Remembering a great man

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flew out to Victoria to visit Tom Harris, just two weeks before he died.

I wanted to run some ideas by him. I wanted to pick his remarkable brain. And I was looking forward to the time together.

Tom’s business philosophy included a strong belief in the value of partnering. He said to me on a number of occasions that working with great partners had played a central role in his achievements. As you can imagine, Tom’s career included some very successful partnerships, and some much less successful ones. Nobody bats 1,000 and Tom cheerfully described both the wins and the losses, and what lessons he learned from each.

My company is at a point where we need to consider the next phase of our growth, and I believe adding a key partner will be part of that. I wanted to run my ideas past Tom and see what he thought.

We had an amazing time together. A truly wonderful day.

Tom shared his opinions and his experience with the openness and enthusiasm that I have always seen in him. We bounced ideas off each other. We laughed over past missteps. We talked about numbers, corporate structures, and more. He gave me full access to all that he had learned over the years, and I soaked it up.

He had gone to great trouble in arranging our day in Victoria, making sure I had access to a number of his business partners and advisors, so I would benefit from their perspective too. He was the consummate host.

Our day ended with Tom dropping me off in the evening, a final chat in the car before I headed inside. I promised to keep him in the loop on what I was going to do next, and he reminded me that dinner was on me next time he came through Toronto. A perfect end to a perfect day.

You can imagine my shock when barely two weeks later CADA’s Berni Benoit burst into my office with the news of Tom’s passing.

I’m blessed to do what I do.

Canada’s dealers are amazing entrepreneurs, and a remarkably giving group of people. I’m blessed that my job gives me the chance to get to know many of you. I look forward to meeting many more. Tom stood tall among you.

I’m blessed that the magazine I conceived and launched with Tom and Rick Gauthier’s help almost 15 years ago (that’s a good story but one I’ll save for another time) gives me a platform to share how much he has meant to my career, and to me personally. It’s a small tribute to a great man, but one that means a lot to me to share with you.

Thank you, Tom — for all you’ve done for me, for all you’ve done for so many, and for your contributions to the industry that brought our paths together.

Thank you so very much.

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