I learned yesterday of the passing of a former employee of mine - Richard "Red" Dixon. Red was far too young to be leaving us and there are a lot of folks who will miss him. He was significant to me because Red was the first employee I ever hired. It was 1981 and I had just closed on my first company's start-up financing, moved into a somewhat dilapadated brick building along the Niagara River, and was in need of some production workers to get things up and moving. I don't know how Red learned about us and I don't remember what other folks I might have interviewed, but I do remember this. Red, who had no formal education beyond high school, sat across from me and without batting an eye said, "I can do anything." And for the next twenty years, he pretty much made good on that commitment. Red was not a chemical engineer, had no background in advanced ceramics, didn't know how to read a phase diagram or even an electrical schematic. But he was committed to the company and was always looking to do the best job at whatever task he was assigned. He was never shy about challenging the opinion or decisions of others, including me, if he didn't agree or didn't think we had considered everything. He was creative in approaching problems and challenges, cost-conscious, almost to a fault, and enthusiastic about whatever we were doing. As the company grew and hired PhDs, MBAs, CPAs, etc., it would have been easy for someone like Red, who remained something of a facilities/maintenance technician, to get lost or minimized. And yet, by force of personality and his absolute loyalty and dedication to the company, he was always an important voice in an increasingly large enterprise. Not a week went by, that I can recall, that Red wouldn't walk into my office or stop me as I was walking through the plant, to offer an opinion, ask a question, give a suggestion, or just chat.
And every conversation began the same way.
Hey Red. Thanks for everything. The company wouldn't have been the same without you. And neither would I.