The 13th hole 

Brett Overman has a knack for turning bad luck into folding cash. A story of determination, success and the power of golf.

As the old saying goes: Into every life, a little rain must fall.

Whatever old sage first said that wasn't really talking about rain, of course. He was talking about Act of God stuff: fires, floods, tidal waves, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and all the other things that keep insurance agents awake at night. The little problems of our lives usually roll right off our backs. It's the big things that tend to jut up like thorns when you pass a hand over all your days.

When those Act of God Days come — and they will come eventually for all of us, make no mistake — that's when a guy like Brett Overman is a good friend to have. If Overman was 65 or 70 years old, it might not be all that shocking that he's now on his fourth highly successful business venture — National Disaster Solutions, a 24/7/365 multimillion-dollar outfit that drops into major disaster zones all over America to help communities and property owners pick up the pieces. When you hear that he's only 36, though ... well, it's enough to make the average Joe feel positively useless.

Since he started NDS in 2004, Overman and his crews have haunted those places in America and the Caribbean where others are trying their damndest to get out: New Orleans after Katrina; Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake that reduced most of the country to rubble; Joplin, Mo., after the May 2011 tornado that turned a mile-wide swath of the town to so much nail- and glass-strewn mulch. Disaster has been very good to Overman, helping him buy his dream home in South Florida and befriend everybody from musician Jimmy Buffett to the perpetually-tanned actor George Hamilton. That said, it's not all business to him. He talks quite a bit about the human side of his work; the need to help.

It's hard to speak in praise of a rich man these days, when so many have it so rough, but Brett Overman isn't your typical rich guy. In an America where too much wealth seems to be built upon the air, Overman got his the old fashioned way: sweat, a bit of luck, the gift of gab and a mean game of golf.   

If there's such a thing as a born businessman, Brett Overman might qualify as a child prodigy. Brett's parents, Pat and Ben Overman, said that when he was a boy, their only son had a head for business that surprised even them. At an age when other kids were spending their allowance on comic books and baseball cards, Brett was asking his mother for books on sales and marketing.  He set up lemonade stands, and later started buying trinkets in bulk and selling those. In elementary school, he got a job picking strawberries in his small hometown of Caraway (35 miles northeast of Jonesboro), negotiated a price with the farmer, then hired other kids as subcontractors to do the actual picking. Rather than mow a few lawns during the summer for spending money, Brett turned it into a business.

"He was going around town getting jobs to mow yards," Ben Overman said. "When we checked, Brett was getting the jobs, and then having all his friends bring their mowers over and mow the grass. He'd give them half the money. They'd use their mowers and gas, and he'd get the jobs."

"I was never really afraid to work," Brett said. "In that, I was different — probably a little out there and weird. I didn't do normal things as a kid, I'll be the first to say."


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