Stories People Tell Me (1)

“It was a dark and stormy night, and we were seated around the campfire, when someone said, ‘Tell us a story;” and this is the story the Captain told…”

Between 1960 and 2000, I entertained clients and business colleagues from all over the world. That was always part of my job. I enjoyed the travel, the dinner out in nice restaurants, and listening to some very bright people tell their stories in this social and non-threatening, environment. It was both a learning and a profitable experience. I will share some of there stories with those of you who like to read such things, and perhaps you might add one or two to your personal repertoire.

If you have a favorite story to tell, please send it to me. I’ll use it if I can, and credit you (or not) as you prefer.

1. Ray and the German Field Marshall:

My Brit friend, Ray, told me of his adventure while he worked for Honeywell U.K. in the late Sixties: The company called a world-wide, 3 day sales meeting, to discuss their new product line. It included their senior sales staff from all over the world. The days were filled with business meetings. The evenings they were on their own, and ended up in small groups for dinner and drinks with their international colleagues. Ray ended up dining with an older German colleague, whom he had just met, and they got on famously. They were both story tellers.

As the night wore on, and the drinks continued, the German loosened up and turned the topic to World War II. Ray told his memories of life in England as a boy during the war. The German listened intently. When Ray concluded his story, the German began his tale, with this line: “I served in the German Army,” he said. “I was a Field Marshall in charge of the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force.”

Ray bade him proceed.

“I was drafted into the Hitler Youth at a young age, and served in a variety of patriotic and support positions in the Berlin local area. We were taught to revere +

+and serve Adolf Hitler without question or delay. He was our god.

“Over a period of time, I assumed more quasi-military responsibilities and, like your Home Guard, felt I was defending the German homeland. I don’t know what we would have done if we ever met real soldiers, but we tried not to think about it, did what we were told, and did our best.

“Sometime in 1944 we were given a special order. Our leaders said it was a prestige assignment. We were assigned to guard a certain underground bunker in Berlin. We learned it was Adolf Hitler’s, the Fuhrer’s, command bunker. The Allies were closing in and most of the regular forces had been killed or had deserted. We were told it was up to us to defend the Fuhrer with our lives. Once again, we did what we were told.

“We knew, even as children, that the end was near. We could hear and see the artillery and bombs landing nearby, and hear the distant machine gun fire of the Russian troops closing in on us.

“One day, we were told to clean up and put on whatever gear we had for an official inspection by an important person. We were ready. Shortly, out of the bunker came this person. It was Hitler himself.

“He looked old, and sick. He had difficulty walking and his hands shook noticeably. He walked down the line, smiling, and making the occasional friendly comment. Finally, he stopped, faced the group, and thanked us for our service. He said that his cowardly troops had failed and deserted him, as had his staff. He was alone with his closest aides and us. He told us that since we were now his immediate staff, we should be promoted. He walked down the line and gave each boy a handshake and a new title. He appointed me to replace Marshall Goring as Field Marshall of the German Luftwaffe. He then went back into the bunker and we never saw him again.

“Our sergeant waited until everyone was gone. Then he said: ‘I relieve you from your obligations. The war is lost. Take off that gear, sp+lit up, and run for your lives.’ That’s what we did.

“Berlin was already devastated, and the shelling and bombs continued to fall, until they abruptly stopped, and an eerie silence fell on the city. I continued to run. I must have run for the rest of the day and into the night.  Then, I rounded one last corner and ran into an Allied patrol. They were Americans. They took me into custody and brought me back to their Headquarters for questioning.

I tried to be brave and when they asked me who I was, I said: ‘I am a German Field Marshall. I command the Luftwaffe.’ They just stared at me. Then, they conferred, and some guards came and took me to the next higher level; and then to the level above that; and several more levels, until I was in the area where they held Nazi high ranking officials.

“They had pried the whole story out of me by then. I think they were slightly amused by it. Several American senior officers came by to chat with the ‘German Field Marshall.’ Eventually, they decided I was not a threat. I was kept in a stalag for several months. Then they sent me off to a re-education camp where they taught me, over time, that what I had learned was not true. I received a whole new outlook on lfe.

“I stayed there for about a year, and then I was released. They helped me find a home and a job and I set to work, as always, to do my best. It paid off. Here I am today with a family of my own, a god job, and a promising future.

