When a funeral teaches you things you wish you knew years earlier
by Christian Borkowski
Today I paid my last respects to a dear old friend of mine.
He wasn’t someone I grew up with at school, or a classmate from my university days. He was a client who became a friend in the 25 years I helped him with tax and accounting matters for his GP surgery.
‘The Doctor’ has been part of my business since the day I started it. I was only 22 at the time, and he was already 45. But in the time we worked together (he’s now 71, and I’m… a lot older) we became good friends. He brought gifts when my children were born. Whenever he came to the office we’d ask about each other’s families, and how they were all doing. We’ve even been to each other’s homes a couple of times.
And yet to the world at large I was simply his accountant. And he was simply my client.
That got me thinking about the client-advisor relationship.
The funeral was pleasant and respectful—just like the man we were saying goodbye to. What I didn’t know is that The Doctor was a Buddhist, and so the funeral was a whole new learning experience for me.
I met a lot of The Doctor’s friends and family, and they got to know the accountant who became a friend. But during the service I got to know a lot more about the man himself—his childhood, the type of father he was, his professional background, his intense spiritualism, and the reason he became a doctor in the first place.
Our professional relationship was always good, and we always had each other’s respect. But as I drove away, I couldn’t help but think how much better that relationship would have been if I’d known all of this 25 years ago.
I’m not saying we should have become each other’s best friend. But if we knew each other at a slightly more personal level I’m sure our professional relationship would have been far more constructive. In fact, I now believe getting to know people a little more can improve our interactions with everyone we know—socially and professionally.
So the next time we talk, whether it’s in an email, on the phone or face-to-face, chances are I’ll share a few personal details. And I hope you will too, and that we can get to know each other a little better, Because the better I know you, the better I can help you.
I’m not a big fan of funerals, but I’m glad I had the chance to pay my last respects to The Doctor today. Thanks to his friends and family I got to know him even more, which in a way has made our friendship even stronger.
One last gift from my friend, The Doctor.