Jacksonville Sports Day

Versatile Rod Cole Continues to Adapt in Fight Against COVID-19

By Eleanor Stubley

As a four-year starter on the University of Georgia men’s basketball team from 1988-91, Rod Cole was known as a versatile fighter on the court. Sliding back and forth from guard to forward, Cole was the go-to player when positions needed to be filled.

His ability to make decisions in high-pressure situations helped lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history. Now the owner of Above All—a cleaning and restoration company—Cole is using his and his business’ versatility to help fight a much bigger adversary—the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Above All specializes in indoor air quality, a component essential to combating the virus. Cole says joining in the fight against COVID-19 was “right up their alley.” Even so, the company has experienced many changes due to the virus.

The company has had to turn its attention to sanitation – Above All uses the disinfectant Noroxycdiff – rather than only remediation. To do so effectively, Cole brings in individuals to train his staff.

“I want my guys knowledgeable about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” Cole said. “Knowing the right protocols and ways to do these things are in the best interest of everyone.”

For Cole and his team, some of the biggest adjustments are simply in the day-to-day routine in treating facilities. Cole describes his and his team’s new uniform as the type of thing one would see on TV. Along with their respirators, Above All workers wear full Tyvex suits with shoe coverings and sealed hoods, and their hands are double-gloved and tied at the wrists.

“It’s not normal for people to put on PPE (personal protective equipment) and suits like that,” Cole said. “For one, that stuff is hot. Then, by nature, we want to jump out of the truck and shake each other’s hands; you can’t do that now. The stuff that used to be normal can’t be right now, so I think that is probably the biggest shift my guys and I have had to make.”

Cole likens operating Above All to sports, how athletes adjust to changes on the field much like he did on the Georgia basketball court.

“Athletes have that ability to not only view the physical but to think,” Cole said. “They process data very quickly, because things come at them even quicker. They’re forced to adjust to those [changes] and move. That process isn’t just a physical one; it’s a thought process, too. Business is the same way. There are a lot of obstacles to face, but there are ways to adjust.”

While the pandemic has required Cole and his company to make major changes, this is not the first time Above All has been faced with business-altering obstacles.

Cole began his business nearly two decades ago as a cleaning service primarily for large hotels. However, the aftermath of 9/11 included a near standstill in travel which forced hotels to cut back on things such as cleaning services.

From there, Cole’s business shifted its attention to water damage. He acknowledges the importance of this business decision.

“Over the years, I’ve learned to diversify,” Cole said. “You learn a lot from the mistakes you make [and] a lot through trial and error. Sports taught me how to deal with adversity. At that point, unfortunately, a lot of people lost their way of living [and] threw their hands up, right away, at the stress of it. I try to look at the positive, and I try not to get down. I tell myself that if 90 percent of the world is looking at it [negatively], I need to look at it [positively].”

Many of Above All’s business clienteles include colleges and commercial businesses. When colleges shifted to online instruction and shelter-in-place orders went into effect, work for Above All slowed down a bit.

However, Cole remains optimistic things will begin to pick up as businesses begin to reopen. Above All has picked up new business in retirement homes and more, and Cole is excited for his company’s plans in the future.

Cole encourages the student-athletes – seniors in particular – whose seasons were cut short due to the pandemic to harness the strength they have to refocus on the positives.

“It’s really difficult, and no individual is the same or has the same thought process,” Cole said. “We’re all faced with hardships in sports, work [and] life in general. Something I’ve always appreciated about athletes and military people is they have been pushed to the limit. Athletes have coaches who push them to their physical limits. When you get older, you just have to realize you can refocus all that strength you had as an athlete – the ability to push yourself, physically, to the limit – harness that mentally and know you can move forward if you try.”

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