Strong roots run deep: Bret Strong on family, business and the community
THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Bret Strong of The Strong Firm is a staple in The Woodlands. His name is synonymous with the community; his roots here date back thirty years ago to when The Woodlands was still rather young, and as the businesses have boomed, he’s grown with them.
Bret is one of those guys you want to have on your team. When you sit down and have lunch with him, his phone is away and his attention is all yours. He lights up when we discuss his kids (he has five), his wife, and his work. He’s a genuine man with a heart for this town. And his client list may include major players such as The Woodlands Township, but he’s humble, authentic, and professional. He’s classically cool in a way we don’t often see these days.
Bret is also a storyteller. And a good one at that. His life as an attorney isn’t spent sitting behind a desk or pacing courtrooms. When he was little, in fact, he never dreamed of being a lawyer.
“I grew up in rural Indiana - farm country - and really all I wanted when I was little was to see what the world had to offer outside of Indiana,” he said. “Seriously. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just wanted a good job and to see what was beyond Indiana.”
A three-sport athlete in high school, he found himself in Boulder at the University of Colorado. He entered into his freshman year studying pre-architecture.
“After one semester in the pre-architecture program there I said, ‘This is absolutely not for me.’”
He transferred to the business school and finished with a finance degree. Out of college he went to work with Shell Oil Company. Bret worked in Michigan, New Orleans and Houston. He moved to The Woodlands in 1989. Bret handled exploration and production contracts for Shell.
“[Shell] put me through law school at night, while I was here, living in The Woodlands, working part of the time westside [of Houston] and part of the time downtown. So I was going to school at night and working at Shell full time during the day,” Bret said.
He would arrive at the Shell office around 6 in the morning, work until 3:30 p.m., grab food and some quiet time to study, and then attend classes from 6 p.m. until around 10 p.m. At home, he had a 3-year-old and a six-week-old. Yet, even when he began working on his law degree, he still didn’t think he wanted to practice law. It was more of an opportunity to get an advanced degree and progress in management with Shell.
“Once I got into law school I started to see what I could do with a law degree, my contracting skills and my business contacts, and that’s when I decided I would practice on my own,” he said.
He graduated top ten percent of his class from South Texas College of Law. And the rest, as they say, is history.
He started a private practice in The Woodlands. The firm, for which he was a shareholder, was acquired by Winstead in 2001. With his entrepreneurial spirit alive and well, and a desire to serve the community he loved so much, Bret left the corporate firm and The Strong Firm was born in 2004.
Entrepreneurial aptitude is in his genes. When Bret was four years old, his father was tragically killed in a car accident. His mother never remarried and raised Bret and his two brothers and one sister on her own.
“Mom was an entrepreneur because she had to be,” he said. “We were in rural Indiana. She didn’t go to college. She had to figure out how she was going to make a living. She did everything. She worked at a jewelry store. She worked at a bowling alley. She tended bars. She waited tables. The advice I got from her was, ‘Whatever you’re doing you have to be entrepreneurial about it. You can’t depend on someone else because you don’t have any control over that.’”
The entrepreneurial spirit is also with his wife, Angela Strong. She is the managing member of A. Strong CPA in The Woodlands. Together, the two have three children ages seven, five and three. They are both leaders in The Woodlands when it comes to involvement, whether with The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce or community outreach, but family is the most important thing.
“We both try to be home at 5 or 5:30 p.m. and have that time with the kids...We both do the homework,” Bret said with a smile, when I asked him who gets to tackle homework duty after work. Bret beamed when he talked about driving his kids to school in the morning and watching them play soccer or swim competitively. He has two adult sons who are both successful that he loves to talk about too.
“You have to teach your kids to use their gifts and all five have wonderfully unique gifts,” he said.
Bret and Angela model how to use individual giftings both at business and in hobbies. Bret is a four-time IRONMAN and Angela participated in a half IRONMAN last fall in Waco. To put it lightly, they are powerhouses in the community, business, and athletics.
Bret translates his love for family into his love for the community. The Strong Firm represents small and big businesses alike. He’s watched the area expand and helped businesses grow. And when he talks about his clients, he talks about them with great respect. He built the firm from the ground up, taking care to hire attorneys and staff members who are not only smart and qualified but who genuinely care about the community.
“Our best attorneys have a heart for the community,” Bret said. “Before we hire them, they show a desire or connection to the community.”
The community has responded this connection The Strong Firm has by voting it Best Attorney, Lawyer & Legal Services in Woodlands Online’s Best of The Woodlands 10 years in a row.
“We work really hard on having a reputation that’s deep within the community,” Bret said. “We want to be THE law firm you think of when you think of a law firm in The Woodlands...We work very, very hard on having a reputation by sponsorships of events and by supporting everything from high school cross country to IRONMAN. We have a reputation: We support this community. To have Woodlands Online, which I consider the community’s source for online information, for the users to say, “That’s our favorite law firm” 10 years in a row, unequivocally that means a lot because that’s our target. That’s our market.”
The Strong Firm has its roots in The Woodlands, working alongside clients that make this community vibrant and unique. Bret’s vision to start a law firm and create a legacy through his work is evident. His passion is contagious. And while he will tell you that his day job is to solve conflict, it’s apparent when you get to know him that solving conflict is only one of his many talents.