My immersion in Atlanta’s technology scene started over 20 years ago, and during that time I’ve had unique opportunities to work with some memorable, outstanding entrepreneurs. As I look back on the years that I’ve been fortunate enough to be alongside clients who were at the forefront of many exciting new technologies, I think its time I said thanks properly.
Not often, but every now and then, I think about what I would convey in my goodbye speech to all of my work friends when the time comes for me to retire. In my mind’s eye, we’re all dressed up nice and fancy at an evening event at which I have a chance to make a few remarks.
When I think about what I’d say, a ton of memories spring to mind; long meetings with then young and passionate entrepreneurs, lots and lots of networking meetings (how many Ritz lamb chops have I eaten?!), celebratory sessions when things went well, and even some deep rethinks when projects veered off course. Until about a year ago, one memory would always spoil my reflections and remind me that I could have been a better person.
In the early 90s, I had a brand-new agency. We had a few great clients and life was going in the right direction. At home, I had decided to refocus on being more present for my young and growing family. I’m not sure now what got under my bonnet that day, but at a client meeting where I felt my integrity was being questioned, I stood up, blurted out a few words and stormed out! Outside I sat in my car fuming as I waited for my colleague to come out and join me. When he reached me all he could say was, “what happed in there?” I’m sure I said a few things in my defense, but I knew that I’d been unprofessional and immature. The client relationship ended later that day and I had no further contact with any of the executives.
Over the years, I tried to bury the memory, but occasional references to one particular executive at that meeting always brought it all back. I had to make amends and find a way to apologize. After years of weak efforts to make contact with this executive through mutual friends, I finally got the chance when I ran into him at a networking event. By this time, I knew more about him. All of my trusted business friends said great things about him and that only made me feel worse. So when he walked into that meeting, I made a beeline for him and re-introduced myself.
He was gracious and kind. He listened and smiled as I belatedly apologized for my actions that day almost 20 years earlier. He still remembered the event, but in a show of his generosity, he gave me a complete pass and told me not to think of it ever again – and I haven’t, at least not in the same way.
Now this once prickly and embarrassing memory is now in my life’s folder of lessons learned. Now when I think of this particular executive, I feel grateful to him instead of indebted.
What has this to do with my melancholy thank you speech? It’s simply one of thousands of great experiences I’ve had with talented, driven, creative, brainy entrepreneurs and the community that serves them. My time with you all has changed me and I’d like to think for the better. Thanks for being an important part of this community that has been such a big part of my life.
I’m not saying goodbye just yet. I’m still having the time of my life and loving the ride. Just know that I’m grateful.