Your Neighbor: Do unto others: Richard Budd believes in treating people well, working toward goals

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 28, 2019

Richard Budd seems to greet the world with a smile as his constant companion. Often that smile gives way to a deep roll of laughter. Perhaps it his outlook and the way he has lived his life that allows for his sunny demeanor.    

Born in 1941, Richard was raised on a farm in New Jersey. He was the seventh of eight children. “I was blessed with a great father and great mother,” says Richard. “Those were the days of one-car families. The days where all three boys slept in the same bedroom and we all shared a bathroom. We had a four-acre garden and grew everything we ate. We worked for everything we had. That’s just the way it was.” At the age of five, Richard followed the family tradition of selling snow cones. He would buy a block of ice from the store for 25 cents and place it in his red Radio Flyer wagon. From there, the race against time would be on. He had to sell the ice before his profit could melt away. “My parents were teaching me business. They were teaching me time management because the ice would melt in the hot summer sun.” In addition to working on the farm, the Budd boys would all mow neighbors’ lawns and run newspaper routes.

In 1956, Richard’s older brother, Dave, was recruited to play basketball at Wake Forest. “We didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of the Budd movement to North Carolina.” Jack, Richard’s other brother, moved here to attend college. Dave also went on to play professional basketball for a couple of years.

In the meantime, Richard had gone to college up north but got kicked out for failing grades. In 1961, things changed after Richard married Sylvia, a girl who had first caught his eye in high school. He decided to buckle down and start studying at High Point University. “I went to school at High Point University and she worked. I also worked on the weekends.”

Richard also found a mentor in physician Dr. Joe May. Dr. May told Richard that midnight oil and gasoline do not mix. “In other words, stop going out at night and go to school.” Richard took the advice to heart and made the dean’s List.

In 1962, Sylvia and Richard had their first boy, whom they named Joe. The following year, Richard took a job as a janitor. While mopping floors and cleaning toilets for $1.25 an hour, Richard had a lot of thinking time. The company he was working for was failing. With the help and mentoring of Dr. May, Richard decided to buy the janitorial company. Richard and Sylvia’s family began to grow as well. The couple added two more boys to their clan, John and Ted. All boys were delivered by Dr. May.

Over time, the company continued to expand as Richard’s family had. “If a customer wanted me to provide supplies, I would. If they asked if I could clean their buildings, I said yes. A couple of years after starting the janitorial business, if someone wanted to know if I would mow his lawn. I said yes.” Richard also understood the importance of valuable employees, too, and made sure to incorporate a human resources department, a place where employees could talk openly with their colleagues. Perhaps with that kind of work ethic and customer-oriented philosophy behind it, it is not too surprising the business grew exponentially into Budd Seed, which they have since sold.

In 1974, Sylvia and Richard were living in Winston, but bought a farm in Advance. Although they did not live there immediately, it wasn’t too long before Richard was able to convince his city girl to settle down in the countryside. The couple believed the pastoral setting would provide a natural setting in which they could teach the same great work ethic and family values that Richard grew up to appreciate.

While Richard and Sylvia’s boys have been involved in the family businesses, as has Richard’s brother and nephew, Richard says he never pushed his sons or any other family members in one direction or the other. “Sylvia is my special partner of almost 58 years, and we believe that you must allow your children the opportunity to grow. They have to find what they love.  Over this long period of time, your children grow and mature, but we have allowed them to do that.”

Today, Joe is CEO of the Budd Group. John is still working for the military and also runs a yoga studio next to Wake. Ted is serving in Congress for North Carolina’s 13th district. Richard is chairman emeritus and keeps an office on Stratford Road. His nephew, Ken, ran Budd Seed. Now Ken does a lot of volunteer work with schools and sports leagues.

Although Richard and Sylvia’s children are all grown, they are still a part of each other’s lives. “We all get along and have our Christmases on the farm in the car museum.” The car museum to which Richard is referring is something he started 20 years ago. The first antique he acquired was a 1941 red Ford firetruck. Then, he found a 1941 John Deere tractor that was identical to the tractor the Budd family had used for the garden on the farm. Naturally, it made sense to add a 1960 Chevrolet. The Chevy was a replica of Richard’s first car that needed a little refurbishing, which Richard did. After all, who can forget their first car, with all the possibilities that having one’s own wheels can bestow?

While this car-collecting hobby has included many sentimental attachments, Richard has not kept it to himself and his family.  His hobby has served the community as well. “My last purchase was a 1924 Cadillac. I bought that because I am a trustee of High Point University. High Point was founded in 1924.” Just last year, the Budds helped with 12 events at the car museum during the months of November and December. “We also love to open it up to friends and family.”

Sylvia and Richard believe that is the secret to their marriage — working together to the best of their ability and sharing their life and the rewards of a job well done with their family, friends and community. It may not just be the secret to marriage, but to life as well. Our neighbors are a shining example of what can be accomplished if bigger goals are kept in mind — particularly when it comes to treating people well, whether we are talking about employees, family, friends, children, or neighbors.