A few days ago, the founder of the company where I started my career passed away. Paul Jeffery was a true entrepreneur and visionary. He founded Kelsey’s and Montana’s restaurants and created the organization where I learned how awesome culture and work could be. His legacy is strong, and impacted thousands.
There is so much I could say about the culture at Kelsey’s International – about the fun we had working together; about ski trips and parties and (in Paul’s words) “cranking it up”. We worked hard, we played hard, and we accomplished a lot. I remember being named Canada’s fastest growing restaurant. I remember when research showed that one out of 7 meals eaten in Canada was eaten at one of our restaurants.
Most of all, I remember what it felt like to work in an organization where people truly cared about one another. That started with our Founder and CEO, Paul Jeffery. (CEO stood for Chief Entertainment Officer with Paul – and that he was.)
Since Paul’s passing, my Facebook feed has been filled with people sharing stories and memories of how Paul and his company impacted their lives. When I look at my Facebook feed, I realize how many of my good friends I would not know had it not been for that company. I realize how different my career would have been. I wonder where I would have been. I suppose I would have gone into Law, Policing, or Teaching (all of which I was considering when I took a year off after my undergraduate degree to open restaurants across the country).
Working at Montana’s changed me. It showed me I could be myself, have fun at work, and do great work. It showed me that when people have a passion for what they do, everything is possible. It showed me that when business leaders truly care about people, they impact people’s lives for the better. It showed me that work doesn’t have to suck, and when it doesn’t, it’s pretty frickin’ awesome.
I spent years after leaving Kelsey’s International in 2003, working at various companies, searching for the kind of culture we had there. I never found it. I found companies with grandiose vision statements and Values I could believe in hanging on the walls… but they were just words.
When culture is truly strong, you don’t need a poster on the wall espousing it. You just live it.
There are hundreds of stories I could share about how all of us at Kelsey’s lived the culture, but for now, I’m thinking legacy.
Paul’s legacy was one of living life to its fullest. Of persevering and pulling people together through tough times. Of fun – “Crank it up!”. And of truly caring for people. There are many stories of him helping those who had stuck with him through tough business times and helped create the business Kelsey’s became.
I don’t know if Paul reflected on the legacy he would one day leave. My guess is, like many leaders, he didn’t take that time. He just lived his life, true to his values, and in that, created the legacy that impacted the thousands of Kelsey’s team members.
Have you thought about your legacy?
What is the impact you’ll have on the people you live with, work with, connect with? I’m spending some time thinking about that these days, and I hope that I can have a fraction of the impact that Paul had on so many.