He stood from his chair from behind his office desk and reached out to shake my hand.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Richard.”
“Hope your earlier meetings went well. You’ve met with Jen and Matt already, right? I’ve had a chance to check out your resume and it looks great. We have an opportunity here for someone to take over our entire services group – basically the majority of our staff, our people – reorganize it and plan it for growth. Fast growth,” he declared.
As a passionate CEO would, he described with pride why his company was a highly respected pioneer in their field and why anyone seeking great opportunity for growth would find it with him and his team.
Just as his enthusiasm was escalating with every response to a question, my cell phone lit up sitting on top of my notepad. I could see Caller ID. Apologetically, I interrupted him speaking.
“I’m very sorry, but I really need to take this call.”
He looked a little bit taken back.
Kindly he responded, “I hope everything is ok. No problem, I’ll step outside my office – wave me in when you are all through.”
It was the first time I had met Richard Hagerty, who was the founder of his company I was hopeful to join. Never in a million years would I have ever imagined myself interrupting an interview in process for an outside call, let alone it being an interview with the CEO. Who the hell does that?
I responded to the call and a few minutes later waived him back in through the glass windows in his office.
“Shall we continue?,” he said.
“I’m incredibly sorry. But I have to go. I know I haven’t had a chance to answer all of your questions, but we just hired a new nanny to take care of my 4 year old daughter. She’s a bit upset with me because I should have been home over an hour ago. I didn’t expect the interviews today to run over.”
“No problem,” he responded with an empathetic smile. “Jump in your car and call me on your cell phone on your drive home. We can wrap up the questions while you are on the road.”
After profusely apologizing, I ran out of the office and jumped in my car. I drove about 90 miles an hour on a highway and answered his questions with the same speed as I was driving.
Richard concluded, “Listen, we are going to move on this position very quickly. We’ll be back in touch in the next few days. Any other questions for me?”
“Yes, ” I said. “The position doesn’t require significant travel. Correct? My current position has a moderate amount of travel, and I’m trying to eliminate or minimize it. At least for now. My daughter’s dad travels quite a bit now and I want to be home more for that reason.” What I didn’t say to him, but was the real reason I had asked was, “I’m in the midst of going through a separation and divorce, and the thought of my 4 year old daughter being home with anyone other than her father or I during this period makes my stomach hurt. It’s painful for all of us and don’t want this divorce to hurt her anymore than it probably already does.”
He said, “Yes Lori, the position is to be in the office the majority of the time. You would be responsible for a staff that may travel, but the expectation would be for you to be in the office.”
We hung up. I ran inside my new temporary apartment, hugged my daughter hello and apologized to the new nanny for being so late. She was not thrilled with me.
The following day, I received a call from Richard’s offices requesting me to come in at lunchtime to have a final interview. I thought it was a good sign, but assumed it was because I didn’t give him enough time with his questions given the previous day’s abrupt exit.
I entered his office, he said, “Have a seat.”
“After considering everything and all of the candidates Lori, we’d like to extend an offer to you.”
With my eyes wide opened, he continued.
“Do you know why I want to hire you?”
Trying to remember all of the questions he asked and my responses, I honestly wasn’t sure specifically the primary reason he was referencing.
He said, “This position is very important to me because it’s about our people. That’s what matters most to me. The people. We need someone in that role that has their priorities in order. YOU Lori, YOU have your priorities in order.”
“Interrupting me yesterday, then taking the call and prioritizing getting home to your daughter.”
I could feel the lump in my throat building and began explaining to him the realities of what was really going on and the real reason losing a nanny in my daughter’s life wouldn’t have been good for anyone.
He patiently listened and expressed some personal things. He had also been through divorce and understood the emotional challenges and hard choices parents have to make in order to help themselves and their children. Richard then explained the offer and said an official letter of employment would be in the mail for my consideration.
When I reflect on the years spent working for him, I recognize how much he helped me to get through one of the hardest times in my life. He gave me the chance to grow my career while being the best mother I could possibly to Mia during a confusing time for her.
Professionally, I had always wanted to get my MBA to stay competitive and grow my skills, though as a single mom at that point, couldn’t figure out how I would ever have the time. Richard immediately supported my desire to accomplish it. While working fulltime, he would yell at me if I were in the office during a week of finals – encouraging me to take the necessary time off to study. Or the days when he knew Mia had an activity going on at school, and would tell me to take the afternoon off to make sure I didn’t miss it for her, no matter what it was. Or the days when Mia was off from school, he would encourage me to bring Mia into the office for the day. He even had official company business cards made for her that had her full name followed by her title “Mommy’s Helper” on them. They sat on my desk. Mia proudly shared those cards with anyone who came into my office. She was convinced she was employed there too.
Richard has a tattoo inscribed on his hand that reads – “This Too Shall Pass.” He explained to me once, whether it’s a good time in your life or bad time in your life, it will all pass….so hang in there if you are on a rough road in the journey, and savor the road when all is well.
Looking back, I know I could never have accomplished what I did during those years. Getting my MBA, while working fulltime was hard enough. But when you added the element of the transition of divorce and a new single mom in it – I know without his support professionally and personally, I would have never been able to give Mia what she deserved.
Richard, thank you for allowing me to contribute to your company during the five years of my employment with you. I’ve had the good fortune to have incredible mentors throughout my life – but it is fair to say, none taught me the importance of balance and priorities more than you did.
The movie scene selected for Richard’s story is from Patch Adams. William’s character (Patch) argues a few points in front of the medical review board to maintain his medical license. In one line, he declares “every human being has an impact on another.” All too often, regardless of what industry we work in or stress we are under, it can be easy to forget.
Richard, thank you for supporting all of us who worked for and with you. And for helping me achieve goals during a time in my life I thought would never pass. You had a significant impact on me – and certainly on Mia.