Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Big Shoes to Fill

One year ago, I walked into the office, as the guys were sitting at the table getting ready for their daily routes to start.  Their eyes fixed on me.  I'm sure their minds immediately began to race about all the possibilities, trying to figure out why I had come that day.  And to make it worse, I came alone.  I was not a usual fixture at the office.  I was not an employee, and the only time I came around was to see my husband.  But that day I entered, alone.  And he wasn't there.  I wonder if they knew.  I imagine my face must have shared some hidden secrets.  Maybe it was the tear stains, the impression of sadness, or the dullness of shock.  Looking into my eyes as I approached the table full of young men, what did they see?  Redness, puffiness, despair, unbelief?

Jonathan living his dream!
I don't even remember what I said to them.  How do you tell a room full of men who respect, honor and love their boss that he died of a drug overdose?  How do you comfort a room full of strangers?  How do bring news of ultimate sadness, shock and waste, and expect them to continue on their day as normal?  I can't tell you how, I just did.  And then sent them all off to work, because that is what Jonathan would have done.  After all there was no excuse not to work.

The guys at work were his family.  And throughout the funeral process we treated them as such.  They had reserved seating, they helped select items to display at the funeral, and they were the pall bearers.  We even had one of our work trucks in the procession.  They loved Jonathan.  He was their boss, their friend, and their big brother.  As one employee told me, "He was the best boss we've ever had." Watching him fall apart was just as hard on them, as it was on me.  And his death shook their world.

So when God told me to keep the business, I was intimidated.  I knew I had BIG shoes to fill.  They adored Jonathan, and they had this bond that I can't even explain.  He knew how to build a culture in that company which causes employees to spend their own money to buy each other logo apparel.  Really? Who besides the owner does that?  He knew how to get them invested in the company.  And he was an amazing business man. He was smart.  He had a system and a procedure for each part of the business.  He had a strategic plan that worked.  He was a national example and leader in the industry.  At the national convention people would seek him out for advice and information.  How could I ever compare to that?

Jonathan hard at work.
I quickly realized I couldn't compare to Jonathan.  I couldn't fill his shoes.  I couldn't replace him.  No one could.  And recognizing that set me free.  So as I entered in the office the first day as the new boss, I said "I may not be Jonathan but I'm a lot cuter!" And from that moment I set aside intimidation and put on confidence.  I have gifts and skills which make me a great leader.  They aren't the same strengths and gifts that Jonathan had, and that's okay.  I simply need to be the best leader I can be, and just be me!

I'm true to who I am and its working.  The pieces I bring to the leadership of the business were greatly needed.  My team has welcomed me with open arms, and together we are forging a new future for the company.  What Jonathan started, we are continuing. And we are now the heart and soul of the company.  When I first started I would say, "this isn't my passion.  It was his."  But today I can no longer say that.  I love what I am doing.  I love working with an amazing team of sharp, dedicated, and talented young men.  And somehow the business has become a part of me.

Lately I've been wishing that I had something very special of Jonathan's to remember him by.  Something that was important to him that I could keep.  And I realize that I do.  Its not tangible. I can't hold it or put it in a drawer.  Rather its a place that I go, its a team I work with which he assembled and developed, its a vision we all work towards.  I have his most precious possession with me always, his business.


  1. YOU are QUITE a woman, Jennifer!! What you are doing is nothing short of AMAZING!


  2. Jonathan was a great businessman. I always looked up to him and loved sharing ideas of how to run a successful window cleaning business. I'm sure you will continue to have the success that he had with the group of dedicated employees that you see every morning.