As a future millionaire and your devoted author of this sight I would be remiss if I didn’t mention probably one of the most important discussions that I have had in 2007. It took place with a one, Mr. Ken Dabrowski. Yes sir, he has his own Forbes page. He happens to be on the board of my daytime job as well as three other companies. The sad part is I almost went the entire night without even talking to him.
I view the company Christmas party as a test to see if you can work the room. Working the room takes a lot of self confidence wit and energy. I pretended that it was one of my companies and these were my employees. I attempted to go from table to table and give warm greetings and crack a few jokes, with the hopes of leaving each table slightly more entertained then before I visited. You want people’s dates or spouses to ask, “Who is that guy”, “What does he do”. This involves looking smooth, and being as smooth as you look. How did I do? Let’s say I was better then last year, but I still need some work. Surprisingly I enjoyed it and it felt quite natural.
(I won’t give any personal details regarding my opinion of the party and the speeches given and activities, for fear of losing my job). After we ate and engaged in some auction for Charity activities, I was talking to a friend and I was telling him that we should be over there talking to Ken. His response was, “What are we waiting for?” Hell, he was right, and the time was now.
Once I head over and started to talk to Ken, of course all of the company’s haters soon follow. My boss, and other colleagues want to get in on the act. The best part is that Ken noticed. He’s been around the block a few times and he knows company dynamics and politics and I’m sure he noticed the leaders and the followers. Now there is a crowd around the man; and I’m bucking for attention. This is exactly how the first round of the Apprentice tryouts were. 8 type "A" level personalities trying to get noticed. After jockeying for position; I really began to engage Ken in some serious dialogue. I asked him to walk me through his career. I was interested in knowing how someone goes from being an Engineer at Ford to Chairman of the board for four companies. He’s and old School Ford guy, starting there as a Co-op. He started on the drafting boards and was a director by age 43. I asked him if he always knew he was going to do something bigger, his response was a little shocking. “No”., he said. He said that he never knew his next move, he was just concentrating on the here and now.
Am I too worried about the next steps and not focusing on the now? It definitely is giving me something to think about.
One of my other colleagues asked him to define what it takes to be a success. He didn’t say anything earth shattering. He just said that you had to be reliable and dependable. I wanted to get more personal but it wasn’t the time or place. That answer was like telling you if you want to lose weight eat less calories then you burn; however it was the right answer for that setting. I would expect nothing less from a man of his caliber. He told me that he just flew in from Naples. It was Friday evening and he was in our conference room on Thursday. So he flew to Florida Thursday evening and then flew back Friday for the Christmas party. WOW. That’s how I’m trying to live.
All of the reading; business etiquette, handshakes, Wall Street Journals, come into to play. Ken mentioned that he studied program management techniques from all of the big companies; GE, Xerox, GM, Home Depot, all of which I was at least familiar with. I liken this meeting to that of Nicholas Cage to the Wall Street dude in "The Family Man" (1 of my top 10 movies) when he was trying to sell him tires.
I told him that I am the Program Manager for our New Chrysler business. He was impressed and proceeded to tell me that the weight of the company is on my back. He expected to hear positive things this time next year and he wished me success. What he didn’t know is that success means that I won’t be there next year.