One of the great things about our Internet Age is the ability to reconnect with old friends and associates. Apparently I have left quite a trail along the way, because my telephone and e-mail boxes frequently are contacted for information on past projects. Just this past week a customer from 26 years and three employers ago called looking for ideas on where his patterns and fixtures wound up. What followed was an enjoyable five or six minutes trying to remember the people and parts involved. No miracle revelation on the fate of his tooling, but I think he got pointed in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the guy who would literally have had the answer at his fingertips has long since left this earth. Andy Riccardi, our salesman for government accounts, had encyclopedic recall of every project he had ever bid on, and backed up by the most detailed 3 x 5 index card record system I ever saw outside of a public library. I sometimes teased him that the Russians might kidnap him for his ability to predict when the Department of Defense would next requisition certain spare parts. He was the rare salesman who tracked the projects he didn’t book, and was ballsy enough to call competitors to try to sell them leftover parts or raw material.
The advent of personal computers and the decline of analog instruments made Andy a dinosaur in 1989. Economic turbulence prevented proper recognition of his many contributions to the company’s previous success. Sales is a “what have you done for me lately” activity, and before we knew it, the markets Andy served so well disappeared. I appreciate the things I learned from him — particularly the importance of treating everyone, including competitors, with respect. Although his record keeping system was almost indecipherable, I admired his dedication to knowing every nuance of his field.
If your organization is fortunate enough to have an “Andy,” I recommend getting them to record a few stories for posterity. A Rosetta stone for their filing system would be nice too.