As some of you noticed on @PaigeDawson yesterday, I had the good fortune to spend the day with APQC (the American Productivity & Quality Center) for the Inaugural Founder’s Day & Jack Grayson’s 92nd Birthday Celebration. What an inspirational event!
I have a special affinity for APQC (as a long-term client and friend) and Jack (as a dear mentor and friend). For those of you lucky enough to know them, you quickly find that APQC and Jack are synonymous. Jack’s vision, energy, charisma and passion are deeply imprinted in APQC’s culture and in each employee. His essence permeates the people and the building.
In reflecting on the day, I want to share three elements that stood out. Anyone planning a company celebration or tribute would be smart to emulate them.
Masterful Event Planning & Process
The APQC Founder’s Day celebration was one of the most flawless, well-orchestrated, thoughtful days I can recall attending. Amanda Schalyo and Ashley White of APQC managed to wow the attendees every hour, from the welcome desk to the parting gifts and employee games. Dillon Martin of APQC provided the creative genius to bring the APQC brand and Jack’s story to life in design, video and print.
The food was delicious, fresh and healthy while still being satisfying. Dessert was a special treat with Blue Bell ice cream, Jack’s favorite. Jack’s grandchildren even found a dedicated toddler zone for play. The layout and flow of the tables, presentations and buffets felt inviting and comfortable. Even the printed name tags with large font and the low centerpieces fostered conversation and laughter.
Guests left with spot-on parting gifts – a crystal cuneiform, which represents the earliest known written word for “freedom” (Jack’s favorite word). The symbol and theme also graced the matching event shirts the team wore and the logo cookies.
Animated, Joyful Teamwork
As you’d imagine in a house that Jack built (he believes only in having fun and that all work should be fun), this group loves to laugh and collaborate. The day was filled with games, playful banter and spirited conversation. These people really like each other and love APQC…and it shows. The culture here is nothing short of amazing!
Keeping in theme, the games were direct ties to Jack. First up, productivity trivia – a game made legendary by Jack as part of his many speeches. Then, “drop the skydiver on the target” – a reference to Jack’s 90th birthday skydive.
Even better, many remote employees were in town for the event, so the teams were extra boisterous as they reconnected. Several groups even tacked on days before or after to do some early strategic planning (after all, this is an organization with productivity in the name).
Moving Tributes & Stories
I’ve saved the best for last. The event was a celebration and fete for APQC’s founding and moreover, its founder Jack Grayson’s 92nd birthday and official retirement. The tributes were as moving as you might expect for such a great man and organization; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Carla O’Dell, APQC’s CEO and Jack’s wife of 30+ years, started off the day with wonderful opening remarks. Heartfelt tributes and funny anecdotes came then from Bob Hiebeler of St. Charles Consulting Group (a long-time friend who worked with Jack to launch the Process Classification Framework® and Knowledge Management) and Mike Perich (a long-time friend who worked with Jack as part of the Education Initiative).
Lisa Higgins, APQC’s president and COO, then provided her tribute to Jack and introduced the most amazing video montage of Jack’s achievements that melded photos with Jack’s own voice and thoughts on his philosophy of life. (This is a MUST WATCH video that APQC promises to share soon!)
Finishing up, Lisa presented Jack with a beautiful bound memory book filled with hundreds of tributes and anecdotes from colleagues, members and friends. (I hope to get pictures of this book to share one day; it was by far, the coolest design, layout and binding I’ve seen.) She then unveiled the renamed Amphitheatre, APQC’s main conference facility, as Grayson Hall.
Always humble and gracious, Jack took a moment and, in true Jack style, turned the praise back to us – his audience and the people who helped him. We receive what we give.
Here’s to continuing the tradition, culture and giving for us all.
Jack, you are my North Star!
P.S. If you are mesmerized by Jack after reading this blog, I invite you to read his biography released last year and co-authored by me.