“I think that’s a pretty good ending for a 13 year old German Field Marshall,” he concluded.

2. Howard on Work Sequencing and Organizational Promotions:

In 1964, I had run out of interest, enthusiasm  and growing space, in the garment business. I enjoyed my job but, as I looked ahead, I saw  no where to grow. The boss had first hired his son, and then his son-in-law and, although they were nice enough guys, I felt sure that they had the promotion and career path already locked up.

Brother Leo introduced me to his friend Howard, who was Personnel Manager of a growing scientific computer company, 3C, and with Howard’s help I secured an entry level position in this whole new industry. I was the Senior Sales Correspondent. That meant I was in Sales, which was always fun, and I dealt with troubled customers. I wrote reassuring letters, spoke with them on the phone, and hosted them when they were in town. It was a good job and I really enjoyed it (as Brother Leo advised: “Get an inside job with no heavy lifting”). With his and Howard’s help, I had skipped from one industry to another, and done exactly that.

I kept in touch with Howard after that. He was another of those smart people I was privileged to deal with. He had education, experience, and common sense. Naturally, he was a story teller too. Howard and I had lunch together about once a month. I always paid, He called it his “hot meal program.” I found it to be a learning and counseling session for me. Once, for example, I complained about a heavy work schedule. I had too much to do and realized I had to set priorities, but I couldn’t get my arms around the solution. Howard told me this:

“Everything you have to do can be can be broken into 3 categories: 1. Boss Imposed. 2. Organization Imposed, 3. Self Imposed. You can even keep 3 in-boxes on your desk to aid in the sorting.

“You always do the Boss Imposed things first. That’s what you are judged on. Whatever the boss tells you to do, you do first.

“The Organization Imposed items are what the departments you work with expect from you. It may be interdepartmental meetings, support at a presentation or trade show, a survey, the answer to certain inquiries – all of these are important to someone and they are your second priorities.

“The Self Imposed tasks are the things you want to do. It may be a function or some departmental morale boost, or looking into a new system for your group. All of these are important, but not as important as the tasks you will be judged on.”

“Okay,” I said, “sounds good. Now, what if I do that sorting and I still don’t have enough time to get it all done?”

Howard smiled. “That,” he said, “is why God made evenings and weekends.”

Another time, our luncheon conversation turned to a mutual friend who had taken on a highly compensated, and highly visible, position for which he was not qualified. It wasn’t just a great challenge. He was in over his head. Howard shook his head sadly and said, “Don’t ever take a job that makes you sick, makes you reorder your priorities against your better judgement, or causes you to act in an unnatural or bizarre way for fear of losing it. Step aside gracefully. You may get another chance later. If they have to remove you for cause, it can be a career ender.”

Howard was an interesting but odd duck. He was tall and gangly, and the people who worked for him affectionately called+ him “Ichabod Crane.” He had no children and lived with his wife in a spacious old Victorian that offered them both lots of room for to roam unfettered. The house had no curtains, and Howard’s idea of decor was to glue dozens of large black circles, made of construction paper, in  varying sizes, all over his walls. When you approached his home by night and looked into the living room through the uncurtained windows, it looked like the house had recently survived a Civil War cannonball attack.

Howard saved his best story for my promotion. He was giving me an organizational overview (at lunch, at my expense) on hiring, promoting, and firing. He said, “There are many good books that explain the principles of hiring correctly. Use them as you will, but remember this Great Truth: If you invest the time and effort to hire good people in the first place, you can forget all about the rest of it.”

Then he launched into this tale. It may be anecdotal, but I have never forgotten it:

“Around 1810, the Prussian Army established The Prussian Military Academy and Leadership College. Like our own U.S. Army War College, its purpose was to recognize and train promising young officers for the higher ranks. Attendance and successful graduation were prerequisites for appointment to the aristocratic Prussian General Staff. It produced the finest officers Prussia had for the First World War, and the top German officers for World War II. It was closed by the Allies after World War II.

“It employed the Army’s brightest and most experienced officers as faculty instructors.  Its techiniques were cold and rough, but it worked. A diploma from the Prussian Military and Leadership College was a ticket to success.

In one Organizational Development course, they taught the young officers that there are 4 types of people to be considered when searching for a military leader:

‘All officers are a mixture of Intelligence and Ambition. They may be divided into 4 categories: 1. Intelligent & Ambitious . 2. Intelligent & Lazy. 3. Stupid and Lazy. 4. Stupid & Ambitious.

