We'll Raise A Glass To YOU, Mikey!
Michael O'Hara took leave of this life this past Friday - and our Industry and the Order of Outrageous Irishmen are much the poorer for it.
Mike, or Mikey, as I was wont to call him, was a pure, 100% Irish character. He dressed in outrageous Kelly green. He had an Irish pub in his basement. His brilliant yellow Hummer flew an Irish ambassador's flag on the front bumper and its horn had options to play Danny Boy, a wolf whistle or a regular "honk."
Every March, he threw the world's largest St. Patrick's Day Party - an event that lasted two days and spanned a distance from Mike's home outside Washington D.C. to Irish pubs on the Potomac. Guests and family stayed in rooms reserved at the Tyson Corners Ritz Carlton at a special discount.
His favorite restaurant was the Capitol Grill in Tyson Corners. They have his portrait hanging above his favorite table in his honor. They even serve a Mike's Special Martini in an enormous goblet that will normally accommodate the needs of a party of twelve. Their entire staff brought him Saturday lunch at his home several times during the final months of his illness. Like all of us, they loved him for his Irish eccentricity - and his boundless good heart and generosity.
You never missed Mike at any of our Print Solutions EXPO's. This member whose company employed several hundred people made it a point to attend every EXPO and visit every exhibit booth. The smiling Irish EXPO character dressed to the nines in a custom tailored Kelly green tuxedo with matching green patent leather shoes, wristwatch band, tie and trademark top hat - that was Mikey!
To say he was a clotheshorse is to say Secretariat enjoyed walking around the paddock.
But, there was another side to Mikey besides the pure, 100% Irish character. That would be Mike, the super successful entrepreneur, whose hallmarks were vision and networking.
Mike's entrepreneurial success was actually rooted in two industries, our Independent Print Services and Distribution Industry and the Direct Marketing Industry. Most people in our industry know Mike as a former (NBFA) president and board member. What most don't know is that Mike was also a past president of the Direct Marketing Association. In fact, just several months ago, the Washington D.C. chapter held a gala event honoring Mike as Member Of The Year.
Mike was among the first to link direct mail marketing and logistics in the fulfillment industry. Among his major clients were the National Rifle Association, the Republican National Committee, America Online, Sony, and numerous other national associations and international corporations. At the apex of his career, his company had nearly 400 employees.
Three weeks ago, my long time industry friend, Irv Michlin, joined me to spend a Saturday at Mike's home. Later in the day, Peter and Lisa Colianni joined us for dinner - which, needless to say, was "take out" from the Capitol Grill. It was a day we all very much enjoyed.
During the day, Mike reminisced on his wonderful association years and friendships.
"When I started my own business, I wanted to learn everything I could. I joined our industry association and attended all their events - to learn from people more successful and knowledgeable than myself.
"I made life-long friendships with these members and profited from their advice. I attended all the trade shows to discover new products and vendors that could help us succeed. Later, when I was successful, I tried to help new members who approached me. You need to network and learn from others' success. It's like an investment in your business."
Well, next week is the 2010 Print Solutions EXPO in Baltimore. I'll be there - wearing a green shamrock. The only EXPO I've missed since 1983 was in 2001, when I was recovering from surgery. Someone much more successful and knowledgeable than myself, who was kind enough to befriend me, once told me to consider my attendance "an investment in my business." It's worked out pretty well for me. If you were thinking of passing on the EXPO, I'd give it a second thought.
On Wednesday evening, after the EXPO, our e-Quantum staff will dine at the Capitol Grill in Baltimore. You're welcome to join us. And, when dinner is over, we'll raise a glass... to honor the passing of the finest damn outrageous Irishman we'll ever know.
Erin go bragh, Mikey!
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