I happened upon Les Ellison walking down the hall of our office and greeted him.
“Hi Les. How is business?” I said with anticipation.
Yet, I could never have anticipated how he would respond.
“I love it when I have no business!” Les responded with a genuine smile.
His grin widened as he saw a perplexed look on my face. So, he decided to help me out a little.
“It means things can only get better,” he said as he wheeled around and headed into his office to get back to work.
I continued down the hall to my own office and pondered his words. In fact, I’ve been pondering them for many years since that day when he opened my eyes with his profundity. These particular words of Ellison have combined with others, as we’ve worked together over the past 16 years, and his hallway philosophy created a sage-like position for him in my life and work during that period. He has an enormous capacity to see everything positively and to encourage others. Such an attribute is a treasure in an industry where 97 percent of all practitioners are no longer in business within their first five years.
This week, after working with Ellison for many years, we all celebrated his work, friendship and success during his retirement breakfast. There were lots of people there. Some from our office and company and others from other companies also came. It was a true demonstration of respect and awe for what he has contributed to our lives over a long career. We all came to show our esteem and hear from him one last time.
I say one last time, but for me, his words won’t end. They’ll continue to last in my heart and mind for a long time. I’ll always remember when he captured my attention for the first time, in the hallway, very early on as he said, “Most people don’t make it, but you’ll be one of the ones who do.”
I’ll also remember his final words of advice to everyone: “This is an industry where you need to save your money. Save when times are good. Work hard. Focus on a particular geography and always say good things about everyone, especially your competitors.”
This is a great philosophy for everyone to live by.
Now Ellison is going to be living his life apart from our office. I’ll still be walking down the hallway there. But, unfortunately, I won’t be able to greet him there anymore. I won’t be able to ask him about his business, his family, or his hopes and dreams. Still, I’ll be able to anticipate what he would have said to me as I feel the warmth of his memory and relish his hallway philosophy for the remainder of my days.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.