says. But, Tim says, there are still those people that think the deaf are helpless. Last week, there was a woman living in the retirement home where we do work that needed something painted, Tim says. I saw her ask another woman if I was able to drive to go get the paint. I just laughed to myself and said Is she thinking that a deaf person cant drive?

And that brings up another reason Tim says he wanted to start his own business. Well, besides the fact that I can make more money, we are obviously proof that deaf people can run their own businesses.

Tims wife, Julie, handles all of the companys phone calls, and she helps get addresses and locations of new and prospective clients. Tim and Julie have three children. Tim says their youngest, who is 6, learned sign language as her first language. We thought she would never talk because she just signednow we cant keep her quiet, he jokes. Ron is married to a sign language interpreter.

Over the years, Tim and Ron have hired other deaf employees, and theyve hired employees who also know sign language. But weve also hired people who dont know sign language, Tim says. Communication is not really a problem. I can talk and vocalize, but sometimes I may misunderstand what someone says to me.

And when it comes to working together as brothers, both men says its been a pleasure. Wow, its really been good, Ron says. We have disagreements, but never over anything big. We work together so well because our skills complement each other. Im very skilled in flooring. Tim depends on me for that expertise. Tims more the expert in painting, so it really works out great.

Tim agrees. We never have any money issues, he says. Our goal is not to become rich. Were just trying to earn enough to support our families and have simple lives.

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