“It Fell Through the Cracks” – and Other Lame Excuses – 5 Ways to Close Those Cracks

falling-through-the-cracks_1454461“I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your request. It seems to have fallen through the cracks”.

How many times have you heard, or uttered or written those oft-abused famous words?

Look, most of us mean well, and want to be thorough and responsive. But we end up succumbing to the onslaught of email, text messages, phone calls, voice mails, blog and web site comments, forum messages, and various and sundry other communications launched our way. It is almost impossible to keep up, and to be responsive, no matter how hard we try. Often times, the harder we try, the more behind we fall, until, that notorious crack in the earth opens up, and something we needed to do, some very critical deliverable or commitment, some absolutely critical milestone or element with a mission essential deadline, falls right through that fissure.

So, what to do? How do we prevent these cracks from springing up like a mad crocodile, swallowing up items on your to do list? Well, if anyone tells you that they have a silver bullet that will prevent anything you are responsible for from ever falling through the cracks again, run, don’t walk away from them. Because that is never going to happen. But read on, because, while we can’t be perfect, and can’t commit to being completely responsive all the time, and can’t guarantee that nothing will EVER fall through the cracks again, there are some things I can share with you that will help. In fact, there are FIVE tactics we can employ to fight the fissure monster and prevent him from swallowing your credibility and reputation. I have used these tactics successfully over a 40 year career, spanning multiple industries, cultures, and geographies. Here they are:

  1. Develop a System for Dealing with Received Requests, Emails, etc.
    I’m not going to solve ALL of your REQUEST and COMMITMENT problems today (After all, I have to leave SOME things for future blog posts, you know?). Requests do come at us from many sources, such as Support Forums, FAQ sites, phone calls, formal escalation and request systems and applications, in person, and even snail mail. But for me, the vast majority of requests and potential for things dropping through the cracks, come to my email inbox. So, that’s what I’m going to concentrate on here.The system I use to manage the onslaught of emails is called Inbox Zero, and I have to admit, I am a confirmed zealot. I learned it from watching and reading Merlin Mann’s videos and material, including the stuff at 43 Folders. In fact, I so much believe in this philosophy, that I developed a course on it, teach it on line, and have even delivered it to my entire staff. I’m about to deliver this material at a Lunch and Learn for our entire department soon. Check Inbox Zero out via the links above. Though the principles behind Inbox Zero are way too much detail to get into here, the point is, you need a system so that your inbox doesn’t overflow to the point where cracks consume the things you need to do.
  2. Put in Place a Simple Follow Up System – Track Yourself and Others
    Well, this is what it is all about isn’t it? Following Up and Following Through. I advocate strongly the use of simple systems for everything. It may seem obvious, but, I think it’s worth restating. If something isn’t simple, and if you can’t make it part of your everyday life, you won’t use it. And if you won’t use it, it won’t work. So a simple system to follow up on things you need to do, so they won’t fall through the cracks, is essential. I create an email folder that I just happen to call “Waiting For”, then create a simple rule (it’s an Outlook Rule since my primary email system is Outlook). The rule allows me to add my email address in the BCC: line for any email I either originate, or reply to, and when I press SEND, a copy of the email gets deposited in that “Waiting For” folder. Daily, sometimes several times per day, I will scan that folder looking for things that need to be followed up on. Sometimes, the “Waiting For” action is complete when someone sends me a response or handles a task I may have delegated to them. Sometimes, I have competed the task myself. Either way, once the work I was “Waiting For” is complete, and the original commitment I made is fulfilled, I delete the email in that “Waiting For” folder, and I am done. Simple as that. You can get more elaborate if you wish, but, remember, my rule is, the simpler the better. As long as that folder does not get too big, and I am disciplined enough to scan it at least once a day for the status of things I am “Waiting For”, life is good.
  3. Create and Utilize “Templates” for Standard Responses
    This one is rather straightforward. There are things you do in the course of fulfilling requests, answering questions, and meeting people’s expectations that are repetitive in nature. For these, I use a standard template; a word document, spreadsheet, email, etc., and I pull that out of my file folder, and use it to respond to an email, or a request, simply by filling out the template that already has a lot of standard repetitive information on it, and I’m good to go. Why re-invent the wheel, right?
  4. Institutionalize Use of Methodical Calendar Planning for Work to be Done
    Calendars are not just for meetings. The real beauty of a calendar, is that you can, and should, use it to reserve blocks of time for work. Real work (so meetings are not real work huh? Heh heh…). Some requests and commitments will require a certain amount of my attention and time to complete. So, these merit an estimate, and a calendar entry. Once I estimate it, and find a spot for that amount of time to get it done, on my calendar, I can then commit to the person who made the request, reasonably assured that I can deliver what was asked for and when it is required.
  5. When It Has to be NO, Say NO to Requests as Quickly as You Can
    I don’t like to say NO. I prefer to negotiate WHEN instead. However, I believe that it is preferable to say no, when it is a foregone conclusion that the request cannot be fulfilled, than to create an expectation that will not be met. So, it makes sense to review and categorize ahead of time, if possible, those kinds of questions, and requests that are against policy, or that can never be honored. Getting those off the table as quickly as possible, clears the decks of clutter that could potentially impede progress and steal resource and time for real issues that can be addressed.

