Saturday after Thanksgiving, 2016 started like a normal weekend day. I got up but did not check my phone right away, when I did, I knew that something was wrong.
I had 5 missed calls, 2 voicemail and 2 text messages. They were from the family of my long time employee Susan, the news was not good.
Susan had passed away unexpectedly in her sleep, we were all in shock. It did not seem possible, I had just talked with her the other day.
I can’t remember the exact date that I met Sue but she could tell you. She was good about important dates and things like that. She would always remind me saying “it’s been five years boss, it’s been ten years boss, can’t believe it’s been this long boss.”
I think it was April of 2002, we had just moved into a bigger office and business was exploding. I needed to fill a position in a hurry and Sue called to apply. I knew right away when I spoke with her on the phone that I needed to hire her, she sounded so friendly and happy.
I asked her to come in that day for an interview, she said yes but wanted to wait because it was snowing. Susan did not like to drive in the snow. I bluffed a little and said that I needed to fill the position soon and was ready to make a decision, she ended up coming in.
The interview went well and I said I would get back to her. Later that day she called to follow up. I had talked with so many people that I got mixed up and did not realize that it was her, I told her the position was filled. She sounded so disappointed.
Of course, when I called her the next day and offered her the job she was thrilled, she started right away. I rarely get sick, but on her third day, I was home, flat on my back. It was bad, I was not well. She took control of the office and ran the show like a pro. We had around 13 office employees at that time.
Susan was one of the few people that understood my world, she saw both sides of the entire business. Most people don’t see behind the scenes of a small business and what takes place to keep it running. It’s organized chaos sometimes and she always steadied the ship when things got crazy.
She was usually the first person to get the call when something bad happened with a client or employee. She had a special way of filtering it before it got to me, and kept me cool when I wanted to blow my top.
When Susan joined our company we only had around 15 buildings in the Syracuse area. A few years later we were cleaning 150 buildings in 10 cities across 4 states. She was part of every step and I could not have done it without her. She had an amazing ability to turn an angry client into a friend and have them laughing by the end of the call.
She could deal with the employees much better than I could, talking them down from the ledge when they were frustrated and ready to quit. I trusted Susan with the entire business, she handled the finances, payroll, HR, customer service and was more like the office mom than an office boss. Stern but loving and always had my back.
After the cleaning service hit it’s peak in 2005, the company started to experience a contraction. It seemed that we had caught a wave of growth that was now over, things were getting difficult and the business was going backward. Susan always put the company first and understood when hours and pay had to be cut.
Fortunately, we were able to regroup and the growth started again after several years of decline. When you work closely with someone for years, it can be a love/hate type of relationship. Over the entire 15 year period I think I fired her 3 times, always taking her back of course. Her longest absence started in June of 2013, that’s a day I won’t forget.
We learned that our largest client in Rochester, NY would not be renewing their contract. It was a hard hit and several full-time people would be losing jobs. Susan was very upset when she left work that day. On her way home someone hit her car and she was in an accident. Her injuries were not life-threatening but she would be out of work for a long time.
Having her gone made me aware of all the things she did each day, it gave me a deeper appreciation of her efforts. Of course, as soon as she was cleared to work she began helping me out again part time. Although it was very limited and not like in the past, she still had the same passion for the business and always had my back.
We will miss Susan terribly, she was one of a kind can never be replaced. I am a fortunate man to have had her in my life and will always remember her sweet smile and joyful laugh. She loved her family and would talk about them often. She loved her friends and was very loyal. Thank you Susan for everything.