I just learned that one of the greatest influencers of my life passed away yesterday. His name is Bob Sweazy. Perhaps you too have had a person like this unexpectedly enter your life – and change it forever.
I met Bob when I was just a few years out of dental school. At that point he was fifty, while I was thirty. He had already been “retired” for ten years after becoming a millionaire by the age of 40. Boredom soon set in, so he decided to “do something else,” because it was completely impossible for Bob to sit at home and read, and review his past victories.
Bob was born on a small sharecropper’s farm in Perryville, Ky. Little did he know that he would eventually become my lifelong inspiration and my hero.
Bob spent one year at the University of Kentucky before leaving due to financial hardship and an employment opportunity to work at a new hotel chain called ‘Holiday Inn.’
The job- doorman. Bob had this smile and energetic interest in virtually every person he met. He always looked for the positive and the potential in people. And as a result, he worked his way to the top of a corporation which owned 30 Holiday Inns up and down the east coast.
This job required Bob to travel frequently all over the country by private jet to do business with high powered bankers and other wealthy and influential people. Being a small town boy, with no exposure to how to function in such circles, Bob taught himself how to do it. He learned how to properly address and connect with people of power. He learned how to function at a table with white linens, four forks, and four wine glasses. He learned how to walk into a room full of multimillionaires and take control of it, not by trying to impress everyone, but through his love.
When I met Bob, he had recently opened a ultra-fine tabletop and accessories store in Lexington, Kentucky. It was called The Galleria, where he took all of his knowledge, experience, and love for people and created a store which in many ways was more attractive and service-oriented than Tiffany’s in Manhattan. By doing so, all of the ‘horse-people’ flocked there, as they had farms in greater Lexington as well as New York and Florida.
At the Galleria, the gifts were so elaborately wrapped that people would bring presents they had bought at other stores, and would pay Bob’s staff to properly wrap them. You can only image what they looked like.
Bob and I became close friends, spending many, many hours together talking about life, business, and people. And the one take-away that I can share with you is that you have to learn how to look for the best in others as well as how to cultivate it.
Our friendship eventually led to our opening a store together – The Galleria Kitchen Shop. Bob gave me full reign, so we went to the great markets in NYC and Atlanta to merchandise the store. I designed it, and managed it simultaneously while also running my fledgling dental practice upstairs. And it was a huge success- enough so that I almost quit dentistry.
Then this thing called the internet came along…the ultimate disruptor. And people started to look but not buy. Rather, they would learn from us why a Henkel knife was the way to go, or All Clad, or whatever, and then they would but it at Williams Sonoma on-line.
Over time, we could see the writing on the wall. And both stores were closed at that location. Bob moved the Galleria two times to have moderate but waining success. Eventually he closed it entirely, and I went on after being inspired by my exposure to Avrom King’s writing and Bob Barkley- infused with the person-centered approaches I had learned from Bob Sweazy, to practice the way I do today.
Bob next went into selling real estate via all of his social connections, with the top firm in Lexington. He worked -because he love being with and helping others -up until last year, and turning 80.
I share this with you because I feel the need to point out that we all have the opportunity to be the Bob Sweazy in somebody else’s life.
We can all make a difference.
Life is not about money, or status, or impressing others with what we have.
It’s about giving.
It’s about believing in others.
It’s about loving.
Read more at Codiscovery.com
Paul A. Henny, DDS