New Year Goodbye

I said goodbye to a good friend this week. At my age I feel the need to clarify that my friend was just moving away. Larry and I worked together for nearly twenty years. I remember hiring Larry to help with our expanding business. With similar backgrounds, values and hobbies, it was easy for me to like Larry. We have shared good times and challenging times. I even went to church with his parents for a few years and our family grew to love Norris and Donna.

It was hard to say goodbye, even though I do plan to see him and his wife in the future. Stephanie had an opportunity for advancement with her company and Larry wisely chose to encourage her professional growth. After all, she followed him to Southeast Missouri nine years ago when our company opened a new facility. Now it’s his turn to follow.

Taking on challenges

If his history is any predictor, Larry will do just fine in taking on the challenges of a new career path. He always met opportunities head on, found the best way to tackle problems, set clear expectations for the people who worked for him and supported them through their efforts. Honest, transparent and dedicated, Larry made a positive impact on the business and the people he helped develop. Having Larry manage an important piece of our business was a great comfort to me.

There were many questions when Larry and a handful of his peers uprooted their families and changed their lives to take on a new venture. While I was extremely fortunate and grateful to have this dedicated team of experienced leaders, there was within me a huge feeling of responsibility. We worked for a great company and this was a golden opportunity. Yet, I couldn’t help thinking that many of the people may not have moved without knowing I was leading.

I may struggle a bit with pride and self promotion. But these feelings came from a place of humility. Daily, these people made me successful in the eyes of our customers and people within the corporation. Good people, excellent at their craft, years of valuable experience to contribute. They deserved the best from me because they gave their best. I’m not sure I lived up to my end of the deal.

I am confident that Larry will succeed in his new situation, whatever that may be. I applaud him and Stephanie for their decision to let her blossom and thrive in her new responsibilities. I hope that in some way I have given back to Larry a portion of what he has given me through his dedication and hard work. I never want to get to the point where my selfish desires impede the growth and development of people who come into my life.

A coffee shop meeting

I was reminded of this on New Year’s Day when I stopped by Dynamite Coffee for a caffeine boost prior to the Resolution Challenge 10K run. Robbie and Katie are proprietors of the Cape Girardeau coffee shop.  I had the pleasure of working with Robbie before their business was able to totally support their family. After ordering an Americano, I realized that Robbie was talking with Cameron. Coincidentally, Robbie and Cam both worked with me a few years back.

Both men knew that their futures did not lie in the world of material handling. But they each set themselves apart from scores of others by focusing on the work to be done, doing it to the best of their ability, steering clear of warehouse drama and coming back the next day to do it all again. Robbie was already pursuing his passion in the coffee business and was honest about his plans. Cameron knew that nursing school was going to take time and he needed the resources to be able to dedicate himself fully to this pursuit. Neither of them let their future plans distract them from being excellent employees.

Three years after their amiable departure from the company, I ran into them on New Year’s morning. Cam just got off his overnight shift at the hospital and was enjoying a cup of coffee in Robbie’s shop. I’m very proud of both of them and grateful for the time we spent together.

Marc is another former employee who comes to mind. He diligently worked an off shift while he put himself through school. He now pursues his passion of teaching fifth graders. Selfishly, I would love to have any or all three of these men working with me. But I am more pleased to see them actually doing the work they had aspired to long before they ever met me.

People are important

People are important. Those who dream big, envision a different future and dedicate themselves to that pursuit are special. I hope that those who are willing and able to chase their dreams can look back positively at the time we were together. Even if it was just for a paycheck to help them take another step toward reaching their goals.

Happy New Year.

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