The Three Lessons I Learned From Losing My Most Loyal Employee
A couple of weeks ago, I posted this tribute to Kent – my friend, 20+ year employee, and confidant:
Goodbye Kent Kozimor
It is with a heavy heart that I write these words – my friend, colleague, and 20+ year employee, Kent Kozimor, passed away yesterday.
It was over 20 years ago when he responded to an ad in the local newspaper. He traveled with me to seminars. He DJ’d, filmed and distributed training manuals. Mostly, he helped calm my nerves. “You’re Shari F—ing Levitin,” he would say. “You’ve got this.”
It wasn’t long before he told me I needed a salesman.
He quickly earned the title “Director of Sales.” Since1999, he’s filled every role – from contract writer, to content creator, to head of Guest Experience.
He was the Oz behind the curtain, never wanting or needing recognition. If you were to ask him about his job, he’d say “My job is to make Shari look good.”
He was loyal to a fault, working nights and even during a Patriots game if need be.
His greatest loyalty and love was for his son, Ryan. I watched him navigate the complexities of parenting a rebellious teenager as a single parent. With love and grace, he guided him to become a strong military man and now a successful entrepreneur. Just three weeks ago, he moved his belongings from his Florida home to Tennessee to be closer to Ryan and his two grandchildren, ages two and six.
If Kent had one weakness, it was his lack of confidence. For the life of me I could never figure out why he didn’t know how bright, articulate and kind he was. Maybe it was simply his humility.
Kent struggled for as long as I’ve known him with cigarette addiction. He said he stopped, but I knew better.
I will miss you, Kent Kozimor. Your customers will miss you, and I promise to let your grandchildren know the values you held so dear.
You died a King’s death – in your sleep, peaceful on your new couch.
May your life and your memory continue to be a blessing.
Though we can never escape pain, we can always change our perspective. I know Kent would have wanted me to learn from it, write about it, and, of course, have him edit it. So here are three lessons I’ve learned from losing my most loyal employee:
- Take Time to Mourn and Reflect
What could I have done better? What were my last words to Kent? Were they “Good Job”, “Thank you for all you do?”, “How are your Grandkids?”. I hope so, but I’m not certain. I’ve been contemplating this for the last few weeks since his death. I hope my last words were kind, thoughtful and encouraging. It got me thinking of the Aristotle quote: “Be Kind for Everyone is Fighting a Great Battle.”
- What Makes Someone Life Worth Living?
I’m grateful I took the time over the years to know Kent as a person, a father, and a friend. But, I haven’t always taken this time with others. For that, I’m disappointed in myself and, at times, even ashamed. What I do know is we can’t possibly affect someone’s outer world if we don’t take time to understand their inner world.
- Remember the Back Up Singers
Kent didn’t need to be the front man, just like the back up singers in the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom.” Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, and many others who sang backup for the Rolling Stones didn’t need to take center stage. Said Lisa Fischer, “I reject the notion that the job you excel at is not enough to aspire to, that there has to be something more. I love supporting other artists.” She added, “Some People will do anything to be famous. I just want to sing.”
Kent, thank you for your song, your loyalty, and your humility.
Until we meet again, good friend….
If you would like to attend Kent’s Celebration of Life on May 16, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the details.