Always there to help
Kathy said: “If you need any advice, just call – and don’t worry, we’ll be back.”
Bob then said: “Good luck — follow your heart.”
These were the last words I heard from the Barnett’s when they were in Sydney, on the way to New Zealand two weeks ago.
We had been talking about my plans to start my own media business — and having worked at the Pique, I couldn’t believe my luck that the Barnett’s were in town.
After five years away from Australia, it was cool they were temporarily staying near Bondi, an iconic Aussie beach.
That also meant dinner on the beach, which Bob and Kathy paid for. And they paid for it in a way that wasn’t awkward – the kind of way that you remember and hope to repay someday soon.
Over dinner we talked about business, bikes, the Olympics and, of course, hockey. Kathy was particularly enamoured with Roberto Luongo, the Canuck goalie who was, apparently, playing “like a brick wall”.
Bob and Kathy finished each other’s sentences — Kathy was easy to understand, and as always, I had to really listen to Bob.
It was sensational to see them after three years and they seemed as happy I can remember them ever being. Kathy talked about some difficult issues that all business people deal with, but it was still clear she loved her job.
She also talked about the sacrifices she and Bob made when they started the Pique and shed further light on just how difficult running a business can be.
“Business acumen” is one phrase she used specifically and I also remember thinking that this meant many things. During the course of the next few hours, and also drawing on what I’d seen when I was their employee in Canada, I understood “business acumen” meant having to make tough decisions that don’t always make you popular.
It meant doing the sums at night after spending a day selling your product. It meant seeking the best staff in an environment that can be difficult to find people. And as the publisher of a community newspaper in an amazing little town like Whistler, it meant finding time for the betterment of the community — the kind of time that wins you a Business Person of the Year award.
Things will be extremely difficult for a lot of people for a long while, but I will take solace in the fact that Kathy ran her own race. She was brilliant with numbers and as prudent as any big city executive, but she chose to get married and start a newspaper in one of the world’s most beautiful places.