It was Toy Fair a few years back, and as has often the custom when I dine with folks from the Old Company, stories began to surface about Ramon. A truly larger-than-life Cuban-American, Ramon was our head of U.S. Sales — variously listening to or ignoring us marketing folks, closing the deal with Wal-Mart, exhorting his team to make their numbers. Often (every quarter, actually), Ramon said: ‘you can count on three things — death, taxes, and Ramon makes his quarter.’
Ramon was by turns stubborn, gracious, funny, profane, and brilliant. I often marveled at his clean desk. When I would visit his office to ask him a question about a program or an account situation, Ramon would confidently answer without consulting a report or looking at his computer (I think he just used that to send cartoons back and forth with his friends). Then, because perhaps he thought I might question his omniscience, he would open his desk drawer, extract a single piece of paper, glance at it, and then confirm his previous answer. I’m pretty sure that paper was blank.
It dawned on me years later that my connection to Ramon ran deeper than just Marketing Meets Sales. I was only 26 when my dad died — he didn’t get to meet our kids, or see what I eventually accomplished in my work life. It’s not exaggerating to suggest that I looked up to Ramon like a father. Everyone needs mentors…and everyone should be as lucky as I was that Ramon guided me and gave me advice as I grew through the phases of my career. I was over 45, and he was still calling me ‘Timmy.’
Come to find out, I was one of dozens, maybe hundreds, of people Ramon mentored throughout his life. If there was any doubt that he left a lasting impression, it was dispelled by the warm and funny stories we told over dinner on a snowy Toy Fair night. Ramon eventually lost his battle with emphysema, and much like my father, he left us far too soon. But he lives on in those stories…and in our hearts.
Across all these years and all those miles, the lessons I learned from Ramon still resonate. Mostly – that the journey is worth taking only when there are good people riding along with you.
And I can confirm that without looking at a Sales report.