There comes a time in your career to reflect and realize how you got here. I’ve heard story after story about self-made women and men, and how they reached the pinnacle of success without help from anyone. They did it on their own. My hats off to those who can stake this claim – albeit there’s probably more to the story than meets the eye. That being said, I stand here before you today to acknowledge that I’m not one of those self-proclaimed, self-made individuals. I had a break. And… a very lucky one at that.
In the early 80’s I had recently moved to Atlanta and was working for a local distributor of Continental Telephone during the telecommunications breakup of AT&T selling key phone systems. It was a very hot market! I made a sales call one day on a new company to Atlanta – Medical Management Systems, a healthcare software company that had just relocated from Miami. I walked into the CEOs office to sell my wares, and there was this instant connection with the man who would soon change my life forever. I explained the features and functions of this new wiz-bang key telephone system as he listened intently and let me complete my presentation. The smile on his face as he thanked me for the demonstration was contagious. I didn’t make the sale that day but walked away promising to follow up in 30 days. I called him 30 days after my presentation, and he asked me to come back and spend more time with him. I was thrilled that the sale was now imminent. I sat down in his office, and he looked at me across the desk and told me he had no plans to buy my product. He said something much more profound.
“I want to hire you to sell our healthcare software”. I was partially stunned at the loss of my already forecasted sale, but without hesitation I said YES. The man was Millard Wayne George, a Georgia Tech grad who had developed software for the IBM System/23 to handle the billing for dialysis clinics. Talk about a niche! Wayne’s company also developed software for the IBM System/34, System/36 and later for the AS/400, to automate billing for healthcare clinics. He and I sold software across the US and with each encounter there was a learning experience. He taught me how to sell software and everything there was to know about the healthcare industry and about people. He did it with passion and enthusiasm I’d never seen before – always with that gregarious smile and warm handshake. Even when he was upset with me – he used the interaction to teach me a lesson. Wayne was the greatest mentor I’ve ever had in my life and I have him to thank for my career in healthcare IT. He also helped shape me as a writer, as I was required to have him proof-read every business letter or memo before they were sent out. I became oh-so familiar with Wayne’s red pen as he always made sure everything was perfect before it was sent to a client or prospect. It was painful, but there was a reason. He was the mentor, and I was the protégé, and he made sure I understood the difference in the two roles. I did. I also thank him for everything he taught me about business, always doing the right thing and about healthcare.
Wayne later renamed and sold his company Millard Wayne in a successful IPO and soon after retired to St. Augustine with his lovely wife Lyn. I found out yesterday that Wayne (Buzz) George left this world in early January, and while we talked on the phone a few months ago, I never really had the chance to sit down face to face and let him know how much he taught me and how he made such a huge impact in my life. I do thank him for taking a chance on me and instilling the business values and ethics that helped shape me as a person.
Most of us do have someone to thank for giving us that lucky break. I know I do. I thank Wayne George. Don’t wait - make sure you reach out to acknowledge and thank the person who took a chance on you.