Updated: Aug 5, 2022
First morning waking up in my bed in Phoenix. I am so reluctant to say things like “back home” or “in my room.” It hurts right now. The wounds associated with leaving Maine are still raw. There are literal ones, too, as I stupidly sat outside too long each of the last few nights I was there and got bitten quite a few times. I guess I needed to feed the bugs.
I am glad, though, to be back in the world of decent internet speeds. I will hold out hope that Maine gets better before next year in terms of high-speed internet. Maybe 5G will even be available in 2023? One can only hope.
Here is the last of chapter two of The Trees. Things are about to get wacky, I think, for Dan and his family and friends.
After talking to John, Dan sat in his office with the door closed. He almost never did this. He believed strongly in having an open-door policy and would often work from the middle of one of the call centers, if possible. He had grown to like sitting out there, listening to half of a conversation, here and there, or seeing how the teams were working together.
In twenty-five years of being a company, Evolve had grown from six employees to almost two hundred full-time employees and another 80 or so parttime people. Opportunities had come and gone to go even larger, but Dan and John both agreed that this was as big as they wanted to get. They were able to pay their people well and make sure the company was in good shape for any unforeseen market changes or challenges.
Early on, John and Dan had a long talk about getting to the point where they could turn away business if it didn’t feel right. They decided to get to know their clients and their products. John handled the technical aspects and liked to get in their and use a product, if possible, before signing off on a client and Dan liked to get to know the people they would be working with to make sure there was a fit.
It was a practice that cost them some money on both ends of the deal, but it also meant that many clients felt like they were partners with Dan and John and the team at Evolve. Over time, Dan began taking other employees along when it was time to go visit potential clients and when Allie moved into a managerial role, she began to shadow Dan on these “missions” as he called them.
There were a few clients Dan needed to reach out to sooner than later. He wanted them to hear his news from him and not from another member of the team. He thought of Rob Grant at VSI. They were one of Evolve’s first clients and Dan had made thousands of calls on behalf of Variable Speed Industries. Sometimes, Jan would wake him up in the middle of the night because he was talking about their products in his sleep.
In the mid-1990’s, Rob and his team at VSI created a platform for digital video recording, storage, and transfer that became the industry leader. Rob often told Dan that his efforts in spreading the word about their products were integral in VSI’s success. He even allowed Dan and John to buy a small piece of VSI, two and a half percent each, so they became more than just service providers. They became partners.
At the time of their investment, VSI was still a relatively small company, but it grew rapidly. Rob and John would talk for hours about different tech that was out there and a few weeks later, he would let John and Dan know they might have a new product to call about soon. Rob would buy small companies with good tech and fold it into what VSI was doing. The DVR money helped VSI grow and grow over the first decade they were a client of Evolve.
When VSI expanded into other forms of data storage in the early 2000s, the value of VSI grew to over a billion dollars, making Dan and John comfortably wealthy men on paper and it made Rob “filthy fucking rich” as he liked to say. To look at the guy, though, you wouldn’t know he was worth more than about fifty bucks.
Rob preferred to wear a comfortable pair of beat-up Levi’s and a black t-shirt with the name of some band or another. A lifelong music fan, Rob had started a small record label in 2010 and put out a few records a year. He told Dan once, “You know, you would have been a great lead singer. You could still start a band, you know. I’d put out your records.”
This had made Dan laugh at the time, but he often wished he had that kind of talent or even more so, balls. Dan didn’t mind getting up in front of a group of people and talking. He loved doing training for the staff, too, but the idea of being in a band or singing in front of people made him shudder.
Dan was needing to call Rob, anyway. They hadn’t talked for a bit and he wanted to check on how he was doing. Rob’s daughter, Vivian, had died unexpectedly in February of 2015. The Rawls and Lewis families had both gone out to Costa Mesa, where the Grant family lived, to support them.
Vivian had been twenty-nine when she went to sleep one night and did not wake up the next day. She had a massive heart attack in her sleep brought on by a congenital condition she wasn’t even aware of. In her honor, Rob named a new product VSI was working on after her.
“Vivian” was a software package that was going to revolutionize the personal data storage realm, according to Rob, but it was clear when he spoke to John and Dan about it that it was something more. John knew all too well what it felt like to lose a child and Dan had hoped their shared experience would help them both heal. He didn’t need to encourage John to reach out to Rob about the new product, but he had anyway. Dan thought he might see if John wanted to take a trip out to the coast in a week or so to see Rob in person. They always had a lot to talk about and Dan thought that Rob might just be able to help him see his new situation in a different light.
Dan thought about opening his office door but decided to sit just a little bit longer. He needed to get to work, but he was struggling to wrap his head around the “why” of it all. Soon enough, Evolve would have to evolve, too, just like he was evolving. The work would continue, Dan thought, even if he did not.
See you tomorrow.
Totally unrelated to the story but this is Bailey living her best life. She looks like she is thinking, "Why are you taking a picture of me?" To this I say, "Because I love you, dog." I miss her face already.