I DON'T have cancer ...

But Darrell Sterling does. If you’ve been reading this magazine for at least a year, you know that Darrell Sterling has contributed articles on distribution and sales. He has a real-world grasp of the selling process without hyperbole or “head in the cloud” ideas. Within a few paragraphs of the advice he dispenses, readers know immediately that he’s in the front lines of distribution sales with intimate knowledge of how distributorships operate, especially their sales departments.

Darrell has cancer. I always want my readers to read everything in this magazine, but I really urge you to read his article, “Selling with Cancer,” page 14. Darrell had sent me another article for my consideration and, in passing, with a few simple sentences, he explained that he wouldn’t be working for about six months during chemotherapy. In fact, he never used the word “cancer,” but the deduction was fairly simple.

I thought about his email for a day or so and then asked him if he would write about the effects of his illness and its impact on his job in the distribution business. I don’t know Darrell personally, but I knew there was a story here. I just didn’t know if he had the desire to discuss his condition publicly and whether he was capable of writing on a topic so personal.

He did both and he did it well.

I remember some years back at a HARDI conference when the speaker asked, during a major luncheon session, to stand up if you had cancer. Then she asked everyone to stand if they knew someone who had cancer. Almost everyone stood. It was a sober moment, and I distinctly remember looking around at everyone else at my table, wondering how cancer had touched them. When we sat down, it suddenly became part of the table talk.

I think you know the direction I’m heading. Be good and kind to those in your company who have a serious illness. Everyone is tough and smart until they take a hit in life with a major health issue. Indeed, it’s often one of the most formidable roadblocks you have to confront.  Also, being fair and compassionate to your employees is a good business move. Let’s be blunt about this; it is sensible to plan for a replacement or substitute if someone becomes ill. It happens to everyone, sooner or later. What doesn’t have to happen is a panic-mode decision process.  It’s unfortunate that we often only think about this topic when someone we know brings the issue to us or we have it thrust upon us — gently, I hope — as this column.

My further hope with this column is that it reminds readers to take action if there is anything that you’ve been delaying that has a potential effect on your staff’s health. Health care and its associated costs are always a major topic (or should be) for companies. But I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that your best employees are probably your healthiest ones.

In Darrell’s account, for someone with a serious illness, he lays out a rather objective approach that he followed. Your plan might be different, but plan you’d better.

I mentioned previously that I didn’t know Darrell personally. I inherited him when I became editor of this magazine. I’m glad I did. And I hope, sometime in the future, to sit down and offer a toast to him and to his better health.



In all my years of covering this industry, I don’t know that I’ve read a more readable book than Myths & Misperceptions by Steve Deist and Michael Marks and published by the HARDI Foundation.  What made it particularly interesting and attractive, and I admit this with complete candor, is that it added a bit of tension to the conversation. We live and work in an extremely polite industry. Rarely have I heard an impolite word in public, in dozens and dozens of presentations and hundreds of meeting. Everyone’s polite.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think one should create conflict because there is nothing better to do, but finding oneself in a slightly uncomfortable position can be refreshing. We all need to examine our beliefs occasionally, especially those that we solidify by convention as much as by actual knowledge. I heard from an industry insider today, and he told me — off the record, of course — that Myths & Misperceptions is creating a major overhaul in how one large HVACR distributor does business. I’m also sure that some distributors and manufacturers will yawn, unconvinced and uninterested.

 That’s what makes all this so exciting. Myths & Misperceptions makes for a fascinating front cover story, and it was my desire to stretch the conversation a bit and, in the end, as it always is, to leave it up to you to do something or nothing.