Just reflecting on the birthday this week of a friend and mentor: Charles F. “Fritz” Spademan. Having worked closely with him, I came to embrace several ideas and lessons that he taught me. I call these lessons “The Spademan Rules.”
Fritz was always gracious with his time. Whether you were just dreaming a dream, or had a solid business plan complete with pro-forma financials, he made time for you to talk about your idea. I say that he was a great cheerleader for entrepreneurs, because he understood the massive resistance that others would give you.
I have read many business plans for him, including a number that were more fictitious than viable. He would ask me, “How could they make it better? What would you do with it?” I would offer my best wisdom and insight on some area, but I also know that he took more than a few suggestions back to those idealistic business owners, since I often saw the kernel of my idea wrapped in his warm recommendations inserted in the document.
I learned from him the right ways to host a special event. He had one lesson from his Entrepreneur and Investors Exchanges that I embraced, “Any attendee is potentially more valuable to us inside our event, then he is anywhere else.” It reminded me to take away any possible obstacle or barrier to having someone be a part of a Third Thursday or other event I hosted. As a result, I often made great contacts whom I may have prejudged.
Another Spademan Rule, and one of the most amazing things that I recall is that Fritz never said anything negative about anyone. He always said good things about you, even when he was frank and honest. He may have heard the harsh critiques of others, but in the seven years we worked together, I never heard him repeat any of them.
I wish I could tell you how many times I broke bread with Fritz. Walking with him into any restaurant where he was known was a treat. I saw more than a few waitresses have at his place his drink just waiting for him. He was never a fan of onions on anything, and openly wondered to almost every waitress and restaurant manager why they couldn’t put cream of tomato soup on the menu at least one day a week. Once he asked a waitress, “what’s the most exotic soft drink you serve?” She suggested either Cherry Coke or Dr. Pepper, and wondered why. His response pointing at me was, “Because that’s what this guy’s probably going to have.” Even at an advanced age, he paid attention to the details.
Fritz Spademan was a business partner, mentor and friend. His passing this past autumn and birthday this past week remind me that we all have people who touch our lives, and that we need to reflect on them and how they truly made a difference.