Last week I lost a good friend. I was just out of college 2 ½ years when Carl hired me, into a small (yet very successful) medical device company when I had no medical device manufacturing experience. I was a “high performer” in my previous companies and positions but was quite out of my element. Carl preceded to turn me loose setting up the software and electrical quality system for a new product line that was vastly different than the product that had established the company (mechanical vs electrical). Carl provided guidance, letting me know what he was looking for, but not telling me how it should be done. I learned a great deal and my confidence level soared. When that new electrical product was scrapped, he thought nothing of reassigning me to work on a biomedical acquisition involving chemical processing of a bovine artery (to make it implantable for peripheral vein graft surgery). Nearing our third year together, Carl let me know that I was ready for bigger things, i.e. management, and he could not do that for me at our company. He referred to me a friend of his at a small medical start-up to be his Quality Manager. At that point, we ceased being coworkers, but continued as friends.
Carl had not only provided me guidance in the workplace, but he had also engaged me personally, getting to know me, my family and creating a connection. He invited my family for dinner at his home. Work conferences also included opportunities for social time. We had lunch frequently, I remember fondly our “extended” lunches 35 years ago watching the afternoon game of the MN high school hockey tournament on the restaurant’s TV.
After leaving our company, we stayed engaged, talking infrequently but always starting right up where we left off. Even when I moved hours away, we stayed connected, seeing each other on occasion when business brought me back to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
The last 10 years we started to engage more, following each other’s accolades resulting from our business and personal successes. We visited each other, and even played a little golf for a college scholarship fund tournament. My father passed away some 18 years ago, before I reached my pinnacle of running and owning my own company. Carl was there to see it though and his telling me how impressed and proud he was meant as much as if it had come from my father.
I am confident I got to where I am by having Carl in my life, both professionally and personally. I like to think some of him rubbed off and I try to emulate Carl with my own reports at work. Carl was honorable, Carl was truthful, Carl was caring, Carl was a good man. That is the best advise I can give anybody as they go through life, be a Carl.