And Mentors holds a special place for me because they are about people that had a significant influence on my development as a human being by the fact that they just took the time to help guide me in one way or another, much like you guide a model sailboat in a pond. You just give it a gentle push and send it on its merry way and let the wind take care of the rest of the trip.
This one happens to be about a fine gentleman by the name of Peter Chapman, known as Pete to just about everyone he met (which would be a very large list). I think only his mother called him Peter when he got into some sort of mischievous funny stuff that was probably very often in his youth. How’s it goin’, Pete. (I just got his email address for his new city of residence so I am looking forward to chatting with him since he was also the inspiration for the article I am a Two Finger Typist.)
I met Pete while being employed as an Order Desk rep for Cooper Canada in the 70’s. Pete was one of five travellers (sales reps) that covered Ontario with his beat being south western Ontario. My responsibilities were to provide customer service support to all customers (at the door, on the phone, at shipping) and take their product orders if they wished to place one. In those days, it was quite common to have lots of local sporting goods stores just like there were lots of local hardware stores in local neighbourhoods. The big box era pretty much wiped that out.
I also was responsible, like the other 3 or 4 order desk personnel, to support the travellers (field reps) in whatever they needed to handle their customers’ needs such as tracking a special team order in house to provide feedback on how it was progressing. Each order desk guy was given a region and mine was western Canada. The travellers in Ontario were allowed to call whomever they wanted to get that same support. So over time I found that all 5 of the Ontario reps were calling me on a regular basis. I took great pride in that fact and I know that Pete had a lot to do with that since he pretty much trained me in all the right things to do and he may have told the other 4 reps to call me since he will take care of you.
Pete would not be your first pick on the company pickup basketball team (vertically challenged wasn’t used back then, compact or junior sized might have been the term used), but he would most definitely would have been an early pick on your brainstorming team no matter what the subject may be. Pete had an answer for any question you would throw his way. Some might not provide you with the help you were seeking but you would have at least gone away entertained.
Pete’s style was a sort of subtle George Carlin (a style I believed I directly inherited from the short little $%^&*), but he was never animated like George. He was always under control and presented everything in an understated manner that certainly explained why he opened doors so easily for people to do business with him. He was more of a business partner and friend to his customers than he was just another sales rep trying to hock his wares to them.
I use the term “was” a lot here because Pete is now retired which I understand didn’t sit so well at first because he needed people contact to make his day complete. My most recent encounters were at the golf course where he would visit the General Manager who was both a friend and former customer (due to Pete’s retirement not due to loss of business). The GM and I went on to be good friends as well.
You never want to talk about the fact that we won’t be here forever but it is a reality of life. If I were to be asked to contribute my idea for Pete’s epitaph I would suggest the following.
He left a mark…for sure.
And it’s OK Pete; it’s nothing that a little hydrogen peroxide and bandages won’t take care of. (Pete would always get in the last word and it would most often be in the form of a humorous jab followed by a little chuckle and a have a great day before he went on about his business. He was always welcome in my cubicle.)