Volume 39, Issue
12, December 2004
(Part III - The Happy Ending)
It was one of those amazing coincidences of life that ends up saving you. Last summer, I went to a wedding that I really didn’t want to go to. You’ve probably been in that situation yourself. The bride was unknown; the groom, a friend of a family member who asks you to go as the “guest.” It was a five-hour drive to a wedding that meant giving up an entire summer weekend, which I did.
In the end, it was a beautiful New York City ceremony, despite the fact that the groom got a major case of cold feet and left his guests waiting in the chapel for two hours and eight minutes before he decided to go through with it. His explanation later that he “needed some air” seemed somehow appropriate.
You see, I was standing on the ground floor of One Rockefeller Center and it was exactly 5:15 p.m. on the evening of September 22. I was in New York to finally interview William Davidson, president of Guardian Industries. I was as excited as I’d ever been about an interview. Only thing was, I had to be there by 5:15 p.m. and though I was on the ground floor, there was this tall, burly man in a uniform talking into a radio who blocked me from a roped-off bank of elevators to the Rainbow Room on the 65th floor.
“You here for the Luxembourg dinner?” he asked, probably guessing by my attire that was the case. I nodded quickly. “OK,” he said cheerfully, “just wait here, I can’t let anyone up til 5:30, they are not all set up yet.”
“I have to be up there now,” I said forcefully.
“Sorry ma’am, those are my orders,” he said.
I thought about racing past him, but then decided I’d probably be shot. I thought about explaining it to him, but somehow just didn’t think he’d care. I was just starting to look around for the stairwell when I saw her. Coming toward us was an attractive raven-haired women in a formal gown, wheeling an enormous harp. It took an instant to recognize her. She’d been the harpist at the wedding. She was hard to forget because she’d had to play an extra two hours before the ceremony began and had run out of music. But pro that she was, play on she did. How funny that she was doing the Guardian dinner. Little did she know she was about to become a different kind of guardian angel.
“Oh hi, “ I said quickly shaking her hand. “You made it. Great.”
She looked a little confused but the guard took over from there. “Oh, you’re together,” he said, “go on up.” And into the elevator up 65 floors the harpist and her new assistant went.
Most people would have then looked at me and said “Who the heck are you?” but this being New York and her being a musician, she handled the question with much more grace. “I’m so very, very sorry,” she said, “but would you mind reminding me how we know each other?”
And so I did. Not surprisingly, she remembered the wedding very well.
At 5:16 p.m., the elevator doors opened and I saw Gayle Joseph of Guardian standing there. “Oh good,” she said, looking a bit relieved. “Mr. Davidson should be right over. You’ll have five to 10 minutes.”
And then there he was, larger than life in front of me with his hand outstretched. We sat down for the interview. (I’d dropped my notepad outside in a puddle and was now writing notes on a stack of cocktail napkins. I could tell by the puzzled look on his face that he did notice this, but was too polite to mention it.)
Below are some highlights from our short interview:
Q: You have had quite a winning year in sports. What lessons do you bring from sports to running Guardian?
A: There are some basic fundamentals common to both. Integrity is the most important key—integrity with customers, suppliers and employees.
Talent is the other issue. In both cases, we want the most talented people available and we want them to be champions.
Q: You were a lawyer by trade. There aren’t too many lawyers that run successful glass companies …
A: The best thing being a lawyer did was save me a lot of money in legal fees in the beginning. I could review my own contracts. I also have a strong accounting background and that background has always been important.
Q: My Dad is the world’s biggest hockey fan and he wanted me to ask you what’s going to happen to hockey this season?
A: Tell your Dad I’m sorry but there will be no hockey this year.[editor’s note: when I got home, my father quizzed me carefully about whether Mr. Davidson had said this “year” or this “season.” “If he said ‘year,’ my Dad argued, “there’s still a chance for a season.”]
Q: Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?
A: Just how strongly I feel about the integrity issue. That is what it all comes down to. In every business, every sport, integrity is the issue.
Mr. Davidson was then kind enough to pose for some photos with me, as if I could ever forget the day! It has been one of two life-long interviews I’d always wanted to do. Thanks to him and Gayle Joseph for making it possible.
And now, Mr. Roger O’Shaughnessy of Cardinal Glass, watch out. You’re the only one left on my list of elusive interviewees.
All of us at USGlass wish you and your families--both home and office families—a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year.
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