My Friend, John's Passing

I learned that my friend, John, passed away on July 3.  He was 62.

 I knew that he had been battling oral cancer, and because part of his tongue was removed, talking to him on the phone was not an option.  His last email to me some months ago was cryptic, and I got the sense that his treatment options were not expected to be efficacious.

I met John through business.  He worked with Herman Miller, and the dealership that I was working with was availing itself to the dealer financing offered by them at the time.  He was the associate on the front end of it. 

It was a stressful time for me, as we had to unwind one loan transaction (involuntarily) and move into this one.  Recessions and business furniture are a tough mix, and I attribute all of my gray hair to weathering 3 recessions in business:  two in business furniture and one in advertising.  Both are the first to go when corporate belts tighten.

So enter the Herman Miller team.  These guys are from the midwest.  I am given the loan document, and as is my job, I read it carefully.  At the time, Jody De Pree was in charge of these contracts, and I was explicitly told that there were to be no changes to the document.  The loan document was too unilateral, and I simply could not recommend our signing it as is.

My HM team assured me that although the clauses that gave me heartburn appeared onerous, "never have we enforced any of these clauses."  They said these things in the spirit of helpfulness and in their typical straightforward transparency.  While history combined with needfulness might have been sufficient salve for some, I simply said, "If it is in the contract, I fully expect that it is a right that you will assert with impunity." 

My goal was not to escape the clutches of a lender's rights, merely to make a unilateral contract a fair contract.   And after a minimum amount of back and forth we achieved that. (And they were surprised that any changes were made, but in my experience when you come to a business transaction; achieving parity is a noble ideal.  Parity forges trust; and engenders motivation to make the business deal a success.  It is a practice that I adhered to always, and still do.  It has NEVER failed me.

Nevertheless, at the time,   I was surprised by the great transparency of my midwestern business partners.  No duplicity or hidden gotchas.  I was later to learn in my professional life that such straightforwardness in a typical trait.  An admirable one (and different from east coast business culture as I knew it) and refreshing trait that I have tried to emulate.

John and his team members were business colleagues and then friends for 23 years now  So losing my friend--who was a valued business colleague and beloved friend as been difficult.   I always knew him to be genuine, devoted to his family, optimistic, and dedicated to his job and his clients.  He was one of my greatest friends, and I will miss him.

His wife wrote to me that he died surrounded by his family and knowing that he was loved and thanked me for being his friend.  

In the end that is all that any of us could wish for. 


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