I recently received a letter, at my home address, from a woman whose name I did not recognize. In the letter, she introduced herself as the daughter of a man about to turn 80 years old and gave a name that rang a bell, but was not one I could immediately place. I wasn’t even sure that the letter was meant for me.
She wrote that with her father’s birthday coming up, she was hoping to have 80 people from his past each write a brief story about him — how he may have impacted their lives, or maybe a funny anecdote. And she was hoping I would be willing to contribute.
I set the letter down and thought about it off and on for a couple of hours, in large part wondering why me, when it finally clicked who the man was. I went through some old files and confirmed that he was one of my very first clients at Mustang Marketing. It started to come back a bit. We had worked together for a couple of years, but that was more than 30 years ago. I started to think about him and what I could write, initially mostly to be polite. But then I to realized that he did have a significant impact on my life. I sent the following note to him, through his daughter.
Frank, We first met about 35 years ago when I was a kid salesman selling ads for McKnight Medical. You were kind enough to buy some ads in one of our publications. A couple of years later, I opened my own marketing firm, Mustang Marketing — which I still own and operate. Through Chad (note: Chad Therapeutics, Frank’s company), you were one of the very first companies — and people — willing to take a chance on a young man and his startup company. You were generous with your advice, personal and professional, and while you may not know it, your kindness went a long way toward helping me get off the ground. We haven’t seen each other in 30+ years, and I hope and pray they have been kind to you. You deserve it. As I look to retire at the end of next year, I hope that over the years, I’ve helped a young person as they pursued their dreams, following in your footsteps. =) All the best on your 80th, and, with a little advance notice, I’m hoping to make it to your 90th!
I kept thinking about Frank, and my note, over the next couple of days. I don’t know that Frank ever knew how much he’d helped me get started. I don’t know that I really knew until now. He was simply a good man who took a chance on a kid. It got me to thinking — how often do we have an impact, even a large impact, on people without even knowing it? An impact created by the way we live, by our involvement in the community or perhaps by nothing more than a simple act of kindness.
Now that I remember him, I remember Frank as a quiet, professional and thoughtful man. I would not have listed him among my mentors (and I’ve been fortunate to have a few excellent ones), or even among the people who impacted or guided me. But I would have been wrong, because he did. Quietly, without fanfare, simply by being a good man and a good businessperson.
Thank you, Frank, and thank you to all of the Franks who have passed in and out of my life. I owe you more than I thought I did.
Scott Harris is the founder and chief executive of Mustang Marketing in Thousand Oaks.