The Sobering Life of Dallas Cooley

Georgia Powder Coating owner rebounds from destructive lifestyle. He stopped drinking, and started focusing on the business. Today, he is an equity partner in his business.

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Dallas Cooley can tell you about the time he mowed his friend’s front lawn in his underwear. A few beers will do that to some people. You can laugh all you want, but looking back, Cooley doesn’t think it is so hilarious now.

Neither are the number of cars he’s crashed. How he walked away and lives to tell about it is amazing. Or the money he blew away thanks to his alcohol addiction. Or the marriage he almost lost.

The vice president of sales and part owner of Georgia Powder Coating in Gainesville, Georgia, will stand in front of you and answer anything you want to know about what he calls the “highlight reel of my late 20s.” It wasn’t pretty—actually horrific at times—but it’s who he was.

“A dependency on alcohol,” he says now of his youthful indiscretions.

Today, Cooley is an upstanding guy who has been married 11 years to his wife, Leslie, and has an energetic 1-year-old son named Carson. In July, we featured him as one of our Products Finishing 40 Under 40 industry leaders. In this month’s issue, we feature his company as one of the Products Finishing Top Shops in our annual liquid and powder coating benchmarking survey.

To know Cooley today is to know where he was yesterday, and as we said, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Thankfully, he realized his spiral and changed his ways. Key people in his life—his parents, wife and friends—also had a handle on setting him straight, as did finding mentors through Christian-authored books. We are all just glad he did, and we are appreciative that he is willing to talk about who he was before, and who he is today.

Cooley and his father, Counte, and Stanley Phillips started Georgia Powder Coating in the back of a poultry processing warehouse in 1999. Counte is GPC’s president and owner of Electronic Sales Co., a comprehensive security alarm systems dealer. When they started the company, Dallas was one of four employees hanging parts on the conveyor and driving the forklift. Ever worked in Georgia in the summertime? Yes, it’s that hot, especially with ovens running.

Dallas was a typical young man. He worked hard, and he played harder. He hung out with friends at the gym, and was care-free.

Cooley says he had an “intellectual faith” most of his life—he ­­­­­knew God existed, but wasn’t ready to put down that drink and live a cleaner life. He wanted to have fun, and found it in a can.

“When I was at my bottom, I hit my knees and found a saving faith through Jesus Christ, and that worked,” he says. “Addiction may be anything that is in between you and the life you want to live. For some, it's food, alcohol or drugs.”

With the help of family and friends and immersing himself in a local church, Cooley started turning things around. He stopped drinking, and started focusing on the business. Today, he is an equity partner in Georgia Powder Coating. The company went from four employees and no sales to 45 employees and growing, and Cooley is a certified Six Sigma yellow belt.

“I work alongside the best customer service team in the industry,” he says. “And we make every effort to live out and communicate the seven company core values: integrity, servant’s heart, customer focus, happy, dedicated, accountable and enthusiastic.”

But now that Cooley is happy with his life, he is not just sitting back collecting profits. He says continual improvement for his company requires working on himself harder than the company through books and continual learning.

“You never arrive at success, but as Jim Rohn said, you attract it by what you become,” says Cooley, who spent time serving on the board of directors of a ministry for teenage boys with destructive behaviors, and is involved in numerous other charitable activities.

“I am at my best and most enjoy life when delivering meaningful influence,” says Cooley, who is a graduate of the National Institute of Christian Leadership.

That influence includes the website DallasCooley.com that is part personal blog, part public journal on leadership and other interests. He speaks openly and truthfully about his life, warts and all. He tells it straight, and tries to help others become a better person. But he doesn’t shy away from his own past demons.

“I am now appreciative of the hellish times in my life,” he says. “They prevent me from ever wanting an ‘intellectual faith’ again.”  

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