It beats on my chest from the inside. I see you and it aches to be close. I fear rejection. I fear consent. Words can’t say what I feel. Know that I will reflect your love. Know that I ache to give…
We were on a mission.
It was the summer of 1993. A year earlier Hurricane Andrew had destroyed a large swath of Southeast Florida and all the US insurance companies were reeling from the negative PR, financial impact and logistical problems that this disaster caused. When the street signs are down, the houses are raised to the ground and because the GPS and the internet didn’t exist, finding policy holder’s locations was a huge challenge. And Pat Potts and I were on a mission to solve this problem for State Farm.
At MapInfo, Pat worked for me as the North Central Sales Manager in Chicago. Pat was an amazing guy. An amazing father and a great businessman. He was incredibly likable. He was honest but diplomatic and told you how it was. I loved working with him.
So we were on this mission heading to State Farm’s headquarters in Bloomington, IL to close a deal worth in today’s dollars over $6.5M. This deal was critical to MapInfo’s future. We were on the verge of going public and our execs had either pitched this deal to the investment bankers or had given them enough hints that “there was a huge deal on the horizon” that put a lot of heat and light on the two of us. We couldn’t screw this up.
Driving through the Illinois countryside for three hours allowed us to develop the strategy on how to play out the negotiation. When we arrived at State Farm, they took us on a tour of their operations hanger. Stacked 10 deep were palettes of laptop computers that were staged ready to be shipped out to future disaster zones to help their claims adjusters find their policy holders. This was to be done using MapInfo’s software and a 12 inch stack of CDs containing all the map data for the US. Let me remind you again, this was before the internet. It was before 3G, 4G or 5G. This was before GPS was commercially available. So the only way to find these policy holders was to get on the ground with a laptop, find a point of reference and use mapping software to count the streets and turns to find the right locations.
OK so you could argue that State Farm’s need was pretty well established and they desperately needed to solve this problem. And although we had competition from Strategic Mapping and ESRI, we were clearly the best solution.
MapInfo’s VP of Sales didn’t believe in Pat. He thought his hair was too long. He thought he was too “happy go lucky” and he thought that since he occasionally played in a band at night, there was no way he could dedicate his heart and soul to the company. But I believed in him and I knew better.
Pat had a way of building trust with people. I trusted him. State Farm trusted him. He had done an excellent job teeing this deal up and building the relationship with them that gave them confidence to write a multimillion dollar check to our small start up. So after an intense few hours of negotiation, we drove the three hours back to Chicago with a contract in our hands worth over $6.5M in today’s dollars.
But the best part of the day wasn’t about winning this deal. It wasn’t about propelling this small start up in upstate New York to go public. It wasn’t even about proving to the VP of Sales that I was right about Pat. It was all about the lifelong bond that I built with one of the most amazing humans on this planet.
Pat left us last year and it wasn’t until this past weekend that Pat’s family was able to bring together friends, family and colleagues to pay tribute to this wonderful man. I was honored and humbled to be part of that celebration of his life.
If every day you only focus on climbing the corporate ladder or winning the next deal or politically maneuvering for the next promotion but you miss the opportunity to build the relationships and bonds with people of substance — people like Pat — you haven’t succeeded.
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