Throughout my life, I have always been close to my father. As a kid, if he was building shelves in the basement, I was with him. My father was the best man in my wedding more than 27 years ago. Based on this relationship, when the chance came to join the manufacturers’ representative firm that he and his partner Jack Kappus founded — SESCO — I jumped at it.
I had the privilege of working with my father for more than 13 years. As many of us in the foodservice equipment industry know, working with family can be an interesting journey. Working for my father meant that the bar was always set higher for me. It meant evening phone conversations were occasionally heated and loud. They were always followed by a calmer phone conversation that ended in “I love you.” It also meant that we had unique opportunities to fight the good fight and celebrate victories together.
The business lessons I learned from my father are countless. In fact, when my father and stepmom agreed to live with my family part-time more than 12 years ago, and I had moved on to start Reitano Design Group, Dad would say, “I just wish I could be more help to you in the business.” My response was always the same: “I take you to work with me every day.” I have spoken no truer words. Not a day goes by that his influence is not felt in the way we approach working with our clients or in running our company.
Recently, I came across the letter Dad wrote to that rep organization upon his retirement in December 2000. I was struck by the similarities in what he wrote and what I espouse to our team today. He wrote about the joy of working together and said, “If Jack and I were to leave a legacy, it would be that we, with your help, built an organization of people who cared for one another like family and who truly believed in our business philosophy of taking care of our customers and our business partners.”
As much as I learned from my father about business, I learned much, much more about living life. My father lived his life with humility, integrity and grace. I was blessed to observe this firsthand on many occasions and in many scenarios.
How we treat others regardless of the opportunity for personal gain, who we are when no one is looking and there is nothing to gain, and how we choose to respond to mistakes by others and ourselves goes a long way to show who we are and what legacy we will leave for our families, our organizations and our industry.
James A. Reitano passed away in August. He was 81 years old and suffered from Parkinson’s disease for more than 25 years. He may have exited this world, but the lessons he shared with me, my siblings and countless others remain even more relevant today than they were back then. Jim Reitano set the bar high for all of us, and I continue to strive to meet these lofty goals on a daily basis. I invite you to join me in the journey.