Today marks twenty-five years since I co-founded a sales training and consulting firm with a guy named Ed Burke. It all began on August 1, 1992 and ended on December 31, 2002.
I don’t know if anyone remembers or cares that EduCore existed. I don’t know if clients’ businesses or sales reps’ skills really improved because of our advice and training. I don’t know if our approach truly taught people to work and treat others with integrity, honesty, and respect. And, truth be told, it actually doesn’t matter after all these years.
But, the fact that it existed, and how we ran it, still matters to me. My ten years with EduCore changed the way I chose to live my life, the way I treat family and co-workers, and the way I developed myself as a person and a professional. I still carry those lessons with me today.
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I met and worked with Ed at IBM, but didn’t know him well. He was Irish and Catholic, married, and had three kids. And, as weird as it may seem, one conversation – about leaving IBM and the desire to start a company – brought us together. The mutual trust and willingness to take a leap of faith existed from Day One.
We were excited by the opportunity to create something from nothing…to create a company our own way and in our own image. We studied the market: the competition and the potential. We were honest about our strengths and weaknesses; quickly learning how best to complement each other. Ed was the consummate salesperson; a happy-go-lucky kind of guy and a great schmoozer. I was the detail-oriented one; focused on pricing, managing the books, and developing training materials. We joked that he was the good guy and I was the bad guy. (I begged him to trade places with me, but he said I played the role too well.) Most interesting, especially for the times, he was a true feminist. He insisted on holding a joint 50-50 ownership (even though giving me 51% would have entitled EduCore to be classified as a woman-owned business and therefore eligible for tax breaks), earning equal salaries, and making key business decisions together. As a young woman in her thirties with a one- and a three-year-old, he made me feel invincible.
We found that we could talk openly about anything. Ed taught me about Catholicism. I taught him about Judaism. He felt there were too many Jewish holidays. I never understood the need to display different colored sashes on crosses posted on church lawns. He didn’t believe I’d go to hell for not believing in Jesus. I admired his family’s weekly attendance at mass.
Ed became like a big brother to me over the ten years we worked together. Strangely, however, we weren’t friendly outside the confines of our office. He, his wife, my husband, and I got together for dinner once and it didn’t go well. So Ed and I shared a business and built a relationship that operated from Monday through Friday, from eight-thirty until five-thirty. We hired and fired. We questioned everything. We broadened our sights and grew. We celebrated successes (I still have a beautiful Rolex watch to prove it!). We made it work.
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But then, things changed in our little universe…a type of perfect storm. Ed’s eldest son died tragically and the family endured other stresses as a result. I freaked out over the school shootings at Columbine, the drama of September 11th, and the approach of my fortieth birthday. His family needed more of him and I wanted more time with mine. And so, nurturing and growing our business further became a significant challenge.
After ten years, we agreed it was time to move on. We decided to close up shop. It was one of the most painful and emotional decisions I’ve ever had to make.
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It’s been over fourteen years since the day I hugged Ed and said goodbye, but I think of him every August 1. To this day, I have not worked with any other man who has understood and stood by me as he did. He taught me to want and expect more; to not compromise when it comes to my values and ethics. He supported my desire to walk away from potential clients whom I didn’t like or trust. He exuded honesty and respect. He helped me learn that dreams can become reality.
Ed, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope you are well. Thank you for guiding me through my thirties. Please know that your lessons were well learned. Memories of our time together will always have a special place in my heart.