‘The Intelligent & Ambitious make good staff officers. They are the detail people. They know the right thing to do, and they will take the time and effort to do it properly. They work by the book.

‘The Intelligent & Lazy make good field officers. They too know the right thing to do, but they won’t make the effort to look for complicated solutions. They’ll look for shortcuts to reach their goal. That is what you want in a field officer.

‘The Stupid and Lazy have their uses too. Keep a few of them around. Usually, they know that they’re in over their heads and are so grateful to have their rank that they will be loyal and will do whatever you tell them. They are also good for the occasions where you need an officer and can’t spare anybody good. Frankly, if things go wrong, you can blame them.

‘The Stupid & Ambitious, however, must be rooted out and terminated immediately. Their Ambition will drive them to run rampant, spreading  their Stupidity, throughout your command. They leave wrack and ruin in their wake.”

In all the years since Howard told me that story, I have applied it to countless business, political, military, and religious leaders. It always works.

Thanks, Howard. I’ll remember you and your imaginative way of offering advice. Your colleagues still remember your advice offered during the turbulence of our being acquired by a much larger company. They asked you what they should do to prove their value to the new owners. You said: “You’re going to be there 8 hours a day anyway, so work steady and do the things that show.”

3. Dana: China, USSR, and the Death Ray:

In 1971 the U.S. Government hinted that they might allow trade with China in the near future. There were all sorts of policies and regulations to follow, so the company hired Dana as a consultant to advise us on what to do. Dana had years of experience in dealing with both China and the USSR. I asked him once how he got away with that, as the two countries did not trust each other. Dana replied, “I have 2 sets of business cards: One for China and one for the USSR. So far, they haven’t cross checked.” I thought: “Good luck, Dana.”

Sometime in 1972, Dana took me to Washington where we attended briefings by the State Department, the Pentagon, and the C.I.A. It was extremely interesting. These people did not want any computer equipment shipped into China because they feared what they called “Diverted and Multiple Uses.” In other words, the computer might  be generating harmless medical data during the day, but on the third shift it might plan nuclear warhead trajectories. I remember one Pentagon official, I’ll call Dr. No, who picked me out of the crowd and asked: “Is it true that a meteorologist’s weather prediction and a nuclear missile’s trajectory look exactly the same on a computer printout?”

I answered that I didn’t know. I had never seen either one.

He smiled and said, “Neither have I; but you’d be amazed at some of the answers I get.”

Later in the briefing, he gave us a list of the equipment which could not be exported into China: “….computer technology, automated robots, weapons of any and all types, sneakers, spare parts, automated manufacturing equipment of any kind…”

I raised my hand. “Sir,” I asked. “why ‘sneakers?’

He looked at me and replied, “Because that’s what they wear over there: Sneakers. Millions and millions of sneakers.”

“Yes,” I said, “but why is that important to us?”

He replied: “Because if all those factories are making millions and millions of sneakers, they won’t be able to make anything else!”

Aha. Now I understood.

Dana hand-held me during this entire process and saved me from many diplomatic gaffes. However, it was clear to me, we’re weren’t shipping anything to China in the near term. I reported the same to my management.

Dana was not deterred. He switched to opportunities in the USSR. He told me that I had achieved an international coup: The State Department had approved a US visit of certain USSR trade dignitaries. One of them, Sergei, was the son of the Number 5 man in the Soviet Presidium. It was a big deal. I was to host them for two nights and two days at our headquarters and in their evening social programs. There were four of them. I was briefed by the FBI. One of the guidelines was: “Allow for at least a quart of vodka per day.”

“One quart for the party?” I asked.

“No,” my instructor replied, “one quart per man.”

I knew now that I was in over my head.

In due time, Dana showed up with the Soviet party. It became clear they were looking for a good time. I gave them a plant tour (the manufacturing floor, traffic, accounts payable, but not so much as a peek into Engineering or Research & Development). They seemed pleased.

The first night they had dinner at an executive’s home (they made a pass at his wife), and the second night was mine. I took them shopping. I took them to a bargain basement that was positively clogging the aisles with product, and then I took them to a prestige jewelry and accessory shop. “We have seen the bottom and the top of the American shopping cycle, and we have everything in between,” I said. They were impressed. Then, we went for dinner at a Boston steak house. We took over the place.

