Friday, January 14, 2011
In Memory of Joyce Kirkpatrick ~ Founder of Phoenix Auto Trader
Bruce learned the game quickly and took lessons twice a day. The Kirkpatrick family invested in tennis memberships for any employee wanting to sign up. Thanks to the family, my lesson schedule filled up completely. I felt honored when Bruce asked me to join his organization, however, tennis was my life at the time and I couldn't see myself working in an office environment.
I made the mistake of telling my general manager Bruce wanted to hire me. Bruce was always looking for people who put the customer first and his team of people were some of the best in the industry. When the owner of the tennis club found out Bruce was attempting to recruit me, he asked me to kick Bruce out of the club.
"Give me a chance to finish what I started here," I told Bruce, after asking him to leave the club, "and I will join your company. Just put me at the bottom and teach me everything there is to know about the business world."
The first day I met Joyce, I knew she was special. Any one of her employees would take a bullet for her because she treated them like members of her own family. When the family decided to sell the Auto Trader business, the decision was made in part for the good of the employees as a giant media mogul was preparing to enter the market. Joyce and her family had a choice to sell the company or to compete with one of the largest companies in America. They felt that selling the company would give their employees an even brighter future.
For me, I missed the personal touch of having a boss who treated me like more than just a number. After the family sold their business, they moved to California. I visited them in March, 1989 when I came to San Diego for a cousin's wedding. My fiancee and I decided to pay the family a visit in their new hometown of Ramona. We both fell in love with the community and began to make plans to relocate.
I interviewed with the San Diego Auto Trader, a business with deep ties to the Kirkpatrick family. My wife went to work for Joyce when we moved to Ramona. The Kirkpatrick family is a special one and we remain good friends, now counting twenty-seven years.
Sadly, I just got word that Joyce passed away. Funeral services will be held on Monday, January 17. May her soul rest in peace and may her sons and daughters be consoled at this time. May God bless the Kirkpatrick family and may her spirit live on in her children, grandchildren, and in all those lives whom she touched. She will be missed.
In my own way, I'd like Joyce to be forever remembered. I'll be asking her family to please give me a quote that helps them remember their mother. Joyce will become an "Angel in the outfield." I will be assigning her the number 84, the first year I met her. Her quote will be forever tied to my first book, something that never would have been possible without her family's influence on my life. Rest in peace, my friend.