Its an inevitable part of life’s journey, I suppose, that when you’ve accumulated about 50+ years you start to see friends, family and co-workers pass permanently from your life with an ever increasing frequency. For me, it started with a high school friend who died far too prematurely in his 20′s – beaten to death in a drug deal gone bad. Then more recently with one of my closest friends during the teenage years, Mark Swenson, who died in a motorcycle accident a decade ago after a difficult life. More recently still was Dan Duerr who graciously helped us through the dual hurricanes of 2004 and was an inspiration to many.
Now its time to say farewell to my friend and boss Mark Miller – or officially Melvin C. Miller of the M. C. Miller Company. Mark’s dream was to grow the business to a point where he could throttle back a little and indulge his passion for sailboats and sailing. But as many business people know, you may own 100% of the shares of a business but the business also ends up owning you to a point also. There was always one more big project that would require his direct involvement. One more decision he felt that he couldn’t ask anyone else to make. One more employee he had to protect from the wrath of his brash, hothead VP! Without seeming to have a “driven” personality, he was a driven man and his passion was first and foremost the M. C. Miller Company. His reputation was both his sword and shield. He was “old school” — a cash flow guy rather than an investor guy.
Mark died in his sleep on June 21st. The period since has been a difficult time for me personally. Though we did not socialize outside the business to any great degree, Mark was a close friend and we worked together on many different projects. He always sought my opinion on just about any topic, business or personal. And he taught me some very important lessons about people and business over the 14 years we knew each other. Mark especially enjoyed pushing me out of my comfort zone and loved the shock and awe he could evoke in me by his sometimes anarchical behavior. Thanks, Mark… I needed that.
In his last will and testament, Mark left control of the company in a trust to the benefit of his employees. The business is going to continue forward in the directions Mark has established. Eventually each of us will be adding to this legacy in our own way and I think the company has a glorious future. Thanks Mark for trusting us with your business. We will not let you down!
At the office we are having a memorial for Mark on August 1st to mourn the passing of our friend. We seek closure but I am not sure if we can close this wound so easily. He will be missed by a great many people.