They had protectors with them, both theirs and ours, and promptly got deep into the vodka. They started proposing toasts. Toasts to every Soviet and American leader they could think of: “To Peace between our nations. To success and riches to both our systems.” It would have been unpatriotic and offensive not to drink such toasts. I had learned one trick from my earlier years in this kind of job: Get rid of your drink. When no one was looking, I would pour my drink into the soup or, better yet, into a nearby potted plant. It must have been really potted before that night was over. I always thought that if the plants ever again took control of the Earth, I would be tried as a war criminal. Anyway, the Soviets admired my capacity for vodka.

That night, when we rolled them back into the hotel, some rather large and stern looking US agents were waiting for us. The Russians were politely told to stay in their rooms for the night. If they left their rooms, there would be consequences.

The Russians nodded gamely and went quietly to their rooms. I asked an agent, “Are you really going to stay here all night and watch them?”

“No,” he said. “I’m going home.”

“How do you know they won’t come out of their rooms?”

He looked at me and asked: “If you were in Moscow, and the KGB told you not to leave your hotel room, what would you do?

I said, “I’d be too afraid to even look out the window.”

He smiled and said, “Same for them.”

There is a footnote: Dana didn’t make much money from us, but he did from another company making oil exploration equipment. They had developed a new product that could be mounted on the back of a truck. There was a ram on a piston that pounded the ground and sent back echos, something like Sonar I guess, that could indicate underground cavities where oil might be found. Then they’d dig a test hole, and (Voila!), there was Oil. They had been selling this basic system, with State Department approval, into Russia for many years.

This was an evolutionary, not revolutionary machine. It was classified as “An existing product improvement.” Earlier versions of this machine had been sold to the USSR for years, and there was no reason to expect anything but approval for this updated version.

Dana had all the paperwork, it sailed through the State Department, and he went in for the final interview and looked forward to a short meeting and an approved Export Certificate. Almost as a last thought, the State Department official said, “Tell me, Dana, what do you call this new machine?”

Dana obligingly replied: “We call it a Neutron Generator.”

The official went white. “A ‘Neutron Generator’? That sounds like some kind of Death Ray! Permit denied!”

I had a drink with Dana shortly after that. No one at State would even talk to him about it. Dana said, “If only I had called it an Oil Exploration Tester, or even an Oil Oriented Ground  Pounding Machine, I’d be in the chips by now.”

Ah yes, what’s in a name? Sorry, Dana. You’ve got to keep it simple.

4. Ted, the Queen Mary, and the Japanese Pilot:

Ted was our new Sales V.P. He was a big, gruff, outgoing man who had been one of those 19 year old B-17 pilots during World War II. He had seen it all, done it all, and ran his division with an iron hand.

In 1964, Ted was vice president of sales and marketing for Computer Control Co., Inc. He liked action, excitement, competence, and (of course) stories. He gave me my first promotion, because I moved a mailbox.

I started working at Computer Control Co., Inc (3C) in 1964 as a “Senior Sales Correspondent” That meant I wrote sales letters, talked to customers with problems, and hosted their visits. My group was umpteen levels down in Ted’s organization.

Everyone knew Ted. He was big and he was loud and he ran through the corridors from meeting to meeting. “If he ever hits one of those I-beams that support the roof,” someone said once,” we’ll all be killed in the collapse.”

Each noon, I used to sit alone in the main sales office eating a brown bag lunch and reading someone else’s Wall Street Journal and New York Times. This way I saved on both lunches and subscriptions. One day I was sitting there, munching and reading, when I heard a howl from the corridor outside our door. It was Ted. He stuck his face in the door, red and angry, and looked at me. I was the only one there. “I just ripped my jacket on your God damn interoffice mailbox!” He yelled. “Move it!” With that, he was gone.

I walked outside the office to see the cause of his anger. It was a metal, interoffice mailbox fastened to the fiberboard wall with two screws. I took out my Swiss Army Knife (I recommend every aspiring executive carry one), removed the two screws, moved the mailbox inside the office door, and screwed it back into the wall. It took under ten minutes. I went back to my munching and reading. A half hour later I heard Ted’s voice again: “Hey, you.” He was talking to me. “Where’s the mailbox?”

“I moved it to the inside wall.”

“Why?”

“You said to move it.”

