I looked out at the evening sky, overlooking Central Park. There was a full moon out, and the weather was January crisp. I had chosen to be alone this night, and my half eaten dinner sat on the room service tray on the cart behind me. As I walked out onto the balcony, I fingered the gold plated name tag I had been given that morning, and sipped the cup of hot English Breakfast tea. I thought of how the day had unfolded, wrapping up with a speech that evening at the New York Athletic Club, after having rung the opening bell to open trading in the morning at the New York Stock Exchange, following that with countless interviews, speeches, a breakfast, lunch, and purchase of the first 100 shares of our stock on the floor of the exchange. Peter Perez-Gonzalez, the CEO boy wonder. The cheers and applause of those in attendance, the New York sales force, our customers, trusted suppliers, advisers, and my family, still echoed in my ears. And the huge barbeque and party I had kicked off by long distance video conference, held under the tents outside our headquarters, with more than 1,500 of the local Total Networks employees had been such a rush. I could literally hear them screaming with delight as I addressed them via video conference, wishing I was there with them. This was more gratifying than any man ever deserved, especially me, as I had never really considered myself worthy of leading such an incredible company and group of employees.
I thought back to that first time I met Juan Carlos, when he first taught me about the “law of the farm”, and he said to me, “Soon the day will come when you will harvest what you have planted. You must stop to enjoy that moment, but it will be merely a temporary stop on a long, continuous journey. Acknowledge it, savor the moment, and move on, for the work will continue, as another season begins. Remember, the Journey is more incredible, and more satisfying than the Destination”. And so, for the moment, I stopped, and savored, before continuing with the journey.
It had indeed been a long road. The naysayers had first ridiculed our business plan, and openly derided us and jeered our approach. Our story was not an incredibly sexy, meteoric, “50% year over year growth” story. We weren’t in the fastest growing sectors of the Internet technology markets. We were considered plodders. A good product line, great technology, talented engineers, a solutions based approach, and superior customer service. But we weren’t the big boys on the block, and we weren’t the start-up darlings of the dot.com world. As a result, our potential IPO did not attract the kind of buzz that the Wall Street know-it-all analysts loved and catered to. So we struggled, and we fought, and we stayed the course. Loyal customers, solid products, tough and battle hardened sales and technical support people, and engineers that would pull all-nighters for days to meet a deadline. That’s who we were. And while some of our competitors, and other start-ups cut corners, walked the thin line, and often strayed into the gray areas and toyed with the edge and corner cases of GAAP, we played it straight, and by the book.
During those times, I listened to Juan Carlos’s counsel, his no-nonsense approach to life, his basic, real world methods for tackling the basics, and for producing hard, clean and consistent results. That was our secret sauce. And if the Wall Street experts had known that it was a plain old gardener that had guided our rise through the mine fields of the dot.com debacle, seeing us to the other side as a great all American business success story, they would have laughed themselves silly. That was A-OK with me, because the laugh was on all of them. We laughed all the way to Wall Street, all the way to a place in the history books, and all the way into the hearts of our customers, our loving families, and our shareholders.
And so, yes, I recalled in my mind the words that Juan Carlos had uttered, and I did savor the moment, while I thought about all of the people that had worked so hard that we might get here someday. That day had indeed arrived.
And I thought about Paul, my brother, my friend. I thought about what had befallen him, where he was right now, and what he was about to face. Truth be told, I thought about Paul often, and thanked God the All Mighty that I had been blessed with someone to guide me through the shark infested waters of this Hi-Tech, high pressure, short term thinking, cut every corner, play with the numbers world. Because there, in that prison, forsaken, broken, and forgotten, but for the Grace of God, was Paul, instead of I. I shivered in the cold January night on that balcony, while I sipped the last of my tea.