The Long Term

For boomers like me this summer has been devastating. Three of our childhood icons have gone to that big TV screen in the sky.

For boomers like me this summer has been devastating. Three of our childhood icons have gone to that big TV screen in the sky. The first was Roy Rogers. He represented a shining example of what a cowboy should be. By all accounts, he was exactly what he seemed to be: a good guy always trying to do the right thing.

Buffalo Bob—host of Howdy Doody—is another loss we've suffered. One of the neat things about Bob was that he never really stopped being the Bob we remembered as kids. There was comfort in that.

And lastly, Shari Lewis is gone. Her passing is perhaps the saddest because she made the trans-generational jump better than Roy or Bob. Through her PBS show, my kids got to know Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse and Shari too.

So why eulogize three actors whose collective role could be cynically described as that of a babysitter for a rapt audience of TV generation kids like me? Well, I think there's a lesson to be learned from these people that's relevant to each of us in our roles as business boomers. Roy and Bob and Shari represent a time when putting faith into another was a much less risky proposition than it is now. Contrary to so many of life's examples, Roy, Bob and Shari were able to maintain through the years that what we saw as kids was an honest representation of the way these people really were. They never forgot their original customer—the kids.

Business too is built on relationships. Sometimes we get let down by those we trusted to be there for us. It's often an unfortunate part of business that many of our relationships are based on short-term remuneration with more promises broken than kept. Too many companies simply forget to remember how they got where they are. A medium contract here, a major one there and all of a sudden the shop whose business was so vital only yesterday can't meet the minimum order volume. It's broken trust.

To me, that's why a moment of mourning the passing of these three is a worthy thing. When I think about any of these characters, I smile and honestly feel good about my investment of faith in them. It's a reminder that business relationships, both internal and external, need not be exercises in "gottcha" but rather stable alliances that have long-term sustainability. It's rare to find such things, but the examples of Roy, Bob and Shari demonstrate that indeed sometimes what you see is what you get.

At least, Captain Kangaroo lives.