A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…Proverbs 13:22
This short passage in Proverbs gives us the instruction to plan, even when our planning is for people that we may never meet. In 1983 right out of college, I started my career in the investment business with a man named Russell Clack. Russell and I worked together for several years, and we were selfishly at odds with each other in the firm as he and I fought for position in the firm. We both left the firm for what at the time we thought was a better opportunity, and we did not see each other for 23 years. Our paths may not have crossed, but this is Memphis, so we certainly knew of the success we each had achieved as we matured in our careers. The maturity for each of us was based on a new relationship with God and the understanding that relationship brought to our families and careers.
In fact, it was not our business success that crossed our paths, but our involvement in different ministries across Memphis that allowed each of us to know the change that had occurred in our lives, even though we once were at odds with each other early in our careers. In 2006, the Lord brought us together to start an investment firm, and he and I were partners until Russell’s death this past September. Russell had taken care of his wife Barbara for several years as she battled Alzheimer’s, and she passed away in 2016. Russell was devoted to Barbara, caring for her at home in the remaining months of her life even though she did not know who he was. It was during this time that he wrote a book entitled, Before She Is Gone. It was also during this time that Russell’s own body began showing signs of age due to a lung disease that had taken his father’s life, and was now causing Russell difficulty too.
Russell’s death for me and for Melissa Coleman, the firm’s administrative assistant, was a most difficult time. We both had experienced a major loss and would have welcomed a period to mourn, but instead we had to step up to do the job that Russell had been doing for his clients the past 35 years. Hundreds of families that Russell had been taking care of by providing all avenues of financial advice, from how to buy a home, bury a loved one, or pay for college, all the while guiding their investments through difficult financial markets.
On the day of Russell’s death, Melissa had to call some of his closest friends/clients who had depended heavily on him, and thankfully because of their close working relationship, she knew most of them well. It was when I started calling them several days later that I received one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. As I spoke to each and every one of them, Russell had planned for his death, and they knew all about me as he had assured them that they would be in better hands with me than they had been with him. Russell knew that for him to completely fulfill the job he had been doing for years, he had to leave his clients with the confidence that they would be in good hands after he was gone. My mentor Lee Stafford has preached to me for years that one has not successfully done one’s job until they have planned for their succession.
To paraphrase Proverbs, the successful person has not been a success until they have planned for the ones that will come behind them, whether they are your children’s children or those God calls you to work with daily.
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