My father lived that mantra every day; with his partners, employees, suppliers, travel advisors, and travel agencies. I remember traveling with him from an early age, and no matter where in the world we went, we were never alone. We would always feel the love, whether visiting local partners for coffee, lunch, or dinner at their homes or meeting with families and friends of his colleagues. It was never about business first. It was about friendship, trust, loyalty, and oh by the way, how is business?
When my father passed away April 10, 2016, we must have received more than 1000 emails and letters from people around the world whom he had touched. Each one of them took the time to write a note about what he had done for them and how he had impacted their lives. Whether it was an employee who had missed many days of work over several weeks when his mother was sick and my father did not deduct one penny from his paycheck; or a supplier partner who told us how my father was there for him when they were struggling, and without any questions, extended him credit and loaned him money; or associates who recounted how my father helped and supported them when they were going through a difficult personal challenge or needed help navigating their career.
My father knew each partner, each employee, each supplier and their families, spouses, and children. They were friends first and business associates second. I remember weekends when my father would leave when it was still dark in the morning (catching him in the moment of excellence) to go from our home in New Jersey out to JFK to pick up a friend, just because. That was my father, and that’s how others thought of him, and I knew right away this would be the part of his legacy that we would carry forward.
Once I had a handle on the overall business model, our structure, organization, staffing, and debt, my next step was to get on a plane and start traveling the globe to meet our supplier partners in person. First and foremost, I wanted to apologize for what they had experienced since my father got sick. My goal was to let them know how much we cared about our family friendship, and to start building a relationship like they had had with my father. I am an older father myself, with two young children who at the time were 7 and 5, and I was always concerned that they were a little cheated having a father who was 58 and not 38. I have a tattoo, “die with memories not dreams” and all I wanted to do was fill my youngest children’s hearts with as many memories as I could, so that when I passed, they would know they had enjoyed a full life with me. I also felt it would be selfish of me to take this next step to travel and not bring along any family member. So I took my 7-year-old daughter Sienna with me.
Over the next 18 months, we traveled to 20 countries and 50 cities meeting my father’s old partners and re-establishing new ones with people who knew and respected him. And while I have always known my father through the eyes of a son, it was such an unexpected gift to hear about him through the eyes of others, and for my daughter to hear about her Papa Ady and what an amazing man he was. I remember thinking how they spoke about my father as if he were sitting right next to me. Fast forward, and those friends and supplier partners from around the world are now friends of mine and my family, and while we have grown our business together with all 28 partners, the most important thing we have grown is our friendship and love for each other and our families.
Today, as we all live with the isolation and impact that Covid-19 is having on our business and personal lives, it reminds me again of the importance of friendships that we have developed while doing business, and that no business has any meaning without putting your personal relationships first. The journey I took when rebuilding our company was very personal. Now, as we all look for ways to get back to some semblance of normal, I want to tell you that placing a priority on your friendships and personal connections will sustain you.
While we are not able to get out and physically meet and share moments with our friends and business colleagues, it is imperative to take the time to reach out and ensure that these people know you care. People care about those who care, and I am reminded every day the value of our souls connecting before anything else. We have many choices in life with whom and how we choose to give our time. All I can say is, if they were worth spending time with yesterday, they are even more important today.
As you have no doubt learned about me through my posts, I find motivation and inspiration in many ways, whether through a moving speech or a gritty book. Again, I am reminded of the time I was pondering next steps when taking over my father’s company more than 3 years ago, and this old United Airlines commercial really resonated for me.
The takeaway? Never lose sight that it’s times like these that determine our relationships tomorrow.
CEO – World of Travel
An Ady Gelber Legacy Company.
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