That’s my list of 5 fairly straightforward tactics. I don’t believe it takes sophisticated Time Management courses, or Techniques, or even special tools or applications to, if not win this war outright, at least make a major dent in the face of things that are contributing to missed commitments and expectations.  I believe that if you implement these tactics, they can help to avoid you having to utter those totally embarrassing words, “sorry, your request fell through the cracks”.

I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about all of this. Leave your comments below. And if you wish to get a PDF of my E-Mail management training, go to my web site, sign up for the newsletter, and indicate in the comment field that you want a free copy of the Better E-Mailing Practices PDF. I’d be most happy to send it along!

You can read my blog via my web site, www.fiallo.com HERE, connect with me on Twitter HERE, on LinkedIn HERE and on Facebook HERE.

Posted in Personal Development, Empowerment, Leadership, Effectiveness, Responsiveness, Commitments, Accountability | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Things I Never Saw My Dad Do

old-saltyMy Dad passed away last year. Together, he and I had the unenviable task of burying my Mother the year before. Dad never got over her passing. He really thought that he and Mom would live forever or at the least, one day, just pass away in their sleep together.

I had the unique opportunity of working with Dad in my teenage years up to the age of 20. He was plant superintendent for a shoe manufacturing company in Miami Lakes Florida. I worked for him on the production floor as a teenager and during the first two years of college. I was able to observe first-hand his leadership and management style. Daily, I observed how he directed operations on the manufacturing floor. I was privy to the way he coached the supervisors and production employees on his team, and how he mentored and offered real-world, value-filled advice to anyone that needed it.

Even after I moved on and left that job after graduating from college, Dad and I would sit around the dining room table, trading stories, while I continued to gather golden nuggets from him about his style.

There are many things I learned from him that I utilize to this day.  But these 5 are things I never saw him do.

1. Raise His Voice

Dad spoke softly, firmly, but never raised his voice. In fact I’m sure he purposely lowered his voice, and in doing so, caused you to listen more intently to what he was saying. Quite a technique!

2. Disrespect People

Dad respected everyone, even those who didn’t deserve it. I find it hard to do this. I’m more of the philosophy that you deserve my civility, but my respect you must earn. Not Dad. He respected everyone.

3. Take Credit for Things Others Do

Dad never took credit for others’ accomplishments. In fact, even when he was the one doing the heavy lifting on a project or a particular effort, when it came time for the credit, he graciously stepped aside. He used to tell me, “there will be plenty of opportunities for you to get credit for things. Take every opportunity you can to give it to someone else”.

4. Demand Respect

Dad never demanded any one to respect him. It came automatically. The way he talked, and his actions, caused others to just naturally respect him.

