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Week 18 – “Goodbye" is the Hardest Word

Hard to believe another week is coming to an end and Labor Day weekend is upon us already. Didn’t summer just start a little while ago? I think this way about our business too. It felt like yesterday when much younger (and foolish) people decided it would be a good idea to start a company. Fast forward over 16 years later, having a lot more gray hairs and still foolish/crazy for undertaking this endeavor, time has flown by in a blink of an eye.

Even though we have had a lot of ups and downs over the years with the business, one thing that Tina and I have always treasured are the people we work with (even when it has not been the best match). I chose these words carefully because while Tina and I own the company, we have always believed that we are a team and our team is like our family. Like with any team, we have great times, get angry with each other, commiserate when things are not going well and tear the roof off when it’s time to celebrate something like a birthday, positive data, or someone’s good fortune.

I disagree with Elton John that “Sorry” is the hardest word. Goodbye is. Unlike a large company where most employees never see management, we really get to know our team. There is nothing more exciting than to hear them have a good day, a positive experiment, get engaged, get married and have their own family. We are in the trenches with them every day and we wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe there is one exception: when the time comes to say goodbye. In a big company, maybe you have a dinner with the group, meet with HR and then head out. For Tina and I, it is like losing a member of your immediate family. You love to see them every day and take for granted that life is going to continue on that way forever, even though you know in the back of your mind that things may not stay that way forever (for those of you with children, you know exactly what I mean). As I write that last sentence, I can’t help but tear up a little. I am not good with change, most people aren’t. In a small company, you not only lose a member of the team, you also lose a member of your family. That being said, like a proud parent, you want them to aspire to achieve their dreams and will do anything you can to help, even if it means you losing something in return.

This week we are saying goodbye to one of our family members/team, Saif Pathan. It is bittersweet. Saif joined us over 11 years ago (and before that Saif came to BioSurfaces as a graduate summer student from Clemson University). I was impressed with Saif the first time I met him. He came to us from Mumbai through Clemson. I remember telling him after that summer that if we could afford him, we’d hire him. Who would have thought that this little statement would have resulted in Saif being part of our family all of this time? In a world today where everyone is getting another job after 1-2 years, Saif’s perseverance is not common. Over this time, Saif has become an extended part of the Phaneuf family. He has been with us through some good times (watching our children grow, attending some holidays at our house, advancing our technology) and the not so good times (struggling to keep the business going and through the loss of our family members). We have had times were we had differences. He may not have agreed with us on things (my opinion), but we are a family and you work through those times. There is nothing more I enjoyed than to ask Saif on a Friday, what his plans were for the weekend. There always seemed to be a friend with a birthday or some sort of party. I will miss these conversations and miss our daily discussions about different topics (e.g. Patriots, world events). We are grateful for Saif’s contributions to the company, from helping develop the NuSpun Vascular Graft to tackling regulatory.

That being said, Tina and I are excited for Saif and his new venture. This brings him to the next stage in his life. Like your own children, you want them to succeed and have a happy, rewarding life. This is what we want for all members of our team. While we want them to be here forever (although we don’t know how long that will be), we always prepare them for the future that may not include us. Like having a family member leave, we know that we will remain in contact with Saif and know that we will be proud of him and his future accomplishments. Maybe it’s not goodbye, but farewell for now.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!


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