I went to Montreal this week.
The real reason: To Say Thank You.
A long-time associate was retiring after 35 years, we’ll call him “Al”. Al and I had worked together indirectly until about 10 years ago. At that point, my company got “split up” by a spin-off. Al was on one side of the fence, I was on the other. Let’s call Al’s side “Company A” and my side “Company B”.
As a result of the spin off, the parent company which had been vertically integrated was now split in the middle of a critical supply chain path. The material which was always mined, refined, smelted and rolled still traveled the same physical path, but there was now a legal split between 2 companies (“A” and “B”), whereas before the spin-off the entire processing happened within the walls of one company.
Now, Company A was a MAJOR supplier to Company B. As you’d expect, there was some friction associated with the spin-off and associated issues. My primary job in Company B was the manage the supply relationship for billions of dollars of material flowing in from Company A. Al’s job was to manage the technical relationship between our companies, and deal with any quality issues and associated technical requirements of the new legal relationship. Suddenly, “Al” and I were working more closely together than we had in the prior 2 decades of working for the same company.
As the broader relationship soured due to spin-off friction, a major project within my company required the support of Company A’s technical resources.
Enter “Al”, Company A’s technical representative.
In spite of the rising friction between our companies, Al played a major role in working with my company on this program, and major progress and improvements were made. His approach, his knowledge and his expertise earned respect from many folks working on the project for my company. I recall at one particular meeting where ~30 people from my company were participating, along with one representative from Company A – our friend “Al”. The project had been ongoing for almost a year by that point, and real progress was being made. A large part of the progress was due to Al. In that room, on that day, there was a strong sensation that he was now an accepted and open part of the team.
He was accepted. He was “one of us”, in spite of the fact that he was from Company A.
He earned it.
I suspect Company A never fully appreciated the contributions he had made during the project. After all, there was no one else from his company that witnessed his direct involvement in the meetings, since he was the only one there from Company A.
But I noticed, and I sincerely appreciated his approach, his efforts, and the impact he made.
A month ago, I was advised that Al would be retiring at the end of June. He really wanted to retire in December, but was “encouraged” to leave earlier due to a downsizing initiative Company A was undertaking. The “push” reprsented lack of appreciation, in my view, typical of the corporate environment these days.
I sincerely wanted to have an opportunity to express my gratitude to Al for all of the work he had done since the spin-off. His efforts made a huge impact, and the overall relationship between the two companies gradually improved in no small part due to his involvement.
So….I went to Montreal this week.
I bought Al and his team a dinner. More importantly, I was able to talk with Al one-on-one and express my heartfelt gratitude. I was also able to share the “project story” with his entire team at a post dinner “toast”, and let all of his associates know of the real impact he had made, and how much he was valued by Company B.
I suspect Al will long remember the appreciation shown that night. I suspect it will add to his contentment as he looks back at a long career and recalls the impact he made.
I could have stayed home. I could have just sent a note. I could have just let his retirement pass, another one bites the dust.
But I didn’t.
I went to Montreal this week.