5. Force People To Do His Bidding

If there was grungy work to do, like disciplining an errant worker, or terminating someone who had gone astray, Dad took care of it. He was accountable and responsible. He never asked his people to do the dirty work.

I suppose I should have paid more attention to my father while I was growing up. I am sure I missed opportunities to learn from what I now recognize as a master leader and expert. But I did learn a few things. Many of them I still use today. And these 5 are leadership gems in my opinion.

I hope you enjoyed reading about “Old Salty’s” gems as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you.

Let me know what you think. I’m truly interested.

You can read my blog HERE, connect on Twitter HERE, LinkedIn HERE and Facebook HERE.

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10 Reasons Why You Need a Coach


My daughter recently said to me, ” I feel like I have bad karma. I seem to be living under a dark cloud.” She is in college, living away from home, and has had to deal with a couple of rough spots. Nothing major, but, then again, that’s my opinion, not hers. To her, life is a bit tough right now, and she is having some difficulty dealing with recent events. There is no doubt that life can be a real bear at times.

Some days, everything is really rosy, the sun is shining, things are just falling into place. It’s all flowers, strawberries, chocolate and puppies. Then on other days, thunder and lightning surround you, weeds creep into your mental garden, you are greeted by a flat tire, someone rear ends you on the expressway, you spill hot coffee on your freshly dry-cleaned outfit, or drop your keys down a sewer grate (this actually happened to my other daughter several years ago. Talk about a significantly major PITA!). It just seems like nothing is going your way, and perhaps, it will not go you way ever again. At least that’s the way it feels, anyway.

We face these and even more serious issues every day in life. Some small, some large, some huge. We usually get through these times. We manage. We get by. But sometimes, you find the going tougher than you have ever experienced. You feel like you are wading up-stream, in a river of molasses. You fight against the current, swim against the tide, making little to no progress. In these times, the swirling waters threaten to pull you under. You fight to breathe, you gasp for air, you struggle to survive.

It is at these times that you should consider seeking out and engaging a Coach, a mentor, a sage. Someone who can listen to and observe the difficulties you are facing, putting them into their proper perspective, and assisting you in emerging successfully out of the morass you have gotten yourself into. A trusted person that you can trust to methodically and patiently help. I can think of many good reasons to engage a coach. I will share ten of them with you now.

  1. Good Coaches have experience. They have either personally gone through what you are going through, or have seen it before, time and time again. This helps immensely to cut through the haziness of a particular issue, since they typically have been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt.
  2. Coaches will look at your predicament objectively and unemotionally. This allows them to strip away the bad feelings and drama that you cannot do for yourself. They look at the facts and root cause(s) of your issues. The cut to the objective chase.
  3. Coaches listen really well. They make sure they understand your point of view (after all, you are the one with the problem!). They do not impose their paradigm on you. They look at things from your perspective. The walk in your shoes.
  4. Coaches steer you towards thinking about great outcomes. They help you to develop a custom vision of how things should really be. This is hard for us to do by ourselves when we are wallowing in a swamp full of alligators.
  5. Coaches are action oriented. After they help you develop the vision of how things are, they assist in putting together an action plan for getting there. YOUR action plan, not theirs.
  6. Coaches hold you accountable for your vision, and your action plan. They ensure you maintain ownership and accountability over your issues, your vision, your plan. Without this accountability, you won’t stick to it. you won’t get it done.
  7. Coaches tell it like it is. They don’t tell you what you WANT to hear, they say what you NEED to hear. Unfiltered. Unadulterated.
  8. Coaches are ethical, confidential, and private. You can be open with them, where you may not be able to with a friend, even a good friend, or a family member. This is one of the most important attributes of a coach. You can trust a person whose profession it is to help, and to maintain confidentiality.
  9. Coaches are outcome and results oriented, and they help you get there as quickly as you are willing to and can move.
  10. Coaches are balanced, and help you balance. Your life may not be a bowl of cherries, but it’s not all gloom and doom either. They help you see, recognize, and exploit strengths, while you are working on the weaknesses.