“Yeah, but that wasn’t your job, and you were on your lunch hour anyway.”

“No big deal. You wanted it moved, I moved it.”

“What’s your name?”

I told him my name.

About two weeks later my manager was promoted into a new job and, guess what? Ted made me the new department manager. I was now Customer Services Manager.

I did well working for Ted and as his trust grew he sent me to represent him at corporate meetings when he was traveling. I took good notes and could thoroughly brief him on who said what, and even what I thought they really meant. My problem was Old Ben, the company president. He was big and tough like Ted and could run roughshod over anybody who got in his way. I had to press him sometimes on sales issues and if he didn’t feel like talking about it, he would stomp me into the ground and return to his office. I told Ted about my problem.

“You’re approaching it all wrong,” Ted began. “Think of it this way: Old Ben is the Queen Mary and you are a tugboat. You have to guide the Queen Mary. Now if a tugboat gets in front of the Queen Mary, it will get rammed, run over, and sunk without a ripple. But – that is not the way good tugboats operate. They stand off at the side, safely out of the way, and they gently tap the Queen Mary. Once, twice, maybe three or more times – and you know what? The Queen Mary starts to turn. The cumulative effect of all those gentle taps is to make the Queen Mary go exactly where the tugboat wants. That’s how you handle Old Ben.” I was the tugboat and Ben was the Queen Mary? Thereafter, I kept out of his direct path,  and offered suggestions from time to time. A few of these he accepted. I never had another problem with Ben.

One more Ted story: When we started doing business in Japan, the bosses had some reservations about letting Ted lead the sales effort. It wasn’t just his size,aggressive nature, and volume that concerned them. It wasn’t any cultural concerns at all. It was that Ted loved to tell war stories that often involved tales of his bombing Japanese troop installations, railway lines, and maybe the occasional city or two. They feared that the Japanese would take umbrage at this. Ted was duly warned of their concern. He promised to be discreet. He was set loose upon the Japanese once again.

As usual, Ted was a man of his word. He handled himself as the professional he was although sometimes, under the influence of an extra brandy, or sake, a wartime reference might slip out. He didn’t think they noticed. The Japanese miss nothing.

One time Ted visited a large Japanese client outside of Tokyo and they held a reception in his honor. The sake flowed like water and the Japanese were pressing Ted for a story about his role in the last war. He finally told them he was a pilot. “A pilot?” they said, “We have a pilot too.” With that, they wheeled out their version of a Japanese Ted. He was big and loud and filled with stories of his adventures as a Japanese pilot during World War II.

The Japanese pilot fired the first salvo: “You Americans were lucky. You had so much equipment and spare parts, and training. We Japanese pilots had nothing. We sat on the ground with a joy stick and some pedals practicing take-offs and landings for a half day. Then they put us in an old plane and said go! My first try at take-off, I pull back too soon and plane go up and then smash down on the runway. They tow plane away to be fixed, and bring up another old plane. They say go! I try take-off again, but this time I wait too long to pull back, and crash into trees at end of runway. They tow plane away and bring up another old plane. They say go!”

“Wait a minute,” Ted interrupted. “Did you crash that third plane too?”

“No,” said the Japanese pilot. “This time I get it off the ground. Why do you ask?”

“Because,” said Ted, “if you crashed that third plane you’d be an American Air Ace.”

The laughter and the sake flowed until dawn.

5. Alfred, Travel Agencies, P&L, and Rasputin:

Alfred was the VP of Corporate Administration. That included Human Resources, Facilities, Internal Audit, Long Range Planning, and other assignments too numerous to mention. At first, I thought this a harmless enough empire, until my boss explained to me that what Alfred had done was to consolidate all the important administration and support functions under his aegis. He had a finger in every pie. Alfred used to jokingly claim: “I run P&L. That stands for Parking Lots and Latrines.” My boss warned me that the guy was dangerous.

Alfred had a PhD. in clinical psychology, and several years of corporate experience. He was a master manipulator. He sat at the right hand of the CEO’s throne. He could make about anything happen that he wanted to happen. People walked softly around Alfred. The other VP’s referred to him, behind his back of course, as Rasputin, Svengali, Machiavelli, and The Shadow.

