As we fly back from Belize it’s nice to have time to chill and think. There were so many new memories made and experiences had it feels great to pause and take inventory of them all. It’s been an amazing week and change and there’s one person more than any other to thank for this experience, my mentor, business partner, and friend, Norm Doty. Many years ago Norm had the dream of having a place in Belize. Through those years he’s busted his butt to make that dream a reality. Had he not had that dream and then gritted it out this past week never would have happened.
Since I first met Norm over 18 years ago he’s been helping me dream big. When I interviewed with Norm he completely flipped the script on me. Instead of him asking me questions I was given the homework of preparing a list of questions for me to ask him. As we talked he repeatedly turned the tables yet again and helped me see how a career with Express could to future ownership opportunities. He shared his story, Mark and Sheryl Tasler’s story, and helped me to start writing my story that afternoon in December of 1999. Norm promised that with hard work and sacrifice it would be a possibility for me, and he followed through.
As I grew towards my dream he was there to help guide me and push me. After a couple of years he helped me build a stronger relationship with Mark Tasler which led to our partnership in Winona. After I’d had a chance to settle into that role a little bit he helped me expand my horizons and consider much larger possibilities… Why settle for one office when I could have several? Why only have one office in a territory when we could have three or more? Why only focus on a handful of offices when there could be so many more? Whenever I get close to growing moss he’s right there to keep me moving forward, and I’m so thankful for that additional drive in my life!
In addition to helping me reach for my dream he was there alongside me to coach me on business, sales, and being a professional. The 23 year old version of me was a far cry from who I am today, much of my learned professionalism has come from watching and observing Norm. Another large part of that growth in professionalism has come from clear, honest and direct coaching from him when I’ve needed it.
To be clear, when I mention professionalism I am thinking of everything from how to act in a business meeting to learning how to treat your teams and leaders. Always a fantastic host he’s always doing everything right. Little gifts here and there to help remind you of dreams and to keep pushing us. Little ways to help everyone feel more welcome. Even this week he went out of his way to map out a 4 mile running route for Becky and I that involved no running on major roads! Those times in which I’ve gone out of my way to do a little something for my teammates have typically been inspired by something Norm has done for me.
Every Monday morning at 9am Norm and I have a 30 minute phone call to help me focus on my week. I give him a quick update on what I focused on the previous week, share where our offices currently are, and then narrow my focus on the three most important things on my plate each week. While we talk he pulls no punches and challenges me. Norm pushes to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. On those calls he also checks on how I’m doing personally and we shoot the bull. He gives me the opportunity to vent and/or brainstorm when I need it. When something starts to seem off a little bit he calls me on it and helps me see it. Sometimes it’s something that I don’t want to deal with, but regardless of how uncomfortable it is for him to bring it up he always does, and I’m eternally grateful for that quality of his! When these conversations happen he handles them with class, respect and professionalism. How fortunate am I to have a coach and mentor who is that honest and open?
The funny thing is that as I think about what I’ve typed up to this point it seems like I could stop the blog here, call it a day, and you’d see why I’m thankful for Norm. I could, but I’d be missing a few of the things I appreciate the most about Norm. The business stuff is all well and good, but when push comes to shove there are a few reasons I’m thankful for him more than any other.
Once you get to know Norm you quickly see how willing he is to do anything and everything to help others. He’ll go out of his way to help others feel welcome and have comfort. When we talked once he shared a story with me that I’ll never forget. He shared the story of how his dad always opened his house to anyone who needed a safe place. His dad always kept the freezer stocked full of pizzas and whatnot for anyone who needed food. The story of what his pops did to help others out in of itself is amazing and inspiring. What Norm doesn’t know is that in many of my interactions that story he shared with me lives on. I’ve got a long way to go to be on his dad’s level, but between that story and observing Norm living that value I’ve been able to make progress.
Speaking of dads, he’s helped me see that it’s possible to be a very successful business person AND a be an awesome dad. His dedication to his family is second to none. While I’m not sure that it’s my place to share too much about his family let me just say this. Spend ten minutes with Norm and you’ll quickly see how important his family is to him. You hear the passion and love in his voice as he talks about them and with them. You can see the dedication he has to spending time with them. How he balances taking such great of them while running a successful business is a feat that I strive to achieve. Fortunately for me, he shares some of the ways he does it with me. What Becky and the boys don’t always know ifs that many times when I do something for them it’s probably been inspired by something Norm’s already done. I’m so thankful for having a mentor like Norm – both for being a professional and a dad.
When my dad had his stroke there were so many people all around me who were able to help me out. The way Norm helped me out is in a way that I can’t being to thank him enough for… he played the role of my dad. From the first day on he was helping to coach and guide me through. Drawing form the experience of losing his dad he was able to help me stay afloat. All I wanted at that time was for my dad to be there to help to coach and direct me on what to do and how to act. I was a lost little kid and just needed my dad. When Norm called and texted it was like Dad was there with me.
It was also his advice that helped me stay strong for everyone who needed me to to be strong. While I gritted out a smile as long as I could there were the points when the wall started to crack. In those moments I took some of his other advice, went down to my car in the parking lot, cried, screamed, and bawled until all my emotions were spent, put my game face back on, and then went back to being strong. I was able to be strong for others in the way Dad would’ve wanted thanks in part to Norm’s help.
In that most difficult time of my life I knew that Norm was there for me, I knew he loved me and wanted the best for me, and would be there through anything I’d ever need. Also true to our relationship Norm was there for both good and bad, prepping me for everything including how to temper my always optimistic demeanor. Whether a call, text, or email he was always on my radar helping as his own memories came back to him from losing his dad. Looking back I can only imagine how many memories, both good and bad, of losing his father came flooding back to him. While there were hopefully more positive than negative ones I am so thankful he let them all pour out in effort to help me. I can’t even being to state how much he helped fill the gap left by my dad and how much he taught me about being a dad in that roughest time of my life. Similarly, there’s not a way for me to express in words just how thankful I am for all he did for me during that time.
Whew, that turned out to be a little longer than I expected, but in some ways I also feel like it’s not even the tip of the iceberg of all of the reasons I’m thankful for Norm. When I peel it all back I guess it comes down to a few things. Norm’s taught me how to be successful in business and in being a dad. He’s had an impact in life unlike any other. He’s helped me dream big, reach those dreams, and then dream bigger. The cool thing is that I can already see Norm’s legacy living on in me, my teams, and my family… and we’re all better for it!
Thanks for the incredibly positive impact you’ve had on my life, you’re the best! Love you dude!