In short, having a competent, experienced person beside you, to guide you through the complexities of life, can be a real blessing. Many executives, celebrities, and professional athletes employ coaches, to give them that edge they need to be successful. We can all use the help. If its good enough for them, why not for us?

Let me know what you think.

You can read my blog HERE, connect on Twitter HERE, LinkedIn HERE and Facebook HERE.

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Want to Feel Fulfilled and Healed?


As a Life Coach, Mentor, and as a leader of large organizations, I consistently encounter many of my fellow human beings in distress due to various events in their lives. Let’s face it, life is constantly throwing jabs and punches at us. We are dodging, ducking, weaving, more often than we would like. At times, life lands some fairly heavy blows, and inflicts wounds and pain on us. We are always looking for ways to ease that pain, to heal those wounds, to fill the emptiness that we feel at times. We are constantly searching for those things that fulfill us, and that heal those wounds that life constantly inflicts on us. Often, the search is for that silver bullet, that antidote, the dose of magic elixir that will make life recede into the shadows, put out the fire in our souls, and take away our pain.

As a result, I see many people turning to substances and things like alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, online activities and other stimuli to take away the pain and heal the wounds. The problem is, none of those things heal the wounds, and any pain relief is very temporary. And, as we have become all too familiar with, those supposed “solutions” bring along lots of baggage full of damaging addictions and side effects.

One thing I have found that consistently leads to fulfillment, healing, and relieving of pain, is to seek out people who need help, and to work collaboratively to help them through their dilemmas. I am convinced that we were put on this earth and designed to help our fellow human beings, and that a whole host of good things come down on us and others, when we do this. Here are 10 reasons why helping someone helps us in turn:

  1. Shifting our attention to helping someone else, takes the focus off of us and our own problems
  2. Helping others is a positive activity. We focus on positive things and not the negativity associated with our own issues
  3. The connection we develop with others when we help them, is a satisfying feeling that washes over us and soothes our wounded souls
  4. The act of doing good, just plain feels good. It heals, it takes away pain, it makes us happy. Beneficial chemicals are released in the brain when you do good
  5. Helping others is great for your self esteem. It gives your psyche a tremendous boost and makes you feel powerful
  6. The connections we make with others when we help them, builds friendships and a lasting bond that continues to have a positive effect on us for a long time
  7. An inner peace washes over us when we selflessly give our time and assistance
  8. We make the world a better place one kind act at a time
  9. We set an example that others can follow
  10. Helping others is a great way to learn about you and who you really are, and in turn, to help yourself

So, we really do hold the key to self-healing, easing of pain, and fulfillment. It is there for us to take advantage of, any time we need to, any time we want. And there is no shortage of tattered and hurting souls to help either. So, get out and help someone today, and enjoy the positive effects that it will bring.

Do you have your own stories about how helping others has helped you? I’d love to hear them!

You can read my blog HERE, connect on Twitter HERE, LinkedIn HERE and Facebook HERE.

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4 Reasons Why Broken and Fixed is Better Than New

Western society discards used and broken items like so much flotsam and jetsam. Once something loses its shiny and new appearance, we don’t want it anymore. Trash piles and landfills are replete with mounds of unwanted, broken and discarded things. First desired and valued, once we have “put a few miles” on these treasures, once they have become broken and flawed, we are quick to disregard, to snub, to throw away. 
We do this with people as well. We kick once close friends to the curb if they fall from grace. We brand as forever useless and shameful, those that no longer meet our definition of the beautiful, desirable and ideal. We are quick to judge, slow to forgive and relentless in our persecution of those unfortunate human beings that make mistakes, fall off the wagon, and no longer measure up to our self defined and imposed standards. 
Japanese society and culture is quite different. The Japanese continue to treasure and value once broken things, repaired and restored to a new level of beauty. The essence of this philosophy is called Wabi Sabi. 