I never had much to do with Alfred, but we did develop a measure of friendship. We coincidentally met one night at the movie theater, where they were showing a new film entitled, “The Exorcist.” Judy said to me, “There’s a strange little man, sitting in the corner, staring at us.” It was Alfred. He was alone as usual. He gladly joined Judy and I when we invited him. He said this was the third time he had seen “The Exorcist” that day. That should have been a clue right there. He shared many psychological insights with me, and I joked that I knew all about this exorcism business, as I had been an altar boy for nearly 10 years. He loved that. He had been an altar boy too. He told me many stories, and it was an enjoyable evening.

After that, he came by my office several times each week to chat and tell stories. He often spoke of his father, who was a G-Man during the Thirties. His father’s friend, Elliot Ness (of “The Untouchables” fame) used to visit Alfred’s home frequently. Once, he unloaded his pistol and let Alfred hold it. That was a lifelong memory. Alfred adored his father, and Elliot Ness, both of whom came across in his stories as honest and competent men, but cold and distant.

At that time, I was embroiled in a company political battle that I should have known I could not win, but I foolishly tried anyway. I felt I was going to be moved aside for a new manager. One day, I confided this fear to Alfred. He told me not to worry. “Nobody can come in here without my knowing about it, and there is nothing in process.” I felt better. The next week, I was moved into a new job.

Alfred came by shortly after and asked if I was okay. I said, “Yes, but I asked you if this was in the works, and you assured me that it was not.”

Alfred looked at me in puzzlement. “Ed,” he said, “that wasn’t personal, that was just business. Surely you did not expect me to tell the truth?”

I was at a loss. I actually had expected the truth, or at least a wave-off like, “I can’t talk about anything like that.”

However, I ended up in a new position that eventually led to a much better job. I think Alfred played a role in that too. He still stopped by for a chat as if nothing had happened. I played it that way too. Nothing personal. It’s only business.

I blush to admit that I did have a sort of petty revenge:

Alfred was a bit paranoid, I’m afraid. He traveled around the countryside  in a closed van with antennae on the outside, and all sorts of high tech radios and communications devices inside. When he had to make certain telephone calls, he left his office, went outside, and made them from his van.

He also loved Corvettes, and had money enough to buy himself one, for cash. And what a beauty it was. A showroom new, 1974 t-top convertible with every conceivable option. He brought me out to see it in the parking lot. He jumped in, started the engine, and pulled onto the exit ramp, when suddenly, the car just burst into flames. It had a fiberglass body, and the whole thing just disintegrated as I watched the smokey flames rage over it. It was tragic. Alfred was safe, but shaken, and he came to stand beside me and watch the flames consume his dream. I don’t know why I said this, I must have a cruel streak too, but I did say: “I’m sure it wasn’t a bomb.”

Alfred turned white. “A bomb? Why did you suggest that? Did you know anyone who wants to put a bomb in my car?”

I assured him I did not. I was just wool-gathering and trying to cheer him up. He walked away, mumbling: “Bomb? Bomb?”

He told me later that they found it was a short circuit in the electrical system. I just nodded and said, “Yes, that would explain it.”

A year or so later, I ended up running Corporate Travel & Events. I oversaw all the corporate meetings, field training sessions, recognition programs, and board meetings. It was the ideal job for me. When the assignment was announced, Alfred came to see me. “Here’s what I want you to do,” he said.  “Go hire an outside travel group as your industry consultants.”

” I don’t think I need them,” I replied, “why would I want to do that?”

He replied, “Because if the whole thing ever goes down the chute, you’ve got somebody to fire.” I had no firm grasp of the obvious.

The other execs at Alfred’s level couldn’t understand our weird sort of friendship, but actually, in his own way, and with appropriate precautions, he could be a business friend. My boss warned me it was like charming a cobra: “Everything is fine until it isn’t.”

I never had any more problems with Alfred.  He retired a few years after that, and seemed to have quite a small fortune. Whenever he was in town, he always called me for lunch. We did many enjoyable lunches together. He always paid. He insisted on it. We were an odd couple, but there was some mutual respect and even admiration there. He was a brilliant guy and gave me all sorts of advice on interviewing, hiring, and company politics.

Alfred died of a seizure a short time later. He lingered for a while. He called me. I was happy that he called me, and pleased that I could be of a little personal assistance to him, helping to make his final burden lighter.

Goodnight, Alfred. I was never entirely sure of you, but I learned from you and enjoyed your company, on the good days. Rest in Peace.

And that’s not “just business.”

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