All-In is all for Rob.
I remember the first time I met Rob.
We were looking for real-estate for his growing start-up business that at the time was called TechSolutions. My business, InTouch Interactive, was growing as well, and we were both amped up about the possibilities. We met in a parking lot in South End, the trendy warehouse district off of Mint Street in Charlotte, NC. His dear friends and business partners Jeff Harris, Brian Deblitz and Jon Olin were all with him.
We were so young and so incredibly naive. We thought we were about to take the business world by storm with our ideas, energy, cunning and business savvy. Well, like so many entrepreneurs, we have managed to fail our way to success and Rob was pivotal to all of our successes in so many ways.
Not only did TechSolutions (now named Ettain Group) go on to become a Southeast staffing powerhouse, but Rob's company was also our first paying customer at my first start-up. What I still remember most about Rob on that day, almost 20 years ago, was his infectious personality, and positive attitude backed by a lady killing smile and a pair of shoes worth more the valuation of our two companies combined! Maybe I noticed those things about him because I am so not that guy (since my most expensive pair of shoes are actually sneakers), and to this day I remain envious of Rob for those qualities. He had in spades something we all wish we had: charisma!
That was the beginning. The beginning of our careers, the beginning of our adult lives – lives that were soon to include our wives, our wonderful children and so many friends and great colleagues and the beginning of our way too short friendship.
Rob was a true entrepreneur, so I know he had a great appreciation for how things begin. In the beginning lies the power to create something big, much biggger than ourselves.
Now fast-forward 16 years...
For those of you who play golf, you know how maddening the sport can be. And if you’re intensely competitive like I am – and like Rob was – you probably remember all the 300 yard drives and lipped out puts along the way. Well, about six months before we lost Rob to cancer, we played in a captain and crew golf tournament with Brian Deblitz, Chris Williams and myself. I remember it like it was yesterday. At the midpoint of our round we came to a 520 yard dogleg left - par five. Rob teed off first as he often did because of his consistency and accuracy off the tee. Rob hit the kind of tee shot that belongs on an instructional video. It was an ever so slight draw, rising off the tee, landing softly past two fairway bunkers, and rolling to a spot just around the corner of the dogleg and dead in the middle of the fairway. 290 yards of perfection! None of our drives bested his so we let him play it where it lies and take the first, next shot of the group. Golf, like life, is so much about rhythm. Rob stepped up with a 3 wood. There were about 230 yards left to the pin. With the confidence of a tour professional (and probably a nicer pair of shoes), he stepped up and ripped his second shot. Another low riser. The ball never left the pin, bounced 15 yards in front of the hole and rolled to 12 inches in front of the cup. The four of us began cheering like schoolboys, crushing high fives and screaming. Rob gained his composure, calmly walked up and rolled in the putt. Rob's three-shot solo eagle on this par five gave us a two on the scorecard (we were getting a stroke), for an unheard of double eagle.
Rob played some of the best golf I'd ever seen him play that day. We went on to win the tournament and to this day, it is the only golf tournament I have ever won.
fast-forward 12 months...
I didn't get to see Rob much that last year as he had more pressing things to attend to than golf. I can't imagine a better day to have ingrained in my memory. It exemplifies Rob, our friendship and what really matters: quality time with those we love so much.
Rob was a true entrepreneur, so I know he had a great appreciation for how things end. The results. The fruits of our labors.
Between those 16 or so years, there was a life incredibly well-lived. It seems terribly cliché, but I wish we had more time. I know Rob kept very high expectations for himself. I also know his expectations for us included following through on All-In to Fight Cancer.
The end is not the end, my friends. Rob knew that. And he knew that we all would meet again someday.
And on that day, I pray that I can stand before him, having delivered on my end of the deal as he most certainly did.
A life well-lived.
Co-Founder | All-In to Fight Cancer