Harold J. Brooks is living the good life - splitting his time between New Hampshire and Florida, and between business and pleasure. After a long and successful career - he is owner and commercial developer of Brooks Properties in Salem - he now, at 70, has time to indulge his interest in restoring and "re-creating" classic cars.But he will tell you that it hasn't been easy to get to where he is. He started out with just $115 and a pickup truck, yet built a plumbing business that was in the top 200 in sales volume in the country. Then he made the move into property development and three decades later is at the helm of one of the largest commercial, industrial and development real estate service providers in the region. Now this self-made man wants to encourage the efforts of others, so his company has created the Self Made in New Hampshire award. It honors the men and women who have carved their own place in the state. The first annual award will be given June 16 at one of his properties in Derry, the Brookstone Event Center. "It is all about someone who has truly made something out of nothing," Brooks says. Why is it important to recognize self-made people? It's important because there are so many people out there who have accomplished so much with so few resources. There are numerous untold stories about people in N.H., and they are all incredibly inspiring.How do you define "self-made"? It comes from wanting more in life, for your work and for your family. At my review after a year at my first job in plumbing, I was offered a lot less money than I thought I deserved. I gave my notice and started my own plumbing business out of my house with just $115 and a pickup truck. Had I not made the decision to want more and knowing I could do more, Brooks Plumbing and then Brooks Properties would never have come to be.How did you overcome obstacles? I grew up very poor, and I had wanted to drop out of high school to help my mother pay the bills, but she forced me to finish school. I learned very early that I would have to work hard to not only make it in life, but just to get by.What is your business philosophy? Be honest. Do your job - whatever it may be - and do it well, but don't be taken advantage of.What is success? Being happy. Success is being able to have a career you can take pride in, a family to share with and the ability to give back to those in need.How should someone handle failure? There are plenty of lessons I've learned in life because I failed at something. Don't dwell on it. Remind yourself of the lesson you've learned, stick to it and move on.What advice would you give to someone just starting out? Focus! And always surround yourself with older, wiser people. You need to constantly be learning and taking in as much as you can.Who is your hero? My late wife, Mary Jo Brooks, was and still is my hero. She really wanted to make a difference and we started the MJ Brooks Family Foundation in her memory. The foundation reaches out to those in need and provides resources and information that allows them to fight their illness.
This article appears in the May 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine