“Never enter into any transaction that does not benefit everyone it touches ...” — F.M. Allen
I vividly remember captivating conversations with my paternal grandfather, F.M. Allen, when I was in junior high. Believe it or not, more than 95 percent of these conversations involved only listening on my part. Grandaddy was the epitome of the proverbial “pillar of his community” in a small West Tennessee town called Paris.
Grandaddy was the executive vice president of sales for a national company headquartered in Paris. The company chairman was quick to point out that “F.M. is the real brains behind this operation. But more importantly, he is exactly what we want people to think of and remember about us.”
ADDING VALUE TO OTHERS’ LIVES
Grandaddy used to talk about “doing well … by doing good …” and said “prosperity was a mere by-product of adding value to the lives of others.” I never met a soul (and F.M. knew countless people of influence as well as those of meager means) who didn’t trust Grandaddy. His very demeanor commanded respect.
During my high school years, I recall Grandaddy explaining to me his No. 1 rule of business while my family was vacationing at his home: “Never enter into any transaction that does not benefit everyone it touches … no matter what!”
I was able to retrieve gems such as this only when he took intermittent breaks from shielding me with his New York Times newspaper. One of F.M.’s closest friends was the late and great writer E.B. White. I am fortunate to be in possession of a couple of the letters they exchanged, from which it is obvious the tremendous mutual respect that existed between the two.
I never once heard Grandaddy tell a lie, do wrong to another person, think of himself first … or even fail to always be acting in someone else’s best interest. Governor Porter of Tennessee once stated in the newspaper that “F.M. Allen is the consummate example of a true gentleman.” The mayor of his hometown of Paris stated that he “would follow F.M. blindfolded.”
If anyone is still wondering when the “punch line” of this article is coming, please know that it has already passed … just like my Grandaddy. He spent so much time becoming genuinely interested in others, it is no wonder so many of them became interested in him. Maintaining an impeccable degree of integrity with everyone he knew at all times, it should be no surprise that he was so influential … and such a superstar in the profession of sales.
A GENTLEMAN TO THE END
My last visit with Grandaddy was in his hospital room with him lying in the bed, dying of cancer. He was no longer able to see just a few feet ahead, nor did he know who was visiting. That was the last time I heard his gentle, regal voice. When it was time for me to leave, Grandaddy somehow managed to slowly roll out of his bed while embracing the wall in front of him. He seemed to insist on continuing to use the wall as support as he hobbled to the door in front of him. He had to open the door for his guest.
All the way to his end, my Grandaddy was a gentleman and a picture of class. Remember, no one will ever buy anything from you until they buy you. I never knew anyone who did not buy into F.M. Allen.