There are people in our lives who make a lasting impression or teach a lesson or just help us get through life. Jon W. Peters was one of these people in my life. Jon was a photographer. But, he was also a business person who figured out ways to do things efficiently and in ways to meet the needs of the client while being cost effective. Jon was the school photographer at my high school and, as I got interested in photography, he was willing to teach me a few things, in part, because in line with his way of doing things efficiently, teaching me how to shoot better meant he did not have to personally cover the events at the school – I became free labor. Throughout college and for about 5 years post college, I worked as a photographer and Jon was always a resource. Jon was someone off whom I could bounce ideas about how to approach a photo assignment. As it turned out, he was doing the same with me. And, sometimes I covered assignments for him, and sometimes he covered assignments for me. He taught me the importance of not burning bridges. Like the time a photo lab messed up developing a batch of film from a wedding (yes, film, not digital) and I wanted to blast them in some way. He reminded me they were the best in town – about the only game in town – where would I go if not there? And, he knew how to get the job done – he knew were to turn for retouching (in the pre-photoshop days this was done by hand, a very steady hand) or to buy certain props or equipment. I didn’t know what I provided in return at the time, but now, because I employ people just starting careers, I know it was a 2 way street as it can be for our employees. Jon was organized, he used forms, memos – typed on an IBM selectric typewriter, and he knew how to establish a work flow in an efficient manner. I have adapted many of the lessons that I learned from him in this regard in establishing procedures we use in conducting mock trials and producing our reports for clients. Sadly, Jon passed away a few years ago, but the lessons he taught me live on. We all need people like this; call them friends, mentors, teachers, or colleagues, and treasure them when you find them! I’ll be writing about a few more such friends in the coming posts.
It is amazing to me that, after all these years, I still see a lot of Jon Peters in the way my spouse/business partner operates our business. Although the businesses are vastly different, in that Jon’s was a photography business and ours is a trial consulting business, the manner in which David approaches our work is strikingly similar to the way Jon taught him, when, as a young photographer and aspiring business owner, David worked for Jon. Even the way David organizers extension cords is modeled after what Jon taught him! One of our former employees stopped by for a surprise visit a few weeks ago, largely to tell me she didn’t fully appreciate all of the things I taught her to do when she worked for Magnus, but now that she is established in her career (she is a teacher), she realizes how much she uses what she learned while working for my partner and me on a regular basis. In the same way David and I instruct our employees, Jon Peters took the time and effort to train David on how to be a responsible professional, how to be organized, employee supervision, bill collections, client relations, and a host of other skills that apply to a photography business, a trial consulting business, or any type of business. The lasting impression made by Jon Peters on David are a huge part of what makes David the person he is today. (As an aside, Jon was a fantastically warm, intelligent, humorous, and gracious individual. He always asked me what I saw in David, but the twinkle in his eyes revealed he saw exactly the same wonderful traits as I!)