One of the biggest influencers and mentors throughout my career was Tom Musser. This past week we lost Tom to cancer, and while I did get a chance to say thank you and goodbye, it just did not feel like an adequate way to show my appreciation.
Tom was my uncle and the owner of Tri-M Group LLC, one of the largest electrical contractors and solutions companies in the mid-Atlantic. In the early days, a significant number of employees were family members, me being one of them, however, Tom never ran the company as a family business. He believed that merit was the key to growing inside the company. This mentality pushed me to grow both personally and professionally and excited me to become an entrepreneur myself.
When I decided to face this challenge, the local bank denied me the money to buy the business where I was working, but Tom believed in me and my business plan and helped me find alternatives. He taught me that credibility and integrity always trumped revenue and profit. His philosophy was: be close to customers, understand them and treat them with respect, but don’t get pushed around. Most of all, Tom taught me to believe in myself, the mission, and the people that surrounded me.
Tom’s greatest attribute was that he believed in people and would not only challenge you to better yourself, but the community where you lived. He founded an apprentice program at a local high school to attract young people to the trade. He led the fund raising and was one the major donors to support construction of the town’s first YMCA. If there was a community project that required his funds or ability to raise funds, he was there. No local baseball league went without lights and scoreboards on Tom’s watch. When the Navy needed someone to help raise funds to capture their history in digital format, Tom was there. Being a Navy veteran as a young man, he was so proud to work alongside of decorated Navy officers to accomplish this goal. Recently, Tom was given an award and I was fortunate enough to be there. One of the retired Naval officers spoke via video. Paraphrasing he said, Tom brought consensus to issues and made us all better through his presence. Imagine the efforts these business and civic activities required, let alone the time he spent being an amazing husband and father.
Tom was a true believer in the American way and free enterprise. I often encouraged Tom to count the number of businesses his employees spun off to create. I can count 20 without even trying. His handshake wishing you good luck, and offer of assistance as you took a leap of faith in a new business were truly comforting. Tom was a true entrepreneur in every sense of the word; risking his capital for visions he studied and believed in. He had faith and tenacity to succeed in all that he did.
While we lost Tom to cancer, we didn’t lose Tom. His legacy is in all of the thousands of people he touched. I will proudly carry his legacy with me throughout my career and life.