The end of the year tends to be the time most people reflect on the year that was, whether it's accomplishments, failures or missed opportunities. As I reflect on 2019 and a year that had record sales for our firm, I am going to write the next several columns about some of my staff, their year, and the connection they have to their careers. Not just focusing on the company, but those who make a company a living, breathing thing: the people.   

A four-year salesperson we hired directly out of college has had a career with the typical ups and downs any 20-something may have. She's had some big wins, a big ego, huge loses, and doses of humility. 

She's made friends beyond that of "work friends." How do I know? Aside from the weekends and after-work events she does with countless LaSallians (co-workers), I saw it first-hand when her dad passed away earlier this year. I saw half a dozen co-workers and two of her bosses either drive eight hours or fly out of state to attend the funeral of a man they had never met.   

She meshed her "work-life" (career) and her family/personal life. She would have her mom stop by the office almost every time she was in town visiting. As the CEO of a company, to have employees who want to share their work with their parents and family is what it's all about. It's been an honor to get to know her mom and listen to her talk with such pride about what her daughter has accomplished and the life she has built hundreds of miles away from home. To have a truly engaged staff, the concept of an emotional connection is crucial. 

So, I saw this Millennial work her tail off while her father fell ill. She came to work early and stayed late to hit her goals. She would fly out on Thursdays to get home and be with her mom and spend time with her dad before he passed. Several times it was more than weekends, and that was okay. It was more than okay; it was what was right. She channeled her sadness into her work to make her dad proud. When people knock Millennials, I say you hired the wrong ones. 

When you start a company, you think you have a great idea, or you can deliver a product or service better than someone else. You want to make your mark, and as your company grows and you hire people, it becomes bigger, not in size, but in meaning. 

In business, you are going to fire people and others will quit. You'll fire those you thought were going to be home runs. Other times your heart will break thinking about the time spent helping someone learn who eventually left for a few dollars more.   

But when you believe in the culture, the mission and in your vision enough to plow through those times, you will create something special. You will attract people, who believe it, too. People will join your company, not for what it sells or builds, but for what it represents. As the leader, you must be strong enough to fight through the downtimes and to never stop giving up, knowing you're doing it all for the right reasons and for the right people. 

When you get to this point, you will come across people along the way who find refuge in your company. It's a place of solace. Money and responsibility are necessary, but a connection beyond those two things is what makes a place special.   

And when you see someone lose a part of themselves to a disease no one can control, it will rip your heart out as their friend, their co-worker, their mentor. But seeing them find the strength inside of them to not only fight through but have the best year of their career, that is what makes it more than worthwhile. Yes, the best year she ever had at work was the year she lost her dad.  

This isn't the first story or the last story about someone who channeled their sadness and emotions into their job. It's just a story I know. Instead of being so focused on branding what you want the outside world to think you are, focus on executing for people who will actually know what you are.  

Instead of always stereotyping generations, think about what you are building that can help anyone overcome tragedy. I'm not arrogant enough to think a place of business is what got her through her loss, but I am optimistic enough to believe it won't be the last time our company is the crutch someone needs to get through a tough time in their lives. 

*If you're wondering, I asked if she minded that I wrote this story.