It was wrong. That’s important to get out up front. It was wrong, and by the time it was done, I knew it was wrong.
It was a wrong that flowed from inexperience and a misplaced sense of duty on my part, rather than from any hope of personal gain. Doesn’t matter.
It started out as something else, entirely legitimate, but, while only slowly, eventually evolved into something wrong.
Not then, but over two years later, it had a profound impact on my life, and on the company I loved.
I continue to live with its consequences today, and likely will for the remainder of my years.
It began one Spring day, in early April of 2001. It was only three weeks into a new assignment as leader for the Western Area of Symbol’s “The Americas” sales region, a position into which I was placed by our newly minted CEO, Tomo Razmilovic. I had tried to discourage the move, but, having turned down a posting to run the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region some six months earlier, Tomo was adamant. The entire conversation, by phone, lasted perhaps ninety seconds. Tomo didn’t like hearing “no”, and didn’t leave room for debate.
It was the first time in my career that I held a straight-out sales job.
“Rich, can I see you a moment?” That was Paul, one of the sales guys from the Western area, at the door to my office in San Ramon, California. (The office in fact still felt like it belonged to my predecessor, Mark, whose sudden decision to leave the company triggered my assignment. His artwork hung from the walls, not mine. Ellie’s picture hadn’t yet made it to the desktop.)
“Sure Paul, come on in.”