To Les Brown, his childhood and adolescent years were completely normal. But others might think that building log cabins in the woods or trapping and selling muskrat pelts aren’t ordinary pastimes for a kid. At a young age, it was very evident that Les possessed a determined and adventurous spirit, which followed him in his future endeavors.
Les grew up in Syracuse, New York, a place full of trees, lakes, mountains, and, most importantly, snow. Though he has happily made Texas his home for most of his life, Les does miss the colder temperatures that he embraced in his home state.
Growing up, Les and his friends enjoyed winter sports such as skiing, ice fishing, riding snow mobiles, and a lot of hockey. During the warmer months, he wrestled, went hunting and fishing; and played soccer from junior high up until two years ago.
Much like his love of sports and the outdoors, his interest in designing and building began in the woods of upstate New York. “I think my buddy and I built our first log cabin when we were 13 or 14 out in the woods. He would tell his mom he was sleeping over at my house and I would tell my mom I was at his, and we would go out in the woods and just cut down trees. I built a few other cabins around that age,” said Les. He found that he gravitated towards taking apart, building, and fixing nearly anything within reach.
In later years, he and a friend decided to work at a gas station for a summer during high school, where he began fixing and selling cars for profit. Besides filling gas tanks, Les and his four brothers took turns working for their father, a mechanical contractor. After taking a 6th grade mechanical drawings course, his father allowed Les to help him out on projects and create drawings. He was able to work with him on the field installing all the elements that they designed. Through experiences with his father and with friends in the woods, Les knew that engineering was in his future.
He later graduated from Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. He worked with his father for a year, but decided he wanted something different. A childhood friend suggested Les join him in Texas and, with little hesitation, he made the move across the country to a small city called Fort Worth.
“I didn’t know where you went to get a job, so I went to an employment agency and they gave me two interviews, one in Dallas, and the next morning I interviewed in Fort Worth.” He stayed loyal to Fort Worth, secured an engineering job, and met his wife. Les Brown was here to stay.
He went on to build a career at the firm and, after years of hard work, achieved a comfortable position as an administrator. Les flourished as a mechanical engineer and didn’t doubt that it was the perfect fit for him. His favorite part of engineering has always been the creative and problem solving aspects. “There’s so much variety and most of the projects are all different, so you’re creating and designing something new for each one. I love it.”
In the years that followed, he met co-workers and future BHB co-founders Bill Baird and Merlin Hampton. After one particularly difficult year in 1992, Bill and Merlin decided to start their own business while Les was out of town on a business trip. After hearing the news, he wanted in on the venture. Upon his return to Fort Worth, Baird, Hampton, & Brown was born.
When they started out, Les figured that in a worst-case scenario, they would go broke and he would have to find a job working for someone else. “I didn’t know what to expect. There is so much risk involved. You don’t know if you’re going to make money or not.” However, the new company was able to obtain work and grow in a slow, controlled manner. Once they got work, they resolved to do it well and to do it right. They also wanted to stay engineering-oriented: not getting hung up on money but completing projects correctly and on time. With this philosophy in mind, they developed a positive reputation over the years.
In the beginning, many of their first employees were previous co-workers or trusted friends. As they grew, however, they had to develop a hiring process that would allow them to keep a similar culture in the office. “A huge part of the company is the culture. During interviews, I would find out if they were somebody that wanted to learn and get along with other people.”
As of today, the company has grown to over 100 employees. The culture, one of honesty and trust, has remained the same after almost 30 years and Les is proud of the way BHB has developed. Over the years, he has enjoyed watching new employees learn about the business and grow into it.
Life for Les now involves less log cabins and more engineering than ever before. His weeks include partnering with Missionary Tech Team, an organization that provides services to missions and churches around the world. He began volunteering with the team in 1980 after hearing about them at a church conference, and now offers his engineering skills part-time. Above all, he enjoys the challenge and working on projects for people that need help building or can’t afford it on their own.
Besides his continued work at BHB and Missionary Tech Team, Les still enjoys the outdoors. He frequently goes fishing in the lakes of Texas and, during his yearly trips to New York, indulges in the snow sports of his youth. Les and his wife often spend time with their two children and grandchildren that are local to Fort Worth. He enjoys his current engineering pursuits and has no plans to retire. “I enjoy work. There’s not really anything I’m wanting to get to. But someday, sure, I’ll slow down.” Since he is already doing the work he has always dreamed of, Les Brown is not stopping anytime soon.