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I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT and did not intend it but somehow I managed to crash the funeral of a dear business colleague. I confirmed this with the son of the deceased shortly after the funeral when I offered my apologies.
I became suspicious of my behavior when I realized I was among just a handful of non-family members at the event and later searched unsuccessfully for an announcement of the funeral in the local media.
How this occurred was innocent enough. I was copied on an email from the wife of the former CEO of the company where the deceased had worked. The email was directed to board members of the company. In it, she announced their plan to attend the funeral and asked for recognition of the contribution made by the deceased to the company. Her email included the time and date of the visitation and funeral services.
Unwittingly, I took this as an invitation to attend the funeral, made arrangements for flowers to be sent and showed up for the visitation. One of my law partners joined me to pay his respects as well.
The wife and the former CEO arrived after we did to a more expected welcome by family members. In retrospect, that was my first clue to my mistake.
Their physical appearance and demeanor was another clue. In the years since the CEO resigned and left town to retire, both he and his wife had changed. He stopped communicating with others who had been involved with the company so, even though they had both been good friends, I had been unable to speak with them for some time. A cold handshake was all I could muster from him as a greeting.
My reaction to her email was based on who I remembered her to be, not to the woman who had been cut off from her company friends by her husband's decision. The email plea with its detailed information about the funeral was something other than an invitation. I did not understand that because I no longer knew her.
My takeaway from all of this is that it is important to remember that the people who manage companies change over time. The ones you know and depend on, like all of us, react and adapt to changes they encounter and sometimes those changes are limiting or negative. In the context of running a company, especially one with outside stakeholders , it is important to be alert to this basic truth and diligent about evaluating the continued competence of your management.
This was not the first time I had seen changes in a CEO. The pressures of the job are immense. And, sometimes, the drive to survive in the position can lead to behavior that disguises or obscures reality from the company’s board of directors.
This was, certainly, an unusual example of how time and circumstances can change someone you know into someone you thought you knew. Things are not always what they seem.
Image is from Buccioni’s The City Rises (1910).
The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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