There’s a school of thought that says if you want to be successful in business, discover what it is that truly sets you apart from the competition; the one thing that you can do better than virtually anyone else. I have this friend who embodied that concept. This gentleman, either through thoughtful self-analysis or instinct (I suspect the latter), discovered at an early stage that he indeed possessed a one thing that made him unique in his business. And this gentleman, my dear friend Dick Wetnight, exploited his one thing to the fullest — while he outsourced virtually all of the minutia and the mundane to others. I’ve often referred to him as a master delegator; a mastery that I’ve come to understand is absolutely essential to success in business.
Dick’s one thing was relationships. He did business relationships better than anyone I’ve ever known. Yes, if you did business with Dick you had a relationship . Not, mind you, your typical I’ll-sell-you-this-for-that-amount kind of relationship; you had a true friend who was sincerely interested in, and cared about, you and your success. If he liked you, he loved you! And, therefore, you loved him back.
I’ve known Dick for the better part of 20 years, if not longer. From the day I met him we’ve worked together under the same roof. I am eternally indebted to him for the example, and inspiration, he bestowed to me while I witnessed the way he operated his business.
Yesterday, while leaving the men’s restroom, I had a flashback; I recalled the times Dick and I would run into each other in those close quarters. Invariably, he’d grab me tightly by the arm and either share with me some revelation or ask me to explain the market events of the day. I guess you could say that Dick was a touchy-feely kind of guy; not in an always hugging you (at least not me, at least not in the men’s room) sense, but he had this way of using his physical presence to keep a person’s attention. He’d either grab hold of my arm firmly, or his index finger would be dug into my shoulder while he explained what needed explaining.
Two or three times a week he would find his way into my office. He was fascinated by the market, and always had a question about something he heard or read — or needed an explanation as to why, say, BofA (his favorite stock) wasn’t performing like JPM. We’d typically peruse a few charts and maybe talk a bit about the latest economic data.
He and his wife Pat were vacationing in Mexico recently and I’d get these texts about a specific stock he owned and whether we should move the stop to a higher level. I recall thinking geeze Dick, get over it, have some fun, CCJ will be here when you get back. But I’m one to talk!
Those office conversations were the best when they’d move from business to family. Dick and Pat celebrated their 50th last year. Along the way they raised two amazing boys who clearly absorbed the very best their dad and mom had to offer — Craig and Ryan are uniquely successful in their own right, both in business and in family. When the conversation would turn to Pat, to the person he did “everything with”, his “best friend”, when it turned to anything about Craig and/or Ryan and, especially over the past few years, when he’d talk about the grandkids, the room would light up. Vacations, no big deal. Grandparents’ Day at one of the schools, my goodness, I’d get chapter and verse on everything that went on, explained by a man absolutely brimming with passion, love and pride. Dick was indeed an inspiration in more ways than one.
Dick passed away, suddenly and without warning, last week. The youngest 74 year old I know left the earth in an instant. Those of us who knew Dick — which means those of us who loved him, and whom he loved — are in complete shock. Our friend was nowhere near ready to go. But, you know — as I think about all he meant to me and everyone else he touched — as I think about how, after today’s service, my son Nick and I discussed what a one-of-a-kind man he was — truly, he hasn’t left us. For the above doesn’t nearly describe the impact Dick Wetnight had on those of us so utterly fortunate to have known him. As I type I can feel his grip on my arm, his finger in my shoulder. I know that I’ll think of him every time I chart Bank of America stock. I’ll remember him as I cherish the love and friendship I share with my wife, as I witness my two boys coming into their own, and I’ll remember him on every grandparents’ day I attend (and Dick, I promise, I won’t miss a one) for the rest of my life.
Many of you subscribers know and love Dick as well. For the rest of you, the above is just a little insight into the life of a man who embodied true richness. If you happen to know such a rare individual, please, cherish that knowing, for you have been blessed beyond words.