Real Loss

alex hoffer

I write these words from a conference in Barcelona the day after learning that one of our team members passed away over the weekend. He left work Saturday morning, and from what I gather over here, had an event that led to his passing over the weekend. It was only a month ago that we celebrated his 25th anniversary with the company.

While my personal focus needs to be on the talk I am giving in less than twenty four hours, it is hard to focus during times like these. Loss always has a way of helping us prioritize what matters. Suddenly, all the things that felt so important last week seem less so. Of course, from a business perspective they are still important, but they aren’t life and death. Life and death are outside the scope of what we do.

And this is why I ache right now. As I prayed for this person’s family this morning, and imagined the grief they are currently going through, I ached. Scripture says to “mourn with those who mourn,” and as I process this loss, there is no other path forward. Mourning, of course, is not an isolated activity. And this is why, here in Europe, I long more strongly than usual to be back at Hoffer Plastics. I want to be there for, and with, our team members as we all deal with this loss.

It is also times like these where I am grateful. At the risk of making our company sound better than it is, here are some things I am grateful for:

I am grateful for Dave. He was the guy that always picked my mood up on my morning walk. He was completely reliable, completely positive, and always working hard. I can imagine walking through Plant 5 years from now, hopefully, and still thinking about Dave.

I am grateful for my sister, Charlotte, and Jim, our Director of Manufacturing. Upon hearing the news Sunday night, they both showed up at midnight to tell 3rd shift the news in person. As family, we treat others as we would like to be treated.

I am grateful for my sister Gretchen, who came in early Monday morning to meet with 3rd shift team members as they grieved.

I am grateful that my sisters had grief counseling on site by mid-morning. Sudden loss like this needs to be processed with the help of professionals.

I am grateful that we ache. Aching and hurting happen because there was genuine loss. It isn’t fun, but we lost someone worth aching over.

I am grateful that in a family business the tasks of leadership can be shared. With my dad on vacation, and myself in Europe on business, I am grateful for this. But leadership is more than the family, so I am grateful for how all our leaders (too many to mention here) moved yesterday as we, together, processed this loss.

Given the scheduled cadence of this blog, I won’t publish this post for about four weeks. By then, I am sure there will be the usual amount of business challenges. I am also sure that we still will only be at the beginning stages of processing this loss.

The next time your company goes through a loss like this, remember this post. Remember what you are grateful for. Remember to mourn with those who mourn, and remember to shoulder the load of grief with fellow leaders in the company.

Business loss is temporary. You can always start a new product or new company.

Human loss, however, is real.

I am feeling the realness of this loss as I close this post.