Wikipedia defines Wabi Sabi as the comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. 

Wabi Sabi is well captured in the concepts of Kintsukuroi, the art of repaired pottery, also known as Kintsugi, golden joinery, or joined with gold. Basically, when an item of pottery or ceramic is broken, it is not looked down on and discarded. It is repaired, with gold and lacquer or epoxy. The repaired item now takes on a new life, and is even more treasured and valued than it was originally. 
Let’s relate these concepts to people. People rise to great heights, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. In both their professional and personal lives, people excel, they prosper and achieve great success. But at times, people “fall of their shelf” like a piece of beautiful pottery, and break. They can be dropped like we would drop a treasured ceramic serving bowl, no longer able to serve the original purpose, becoming pieces of brokenness and shame. They are shunned, snubbed, discarded. 
What if we were to apply Wabi Sabi, utilizing techniques like Kintsugi, like Kintsukuroi, to repair and restore these broken lives? Why wouldn’t their value be restored? Why couldn’t we once again begin to cherish and treasure them, as we once did in their original state? Why wouldn’t their lives be able to start anew?
I submit to you that all of the above can and should apply to people that have been repaired and restored. As a former truly broken and shattered person, due to a period in my life I am not proud of, I can attest to both the shunning and shame, as well as to the restoration and value that takes place after a period of applied Kintsurukoi. 

We do know it is true that some people will never repair and restore. They will remain broken and flawed, mostly due to a self imposed sense of shame and lack of self esteem. They will forever be relegated to the landfills of life, never to be valued again. But many can and will regain their beauty and value. And again I submit to you that they are worthy of our admiration and re-acceptance. Here are 4 reasons why:

  1. When people break and shatter, the ordeal and the process of restoration teaches valuable lessons. We can greatly benefit from these lessons. Re-engaging with restored people will in turn add significant value to our lives as we learn from their lessons
  2. Repaired and restored people are great role models. We can point to the breaks as pitfalls to avoid in our own lives
  3. We enrich our own lives and fulfill one of the prime reasons we exist, by extending a helping hand, and by putting those restored people back on their valued place on the “shelf”
  4. Putting people back to good useful work, much like putting that serving dish back into service, is an effective and efficient use of valuable resource, something which our planet sorely needs.  

We can learn much from Japanese culture. Wabi Sabi, embodied in the concepts of Kintsugi and Kintsukuroi, are lessons our society should adopt and embrace. There are a lot of formerly broken people, now repaired and restored that should be welcomed back into our lives. They should be put back on their “shelves” to be admired and revered. They deserve it, and we deserve benefitting from the valuable lessons and renewed beauty they have to share with us. 
Let me know what you think about all this. I’m keenly interested!

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14 Leadership Lessons from Fred

Fred and MeFred DeLuca, co-founder of Subway, passed away this week. Fred was a remarkable man, by any definition of the word remarkable. He was brilliant, witty, quick, passionate, compassionate, kind, considerate, and many other adjectives way too numerous to mention here. For 50 years, Fred established and built his company into a powerhouse in the industry. Fred was Subway, and Subway was Fred. No one could ever argue that.

I was privileged and grateful for having known him over the last 5 years, and to have spent quality time with him, listening to his outlook on life and leadership, learning from a true master. I share with you 14 golden nuggets from my time with

Fred’s lessons:

  1. Eliminate Silos – Get people to work together. The team is more powerful than a set of individuals. Stress teamwork in everything you do.
  2. Recognize High Achievement in the team and individuals – Reward it. And then most importantly, figure out how to teach High Achievement to others using the high achieving team’s example. Replicate this throughout the organization.
  3. Be Creative in How to Get Things Done – Analytical, and project management skills are important, but nothing beats creativity for getting something accomplished. This means that at times, you put aside the tools of management, and you put on the leadership hat to think out of the box.
  4. Think Big, but Start Small – Then tweak and build on it. If you start small, and it doesn’t work well, the tweaking is easier, and you have not invested a great deal in the effort, even if you have to tear it down and start again, or scrap it as a bad idea.
  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail – Fail fast, so you learn from the failure, and then move on. (He also added, “try not to fail TOO much” and laughed).
  6. Place Some of the Burden of an Initiative on the Recipients/Stakeholders – But not too much. He called this “having skin in the game”. If people don’t have skin in the game, they won’t really accept the solution, and won’t see the true value.
  7. On Any Initiative, Examine Who Is Struggling, Because They Don’t Have the Required Firepower – Then, help them get the firepower. There is nothing worse than someone struggling and feeling they are failing, because they don’t have resources or the wherewithal to get something done. Don’t stand idly by and let this happen!!!
  8. There is a BIG Difference Between Leadership and Management – Learn when to manage something, and when to just plain lead people. Good people are looking for leadership, and won’t always need to be managed. They will often know HOW to do something, they need leadership on WHY and WHAT to do.
  9. Keep Your Eyes Open – This seems obvious, but in thinking about it, it is not. I am reminded of
    the “beach ball” story. A beach ball’s colors are different depending on where you are standing, and you can only see the totality if you step back. Fred was saying, “look at things from different perspectives. Look at it from your customer’s perspective”. Problems will be easier to see and to solve.
  10. On Communication, Pick the Lowest Level Possible – A Brilliant nugget! He was saying two things here. One, Simplify your communications so that it is clear and concise, and then make sure you communicate things to the level of people for which it is truly important so they know and understand what you want them to know. Otherwise, higher levels may not share the message, or will water it down to the point where it is not useful and does not hit the intended target you were aiming at.
  11. Whenever Possible, Give People the Keys to Do Things Themselves – This is Fred’s flexibility mantra. He was always looking for ways to give people more flexibility and autonomy in getting things done.  What is material? How much flex can we allow? Flexibility, with some structure and guidelines. Observe and learn.
  12. When You Are Going to Miss a Commitment, Warn as Quickly as Possible – We always want to avoid missing our commitments, but Fred was a realist and knew that not everything was going to fall into place every time. Keeping people properly informed and engaged was always on his mind.
  13. Think About Total Chaos – This one threw me for a loop. We were talking about this in the context of a global implementation (more than 100 countries, and 44,000 stores). He said, “don’t think about global from a HQ perspective, think about it from the local perspectives in each country. If you think about it from our tiny HQ location in Milford, Connecticut you’ll miss the mark. Think about the Total Chaos you will cause if you don’t think about it locally! Use local resources to help you think through and resolve the potential Chaos. The local guys KNOW! Wow is all I could say.
  14. Always Quantify How Your Solutions Help People Be More Efficient, Be More Profitable, Lead Better Lives. – Help people to see the value. If we can’t do that, we don’t have real solutions. This is our ultimate reason for being, period.

Some of these nuggets were shared with me over the time I knew Fred. Most were shared in a 2+ hour, rapid fire meeting that Fred had with myself and a colleague back in November of 2014. Even though he was already stricken, he was in great spirits, and was so energized, I had trouble keeping up to take notes. And I kept meaning to go back and write these up to share them, but, things got busy (sound familiar?), and I was stricken with my own illness, so it was placed on the back burner. Fred’s passing brought me back to that meeting, at 5 o’clock, back in November. An impromptu meeting (he was in our Miami office and dropped in on us at 5 PM), and lasting well over 2 hours, Fred kept asking, “are you guys OK on time? Do you have somewhere you have to be?”. Are you kidding me?, I laughed to myself. There is nowhere I’d rather be than here, listening to you! I had no idea, until I distilled my notes into these 14 nuggets, just how blessed I had been to have known him, and to have learned directly from Fred.

Fred, I only knew you for 5 years, but I will miss you, your smile, your wisdom, your intellect, your energy, your passion, your drive, and your desire to make the Subway world, and the world in general, a better place. You have set a stellar example for us to follow. Rest in Peace Fred DeLuca, comfortable and fulfilled in the great legacy you have left with us all.

