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  • Sam Decker


A good friend and ex-Dell colleague passed away on Friday, April 25, 2008, after a courageous and inspiring battle with brain cancer. I want to celebrate and share the piece of his life I knew, and the words of wisdom he left for all of us.

Two months after I joined Dell in March 1999, a curly-haired Harvard grad moved into the cube next door. Over the next seven years Rich and I worked together to help build Dell’s consumer eBusiness to a $3.5B business, and then on Dell’s CRM and segmentation strategy (he worked on corporate strategy while I worked in Consumer division). But what he worked on is not as important as HOW he accomplished his goals.

Rich exemplified leadership. In fact, he had the rare quality of being a Level 5 Leader, as outlined by Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. He excelled through confident humility amidst a (typical) corporate environment of politics, ego and alpha aggression. He always put decision in terms of what was right for the business, and helped others grow in the process. Everyone loved to work with Rich or for him.

So many of us were awestruck at Rich’s knowledge and wisdom. Rich often put up ‘observations’ on his small whiteboard in his cube. One time he made the observation that time and quality of mission statement are inversely related – graphed on the board, the more time spent on the mission statement the less it resonates. So true. And so funny.

Rich was a devoted father and husband. He excelled in this role as much as he excelled at work. We often played basketball together before work, but for a lot of the year, he also found time to teach children’s Bible study. Rich always left at 6pm to get home in time for dinner with his wife and growing family (now three children: David, Josh and James). Here you see pictures of him at my 30th birthday holding our new sons.

Occasionally we would joke in Spanish to each other, and I gave him the (inside joke) nickname of “El Bueno”, because in every way he was good. He was bound for greatness, and achieved it quickly at Dell accelerating his career to be Director for Global CRM and Customer Experience, reporting to Dell’s CMO.

Two months after I left Dell in early 2006 Rich called to seek advice about his decision to leave. He was interviewing to be President of Peruvian Connection in Kansas City. His Dell career was skyrocketing, and Rich could get a senior exec job at any other large company, but we agreed leading this growing multi-channel retailer (with much better margin than computers!) was his dream job.

In February the recruiter responded to my endorsement of Rich:

Thanks for your endorsement of Rich Lloyd. We had him tested, and the management testing center said he’s brilliant. Rich seems to be a rare combination of raw intellect and leadership capability. Off the charts in both categories.

They saw what I didn’t have to tell them. He got the job, and on March 28 he sent this email:

This is my final week here at Dell and I want to say thank you to all of the mentors, leaders, and colleagues, and truly, friends, that have meant a great deal to me in my nearly seven years here. I am moving on to become President of Peruvian Connection, a private, direct-sales luxury apparel company based in the Kansas City area. I came to Dell in 1999 seeking the world’s best post-graduate business education — and I got that, and then some. Along the way I met some truly remarkable people and was given some incredibly rewarding and enriching assignments. I want to thank all of you for a great experience, and in particular, four great bosses/mentors in Mike George, Tom Vogl, Bobbi Dangerfield and Kurt Kirsch, who believed in me and in my potential… People who were great business leaders, but even better people.

Many people would say the same good things about Rich; he was a great boss and mentor to many people I know. He impacted many others through the example he set at work and home.

Rich and I kept in touch sporadically as he thrived at Peruvian. I saw him at a couple conferences and he was in great spirits. He was very happy in Kansas City and at his job, making a bigger impact on a smaller scale. I had to bottle some of his wisdom, and interviewed him on my blog here.

In August 2007 Rich was diagnosed with Brain Cancer. He moved back to Utah with his family to seek treatment, and kept everyone who knew him up to date through his CaringBridge journal. Like hundreds of others, I read every alert. Over the last 8 months he shared his ups and downs, but ALWAYS with a sense of hope, optimism, strength and gratitude. I never read or sensed despair from Rich or Marianne (his wife). He inspired hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people through his battle. Even up to — especially up to – the very end.

Rich is in a better place now, and he left us something that can put us in a better place on earth. In the midst of his battle with Cancer, Rich and his family came up with a phrase that captured Rich’s outlook on life. They called it “LIVE RICH”, yet it has nothing to do with money. As you’ll see, it has everything to do with living RICHLY. A week before he passed, Rich recorded his words on what it means to LIVE RICH (Thanks to Rob Sorensen for sharing). I will be thinking about Rich and the example he set for the rest of my life. I hope you (and everyone you pass this along to) do as well. Life is short. Live Rich.

Below are Rich’s own words from his recording…

1. SEIZE THE DAY: Every day is a precious gift from God

“You’ve got one life. You’ve got a limited amount of it. You don’t know how long it’s gonna be.” 2. LIFE IS ABOUT PEOPLE NOT THINGS: make memories with the people you love

“Living rich to me is like I always say life is about people and not about things. And so living rich consists of spending time with family, friends and all the people you love. Cause you never know how finite that time is. Even more so, that’s what makes life rich. It’s about people. It’s about relationships. It’s about loved ones. It’s about friends. Make a memory. Life is about people. People get caught up with day to day errands and shopping and things that you won’t even remember them. It won’t even register on your radar screen. But if you set up an activity with your kids, or you take advantage of some vacation opportunity, you just make some sort of memory, you’ll never regret it.”

3. LIVE WELL ROUNDED: learn continuously and always challenge yourself

“It means trying to do things that really are enriching, where you’re learning, you’re growing, you’re challenging yourself. You know in my case it’s keeping up with old skills, like making sure I keep my piano up, making sure that I stay writing and doing the things that I love to do. So when I Live Rich I don’t give up. It means I still try to learn stuff, and I richly tackle new challenges and problems.” 4. MAKE CHOICES THAT ENABLE LIVING RICHLY: make good choices every single day no matter how hard

“I remember the old poem “two roads diverged in the yellow wood” – the Robert Frost poem – “and I chose the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference”. And it goes without saying, no matter who you are or what stage you are in life, if you’re a teenage, or if you’re an 8 year old like my son, or a cancer-stricken 35 year old, you have choices every day…every single day. And those choices will lead to other choices…they lead to some bad ends if they’re poor choices. And to me I always think, “what’s it gonna mean down the road?” If I decide to do XYZ what’s that gonna mean for ABC decisions? The answers do mean a lot."

“And so I just think about every day we have to make choices, and their outcome might seem small but the significance of making that choice might seem teeny, it might be I go to my son’s soccer game or I drag myself out when I’m cold and tired go see my sister speak in church and all these choices get harder when you have a trial or this adversity like we’re experiencing. But just because they’re hard doesn’t mean they’re not worth making. So just remember that your choices lead to other choices, and they need to be good choices. “ LIVE RICH. Live Richly. ———


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