By Jeff Broudy
Editor's Note: The following reflections were adapted from a blog post Jeff Broudy wrote for his good friend, mentor and industry leader Joe Kaplan, who passed away unexpectedly July 27, 2018. The full version is available at http://joekaplanknows.blogspot.com. Also, for highlights from Joe Kaplan's impressive career, visit www.greensheet.com/breakingnews.php?flag=breaking_news&id=2105.
I met Joe Kaplan in 1982. I was rushing ZBT fraternity at UCLA, and Joe was the Rush Chairman. He was the guy who decided if I got into ZBT. Besides marrying Wendy, joining ZBT was the biggest decision of my life. And Joe was part of it. Joe changed my life. I know many of you feel the same. How can one person change so many lives? Joe knows.
As Brian Sachs put it, "Joe was larger than life." Big guy. Big goals. Big ideas. Big heart. When you're on Team Joe, you're a teammate for life. People always say don't work with your family or friends. Not Joe. His family and friends were his life, and his life was his work. Joe knows.
My first job in college was delivering pizzas. Joe got me the job. We laughed for years about the lady who served pizzas to her doll collection, or the guy who tipped us with monopoly money. After UCLA, Joe and I lost contact. One of my life lessons: When you meet somebody larger than life, don't lose contact.
Not long after Joe sold Innovative Merchant Solutions for $116 million to Intuit, I called him to ask if he'd evaluate a brokerage firm I was interviewing with. He welcomed the opportunity to help me. But after meeting with the firm's representatives, he suggested I work for him instead. Joe believed more in me than I believed in myself. Joe knows.
My Rush Chairman, my old friend, was now my boss. I'd never worked for a boss like Joe Kaplan. Joe had this way of pushing people out of their comfort zones while also making it fun. This was one of his greatest gifts. He made people demand more from themselves and from others around them. Joe was my mentor. Joe was my friend. Joe even had a relationship with my kids. They'd text him, and he'd text them back. How did one person spread an umbrella so wide? I learned so many things from him. Joe knows.
5. Set goals: "A goal without a timeline is only a dream."
4. Customers are key: "Without our customers, none of us get paid."
3. Give back: "Let's go build a house. Who's with me?"
2. Tough love is still love: "Broudy, you suck." This message took me awhile to embrace. 1. Everyone matters.
I left Total Merchant Services two years ago to become CEO of PCIHIPAA, my HIPAA compliance company. Joe prepared me to take the leap and provided me the confidence to succeed. I last spoke with him on July 18. I was fortunate to be able to thank him one last time for providing me the tough love I needed.
The outpouring from people since his death has been overwhelming. I feel the best way to remember Joe – and to help us mourn – is through storytelling. Help keep Joe's legacy alive. Let's tell stories, learn and laugh through our Big Joe moments at www.facebook.com/joekaplan.joeknows.
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