If you knew Fred, or are familiar with him and his story, I’d love to hear from you.

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The Way – A Fable About Right and Wrong

Chapter 2


I looked out at the evening sky, overlooking Central Park. There was a full moon out, and the weather was January crisp. I had chosen to be alone this night, and my half eaten dinner sat on the room service tray on the cart behind me. As I walked out onto the balcony, I fingered the gold plated name tag I had been given that morning, and sipped the cup of hot English Breakfast tea. I thought of how the day had unfolded, wrapping up with a speech that evening at the New York Athletic Club, after having rung the opening bell to open trading in the morning at the New York Stock Exchange, following that with countless interviews, speeches, a breakfast, lunch, and purchase of the first 100 shares of our stock on the floor of the exchange. Peter Perez-Gonzalez, the CEO boy wonder. The cheers and applause of those in attendance, the New York sales force, our customers, trusted suppliers, advisers, and my family, still echoed in my ears. And the huge barbeque and party I had kicked off by long distance video conference, held under the tents outside our headquarters, with more than 1,500 of the local Total Networks employees had been such a rush. I could literally hear them screaming with delight as I addressed them via video conference, wishing I was there with them. This was more gratifying than any man ever deserved, especially me, as I had never really considered myself worthy of leading such an incredible company and group of employees.

I thought back to that first time I met Juan Carlos, when he first taught me about the “law of the farm”, and he said to me, “Soon the day will come when you will harvest what you have planted. You must stop to enjoy that moment, but it will be merely a temporary stop on a long, continuous journey. Acknowledge it, savor the moment, and move on, for the work will continue, as another season begins. Remember, the Journey is more incredible, and more satisfying than the Destination”. And so, for the moment, I stopped, and savored, before continuing with the journey.

It had indeed been a long road. The naysayers had first ridiculed our business plan, and openly derided us and jeered our approach. Our story was not an incredibly sexy, meteoric, “50% year over year growth” story. We weren’t in the fastest growing sectors of the Internet technology markets. We were considered plodders. A good product line, great technology, talented engineers, a solutions based approach, and superior customer service. But we weren’t the big boys on the block, and we weren’t the start-up darlings of the dot.com world. As a result, our potential IPO did not attract the kind of buzz that the Wall Street know-it-all analysts loved and catered to. So we struggled, and we fought, and we stayed the course. Loyal customers, solid products, tough and battle hardened sales and technical support people, and engineers that would pull all-nighters for days to meet a deadline. That’s who we were. And while some of our competitors, and other start-ups cut corners, walked the thin line, and often strayed into the gray areas and toyed with the edge and corner cases of GAAP, we played it straight, and by the book.

During those times, I listened to Juan Carlos’s counsel, his no-nonsense approach to life, his basic, real world methods for tackling the basics, and for producing hard, clean and consistent results. That was our secret sauce. And if the Wall Street experts had known that it was a plain old gardener that had guided our rise through the mine fields of the dot.com debacle, seeing us to the other side as a great all American business success story, they would have laughed themselves silly. That was A-OK with me, because the laugh was on all of them. We laughed all the way to Wall Street, all the way to a place in the history books, and all the way into the hearts of our customers, our loving families, and our shareholders.

And so, yes, I recalled in my mind the words that Juan Carlos had uttered, and I did savor the moment, while I thought about all of the people that had worked so hard that we might get here someday. That day had indeed arrived.

And I thought about Paul, my brother, my friend. I thought about what had befallen him, where he was right now, and what he was about to face. Truth be told, I thought about Paul often, and thanked God the All Mighty that I had been blessed with someone to guide me through the shark infested waters of this Hi-Tech, high pressure, short term thinking, cut every corner, play with the numbers world. Because there, in that prison, forsaken, broken, and forgotten, but for the Grace of God, was Paul, instead of I. I shivered in the cold January night on that balcony, while I sipped the last of my tea.

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