This may or may not be very interesting to anyone – but it’s my blog and I guess I can say what I want :-).
But then again maybe these thoughts will get you all thinking about the potential impact of everything we do and especially of the amazing moments, opportunities and decisions in our lives that lead us along the paths we end up on. Of course nearly every day something or someone comes along that changes the future events of our lives (especially true of the meeting of our mates and the events that lead to the birth of each of our children (if you catch my drift))…
But business also sometimes produces fascinating sequences of events and opportunities that just happen without any specific effort on our parts.
I was on an airplane last evening out over Lake Michigan on my way home from a consulting gig for a coal company in West Virginia, sitting next to a Pilot for the airline who was dead-heading home to my town after 4 days of flying out of Denver. In the course of the conversation he asked me “How’d a guy from London Ontario get a gig for a Coal company in West Virginia?” I was taken aback by the question because as I thought about the answer it became apparent to me that it is a loooong thread that went back more than 25 years that got me the gig in West Virginia. I told hm it was very complicated, and then I sat back and walked in my head through the trail that led me to the coal mines of West Virginia.
In 1984 a Computerland store opened in London. I had begun to take an interest in computers and specifically spreadsheets through my job as a commodity trader. I met a guy there one day named Wayne who was a freelance computer consultant who basically was an independent broker of early PC technology. We kept running into each other there and he was the guy who first told me to look at Lotus 1-2-3 version 1A.
It became apparent very early that I had a knack for spreadsheets and after several months of knowing Wayne I got a call from him that he was teaching at a client and they were already over his head in their knowledge of 1-2-3. Could I take an afternoon and come in and teach this class for him?
I took an afternoon off and went to Labatt’s Breweries and taught a class in 1-2-3 to the corporate purchasing department of Labatt’s. After the class I was approached by the Director to come in and see him about some stuff they wanted done…. and a twenty year consulting and training relationship began between Labatt Breweries and me. This started with 1-2-3, then evolved to Excel and Access and SQL Server. Like all relationships, this one ebbed and flowed, but eventually I ended up meeting a young girl in their Toronto office (don’t get any ideas now) who was on a contract for them during her University education. Shortly thereafter this girl ended up doing a term at International Nickel (INCO) a Nickel mining company in Toronto.
In a discussion about training at INCO, Kerry (this girl) mentioned that she knew someone who was an expert on spreadsheets and a good trainer (me) and so I got a call from Adrienne at INCO and thus began a consulting relationship with INCO that lasts until this day doing Excel, Access and SQL Server projects.
After 15 years of work for INCO they sent me out to Newfoundland to help with their reporting needs both at the mine up in Northern Labrador and at head office in St. John’s. It was there that I ended up working for Steve who was the Director of Finance for the division.
After three years helping them, a change of ownership led to Steve leaving the company and returning to Texas (where he actually lived). But after three months I get a call from West Virginia, from Steve, that he needed my skills at his new gig working for a coal company in West Virginia – and away I went.
So 26 years after walking in to Computerland in London Ontario here I was in a jet at 35000 feet over Lake Michigan talking to a guy who wondered how I got there….
Tragically Wayne died by his own hand more than twenty years ago after an unfortunate business deal left him with a huge loss. I can’t help but think that he would be amused and pleased to know that the path he largely started me on is still going.
Of course every day in our lives these threads get expanded or cut short by circumstance, and until our last breath this will keep going on. But this one strikes me as noteworthy because not a single part of this thread of opportunity was initiated directly by me! Not a single cold call, not a single followup to an ad or an Internet posting …. just simple karma and happen-chance.
Sure I did a lot of good (and some bad) work in between and worked hard and long, but lots of things we do just don’t lead anywhere but dead-ends. Then again I guess you never do know where things will lead, do you?
p.s. Please forgive any personal conversations that arise from this thread – a small peak into my REAL life 🙂
Basil forwarded your blog and I started reading…wondering who the heck was Dick and why he has his own blog. As soon as I read Computerland, I knew.
Nice to read your update and glad to see that you are still bringing in the big consulting bucks.
Are you still living by the river?
As far as myself, I retired in 2005 and have been spending winters in Florida and summers in Grand Bend. As far as Labatt, I guess you would have to learn Spanish in order to get any work there now a days.
Take care and keep those dollars coming.
Hey Steve !!
Shouldn’t that be Portugese?
Is Basil spending his retirement surfing for references to “Labatt” and “London” on the Internet 🙂 ???
Glad to hear from you. Were are you in Florida? We lived there for a couple of years and liked the place – but it’s hard to make any money there so we came back.
Yes still busy and making enough money (barely this last year). My biggest client has been Microsoft in Seattle and in Europe the last two years but like everyone else they’re cutting back so much it’s scary… so I go to West Virginia instead :-).
We live in Oakridge now with one 30 year old kid back after a marriage gone bad. We do get to see the two Grandkids a lot though because he’s here. We have two cats and two Labradors so the house is busy.
Glad to hear you’re doing fine. When you’re back in London drop m a line and we’ll do lunch.
p.s. I have breakfast with Jim Greer and Featherstone occasionally…
Hello Dick. Amusing reading to read your blog. I remember those original Labatt days. I think I learned the colour chartruse from you during one of your instructionals.
Hey Barry …. I can’t even remember what chartruse looks like … I wish something more important had sunk in though :-)..
I just wanted to introduce myself per standard forum etiquette.
I look forward to talking with everyone…