Photo above by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research – Creating Defensible Space, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=803832
To all creatures great and small, anything, and everything, the solution to all of mankind’s issues, questions, traumas, and broken sump pumps was simply “August the 18th (1986).” Up to that date, work had been a long, worrisome slog at Olcott International with CEO Bernard Olcott.
Not only CEO, but also inventor of an entire industry!
Not only CEO, but my Dad who had brought me to the world’s most interesting places!
Not only CEO, but a real employer and engine of economic growth. A killer business! The embodiment of the great promise of small family owned enterprises in the USA!!
Yet an unparalleled brilliance without core beliefs — impossible to follow without getting whipsawed. Even in his personal life. Especially there! A lone eagle who had displayed lots of evidence that he was unwilling to work with anybody.
Someone increasingly distracted by side ventures to the detriment of that main engine of economic growth. A quick and impatient mind more content to re-shuffle the deck than to manage, guide, dispense real wisdom, and evolve.
A guy who even returned condoms to the Shop Rite Pharmacy because they were too small or “made for midgets.”
In the run up to August 18th, 1986, the date of record for me, a typical training session that summer with my replacement Paul Campo went down something like this:
“OK, Paul, this is the computer inventory of all trademarks owned by The Wellcome Foundation.” I put my hand down softly on a large green binder by my side. Inside were hundreds of pages of green tractor-feed paper held together with white plastic paper ties.
Getting very little on the way of a reaction, I flipped through the pages making a ruffling noise. “You see, the marks are organized by country.”
Again, no reaction.
Continuing to flip through the sheets, I stopped at one page. “Here, this page is for Sudan.”
Paul looked lively all of a sudden. “Dan who?” he asked. “And I don’t know anyone named Sue,” he added. A real comedian.
Monday, August 18th, year of Our Lord 1986. That was to be my first day at Columbia Business School’s two week orientation for the incoming class of 1988. As mentioned last week in “MURPHY AND HIS LAW,” it was to feature a boot camp for Mathematics and gettin’ jiggy with the Hewlett Packard 12c financial calculator. Although that was the date of reference for me throughout the second quarter of the year – after I was notified of my acceptance in April – I suppose from my point of view the real date of reference for me was Friday, August 15th. That was to be my last date at Olcott International.
I told Dad over lunch of my acceptance at Columbia. He took the news quietly. Why shouldn’t he? After all, he had asked me to leave the company that past December. We both agreed that it was important to find a replacement for me to insure a smooth transition.
For this task, Dad avoided placing a Help Wanted ad in the Hudson Dispatch or Bergen Record newspapers, his usual sources for potential office talent. This time, he went to the Job Placement office of the US Trademark Association and found someone who, like Bob Gerhardt, had his favorite qualification – an actual Juris Doctor degree! (Something I never had nor lusted after).
This week’s post is dedicated to Carrie Fischer, who was a tremendous advocate for victims of mental illness. Despite tremendous hardship and emotional neglect, she became the sole caretaker of her father Eddie Fischer during the last years of his troubled life (divorced 5 times!) in a completely selfless manner.
Brown Brothers Harriman. Manny Hanny. Cantor Fitzgerald. First Morgan Sachs Fifth Avenue. Taco Bell. If Michael Lewis wrote about them, I interviewed there in my search to get out of a destructive work and family situation. Like Horatio Alger‘s characters, I needed a powerful mentor to groom the trail ahead. Lacking such, my quest was doomed to heartache.
Nevertheless, I did find many helpful folks along the way; it was just they were never in the right place to clear an obstacle for me. Even though somewhat underpowered, I tried to compensate by being as thorough and complete as possible. For example, an unusual source for job leads was to be found in the salmon pink colored folds of the Financial Times of London. I knew this paper from my frequent trips to England. There was a recruitment section on the back pages. I answered lots of postings and bought sheets of international air mail stamps to send out my resume.
Occasionally, I received a courteous reply thanking me for my application. Invariably, they promised to contact me promptly if “a suitable match were found.”
I watched the backs of pigs anxiously for any signs of wing buds. But like watched pots that never boil, I couldn’t get my bacon to fly.