I feel so lucky to have learned many lessons from Blake. First, and always foremost, was taking care of our people.
One of my most meaningful memories with Blake came on a store branching visit. I had invited our District Manager to join us for lunch in-between store visits and Blake asked me, “what about the Store Managers?” I remember thinking, duh, how could I forget the Store Managers?! That was definitely a “2×4” moment and a wonderful reminder of our inverted pyramid, something Blake championed always.
Another “2×4” moment came when I picked up Blake in a rental car and he said to me, “geez Matt, it must be nice traveling with you!” He then shared the invaluable lesson his Grandfather taught him, something like, “don’t bring the customer a cheaper (quality)product, find ways to bring the product to the customer cheaper”. In the nicest of ways he was saying to me, don’t waste the company’s money and our ability to deliver value to the customer on expensive rental cars! After a few anxious seconds went by, which of course felt more like minutes, I gathered myself and replied, “you know Blake, this vehicle we’re driving is perfectly suited for the Rack, it’s a Nissan Armada and the Full Line version is the Infiniti QX80!” We got a good laugh out of that one!
Blake always challenged me (and us) to find ways to do things better, cheaper and faster. No matter what we delivered there was always a long list of feedback. We were super motivated to get after those lists because we knew his intent was for us to be successful beyond our wildest dreams.
Of all my experiences and memories, those two “2×4” moments will remain with me forever. He was one of the most competitive leaders I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from….and yet what he seemed to love and appreciate more than anything was our teams and taking care of the customer. It seemed to me that he knew if we did those two things best, then everything else would work out. Blake took a personal interest in me and I’ll be forever grateful.
In Mr. Bruce’s book, Leave It Better Than You Found It, Blake and his brothers almost prophetically said that the best way to honor their Dad was “by doing their best to continue his legacy.” Blake left me way better than he found me, and it is my honor to help continue his legacy by doing my best to take care of our team and the customer. I imagine he wouldn’t want it any other way.
With deep sympathy,