A Tribute to My Friend Jason

You never know where you’ll cross paths with someone who will change your life for the better. Jason and I met years ago on the sidelines of a travel soccer game in Lodi, Ohio while our sons ran up and down the pitch in over-sized shirts and shorts. Not long after that Jay and his family learned he had ALS. Incredibly, he battled that disease for sixteen years. He and his wife, Anna, were forever devoted to one another, raised two daughters and two sons who any of us would be (and are) proud of, became life long friends with so many of us, offering whatever they had, asking for nothing in return. They both worked and were great at anything they took on.

As the disease changed his life, slowly for years and then inevitably more quickly, Jason and I had opportunities to talk about almost anything: kids, being fathers, family, growing up, work, friends and what you want to leave behind when your time comes. Mostly he talked, I listened and learned a lot. I miss those times with my friend.

Jay had a highly successful career, first in sales and then as a manager and director for a national company located here in North East Ohio. A company that was there for Jason and his family, stepping in to provide help and support no one else could–even when he and his family moved to California before returning the Cleveland. The friendships Jay made throughout the company continue to this day. He made a difference in people’s lives by treating them the way he wanted to be treated. I’m sure that Jason never envisioned I’d write about his “management style,” but he wouldn’t have minded it either, especially if it might help someone to do a better job.

Jay loved managing because it gave him an opportunity every day to work with the people around him and make them better. One employee described Jay’s approach like this: “His door is always open and he doesn’t act like he’s a ‘higher power.’” He was open, listened well and believed that “everyone worked with me not for me.” Jay also had the ability to see the talent in others, even when they often didn’t see it themselves. He gave “colleagues” an opportunity and worked with them to succeed. In his mind, they were all in this together. If they succeeded, the company succeeded. Jay told me that he surrounded himself with people who were better than him. He once was asked if he ever worried that some of these employees would be “after his job.” “No” he said, he wasn’t worried. He wanted people after his job because if they were better than him, then they deserved it. In his mind, the people working with him helped him become better at his job.

Jason had integrity and loyalty. At one point in his management career, he was told that the company was downsizing and he had to cut one of his employees even though his group was exceeding its goals. This made no sense to Jay and he let that be known. How could he put someone out of work for exceeding their goals? When the push back inevitably came, Jay’s response was that he couldn’t pick who to eliminate from his successful team and he wouldn’t do it. He took that stance understanding full well the risk he was taking with his own career. In the end, everyone on his team kept their job.

There were no tricks or gimmicks with Jay. Like he said, he treated people the way he wanted to be treated. He was and always will be a great role model, and more importantly, a wonderful person and friend. I was lucky and will be forever grateful that our paths crossed.