Leaving a Legacy --DeWese
Did Ya ever have a conversation, leave it and then wish like hell you'd said one more thing?
That thing, that remark, was probably the best or funniest or the most important point. One more brilliant, scintillating point—and you forgot to say it! You slap your forehead and say, "Whoa doggies. Where was that comment when I needed it?"
Or when she said, "You're the first, the last, my everything." All you could muster was, "Well, darlin', I love you more than my Harley!" You shoulda said you love her more than your '86 Ford F150, you big dummy. Or, if you really, really love her, you say, "Baby, I love you more'n my huntin' dog, Ol' Blue!"
Or, how about a really important sales call where you left the buyer's office, you're sitting in the parking lot in your KIA, crankin' it and you say, "Whoa boy! Slap me upside the head with a two-by-four. I forgot to tell the buyer about our great people, the new six-color press and I forgot to ask for the order."
It happens every time I make a speech. I leave all the good stuff shredded in little piles behind the podium. I pound my ample gut and wail, "I flat forgot that genius point about the mystery micro-economics of the printing industry and how my theory guarantees that printers can triple their profits."
Hindsight Is 20/20
I write these columns and always wonder why I failed to make several more brilliant points when I read the published article two months later!
The points were manifestly obvious, but now it's too late. It seems like old weasily Attila the Editor Sr. or his pathetic sidekick Attila the Editor Jr. would cover for me, stick my oversights in the column and try to make me look good. I can't be expected to know everything.
I have written 230 columns for this magazine and some of 'em were actually hard to write. I left some good stuff out of most of them. If I had remembered to add the good stuff, I might have won one of those Pullit Surprises by now.
I wrote a 45,000 word, unpublished novel (so far, for my own entertainment). I'm afraid to send it to a publisher for fear I left something out—like a plot. The novel has been a work-in-progress since October of 1987 and it's hard writing. I want it to be Hemingway perfect.
A long time ago I wrote a 250-page Master's thesis. A very bored professor gave me an A+ and, mercifully, he never mentioned all the information I left out—you know, stuff like footnotes. Talk about hard writing; that paper was a bear to write and a huge bore for me.
But, during the last week of July, in fact on July 21st, I had to write the hardest thing ever: my father-in-law's eulogy. Then on July 25th I had to present his eulogy at his funeral to about 45 family members and 300 friends and business associates.
Of course, when the service was over, I thought of 40 to 50 more things I should have said or could have said better about this man I knew for nearly 45 years. This experience has led me to conclude that there ain't gonna be no eulogy at my funeral. I haven't been so good and I don't want anybody lying about me.
I didn't have to lie or make up stuff about Roy Allen, my father-in-law. He was good to the core, the very essence of goodness.
Every day that he lived as an adult was the equivalent of a Chopin waltz or a Beethoven sonata. He seamlessly composed good deeds for the people in his life—his family, his friends, his co-workers and mere acquaintances.
At the moment of delivery, the recipients of his goodness felt the sweet beauty of "The Moonlight Sonata." He was a businessman. He was president of his company. He started as a salesman and never stopped selling. Like all truly great salespeople and managers, he was charitable, supportive and generous with nary any thought for personal reward or recognition.
It was just within him to honor, respect and help all the people who walked along his road. Generals or janitors, it mattered not to Roy. They couldn't resist his gravitational pull because he sincerely listened to them. He wanted to know about their lives. His life, to him, seemed almost inconsequential.
Honest to the Core
Like all great men, his customers, co-workers and local community smelled his honesty. His word, his nod and his handshake were more binding than any 200-page contract written by the biggest New York law firm. He was a stand-up man.
Who needs a sales pitch when your customers instantly know your integrity? Will he deliver a quality product, on time, at a fair price? You betcha!
Who needs any more motivation than a touch on the shoulder and a quiet, "Good job. Well done," from a leader whose judgment is impeccable and whose heart is bound by the truth?
This depression-era high school student had no money for his dream school, Georgia Tech. His powerful work ethic, however, earned him a PhD. in human relations, business and flawless behavior.
He mastered something he called "walkin' around sense" long before Tom Peters wrote about it in his first book, "In Search of Excellence." On the other hand, Roy was among the first to read Peters' books and he was still reading the Bible, history, biographies and fiction well past his 90th birthday.
Role Model to Follow
You see, like all great people, Roy was a dues payer and a bill payer. He worked hard for everything. He paid bills on time, every time for his family necessities. He also paid bills that never arrived in his mailbox. These bills were needs he saw in the community to which he gave his time and his money. His charitable contributions were legendary. People would ask, "How can any man be this good, this generous?" Roy never gave in order to gain. He gave because he saw it was his responsibility.
This was a man who could carry a sick infant back and forth all night long and never complain. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren felt his love and his goodness.
Roy's eulogy has gotten me to thinking about my own eulogy. It's too late for me to conjure up all the goodness that Roy had. I think I'll just write and record my own "statement" ahead of time so there's no lying. I don't want credit for anything I didn't do. Furthermore, I want to make sure I fess up some stuff. I'd like to explain that night in the New Orleans French Quarter when I couldn't find the car or the hotel.
You have got a chance to build a great eulogy for yourself. I think you have to do it day by day. It's almost all in this column. Roy taught me most of it.
Did I mention his loyalty? I probably forgot to mention his love. I hope I said something about his courage. Did I happen to mention he could have been a perfect 42 regular, male model?
There was a big buffet party at his country club after the funeral service. A lot of his golf buddies have already gone on to play that great Augusta National in the sky where every round is under par. But, one spry 85-year-old golf buddy sidled up to me and said, "Harris, when you talked about his courage, you didn't mention that he was terrified of a four-foot putt."
I can only think of six or eight other people whose lives motivate me enough to write their eulogies. They know who they are and maybe I'll go on and do it while they are alive.
By the way, if you ever forget to make a point to a customer, call them later and say, "I was so interested in what you were saying, I completely forgot to tell you that your fall catalog is a perfect fit for our new six-color press." Think about the psychology and sales importance of that "Oh, I forgot" telephone call or e-mail.
Meanwhile, start building your own eulogy and do it with courage, integrity, love, charity, human respect and kindness. And make me happy by getting out there and selling something!
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of Now Get Out There and Sell Something, available through NAPL or PIA/GATF. He is chairman and CEO at Compass Capital Partners and is an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of information regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed more than 100 printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the printing industry. He specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies. He can be reached via e-mail at DeWeseH@ComCapLtd.com.
Harris DeWese was named the 45th recipient of NAPL's annual Walter E. Soderstrom Award. The prestigious award was presented to him at the Soderstrom Society dinner held September 10th at the Mid-America Club during PRINT 05 and CONVERTING 05 in Chicago.