Bob and I didn't always see eye to eye. I viewed him as kind of grumpy, and he didn't like that for a few hours a week I would somewhat unapologetically take off from my unpaid internship to go to job interviews.
He appreciated, however, that I would do everything that I said I would. Even though I was just an intern, he let me underwrite loans and go to client meetings by myself (with him reviewing the output, of course). He believed in me, and made sure he communicated it to me. Even when I told him that I didn't believe in me. He called me after my internship was over and told me he couldn't take another intern. He said that I had spoiled him too much with the quality of my work. Whether or not he did eventually take another intern, this vote of confidence definitely helped boost my young self-esteem.
We kept in touch over the years, as I served as an investment analyst for investments all over the world in my early career, and he always encouraged me to start my own business. When I finally started SH International, I worked with very large companies. Bob would ask me to come and provide trainings to entrepreneurs on building global and emerging markets businesses. Eventually, I realized through these trainings how much I loved working with entrepreneurs, and switched my company's focus to serving them. Now, one of my company's most interesting and impactful initiatives is the Multinational Entrepreneur Training.
We last spoke in early 2017, and we had plans, as always, to do great things. I don't think I was alone in this feeling, probably he made every entrepreneur and small business he served feel that they had incredible potential, and that they would do amazing things together. I now have the maturity to realize that feeling extra capable around him didn't make me intrinsically capable - it meant that I was in the presence of a leader who knew how to bring out the best in those around him.
I had trouble following up with him, however, and didn't really understand why. Recently, I had an exchange with someone in his office, and suddenly everything made sense. He passed away in December 2017. When a tree falls in the forest, does it fall if you do not learn about it immediately? In the case of Bob, yes, the tree has fallen and there will never again be another tree quite the same. All the plans we had stopped developing even if I didn't yet know why.
The last thing I would like to share about Bob is how scrupulously ethical he was. He made it clear to me that I was never to accept a gift from his clients, and I personally witnessed that he would not accept one, even something as simple as a sample of merchandise like a bottle of perfume. When he couldn't make my wedding, I had to assure him that the value of the wedding favors I saved for him was far less than his threshold of $20. He would never let his clients or me buy him a meal, for the same reasons. I remember this quality of his as being the very best that the US government had to offer its people, and the one quality that I reflect on the need for reinforcement in this country.
Bob, I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to believe in myself the way you did. I will, however, try to believe in others the way you did. And to have your unfailing sense of ethics. I deeply appreciated your leadership, and you will be remembered.