“To say new business is important really does not give the process its proper value. It is our livelihood and our very existence. I do not see any way we could presently be in business without it.” —Tom Richey, CEO, Nationwide Advertising Service
“Get it done, and you will create an opportunity for the rest of your life.”
I understood. It was advice from Tom Richey, the CEO of my first employer, as I headed to Minneapolis to start my sales career for the advertising agency he was running. He took a shot on me right out of college. As I moved to Minneapolis, I was determined not to let Tom down.
That transition was a special time in my life. I also joined a very special organization. Nationwide Advertising Service was a family. So many wonderful people joined that company and made it their entire career, and that was all because of Tom. He was laser-focused on growth and performance — especially sales performance, which proved to be a perfect breeding ground for my own obsession with sales mastery.
Tom introduced us all to Lombardi Time, as well as countless other principles that would drive performance. Tom was also tough. He pushed. He demanded plenty from his people. He wanted us to compete and win every time out. I loved working there and developed bonds with people that will last my entire life. And again, that was all because of Tom.
He didn’t just love business, though. He loved life. His four children were the first thing he would talk about when I would see him. He loved sports and would tolerate my subpar golf game every time I would come back to Ohio for a visit or a meeting.
My relationship with Tom transcended our work. He was also a very close family friend. My father and Tom went to college together. They were close friends. No doubt, it’s how I got the gig in the first place. But then it was on me to deliver. I didn’t always have the best relationship with my dad, but Tom would always make a point to tell me how proud he was of what I was accomplishing in the business. He understood. He wanted me to know. Because underneath all the toughness, Tom had a huge heart and loved his people. I will be forever proud and grateful to have been counted among them and the company he built.
That decision and commitment to join NAS became the first 17 years of my professional journey. The experience shaped me. The memories, times shared, trips taken and celebrations that cemented friendships are priceless. Those were some of the best times of my life.
When I reflect back on it all what lands most deeply are the people. The relationships. The dinners. The conventions and celebrations. The love. The family.
Life is people. I heard Jim Collins say that in a speech. Tom knew that long before Collins wrote “Good To Great“. In fact, Tom built a business around that core principle, and so many lives were touched because of it — mine included. That will be a big part of the legacy of Tom Richey.
I got the text message from Don Sabatino, who is truly the older brother I never had, on Wednesday morning that Tom had passed.
It’s been a hard year for the NAS family. Way too much loss. This one has me reflecting and realizing that the trajectory of my life wouldn’t have been the same without Tom’s influence and our time together.
Thank you, Tom, for everything. I won’t let you down.
Rest in peace.