The Loss of an Incredible Inspiration and Mentor
[Editor's note: This piece originally appeared on Martin Varley's LinkedIn page.]
Graham Bennington, the former CEO of BemroseBooth, my mentor, friend and inspiration, passed away on Oct. 20 after a short battle with cancer. He was 66.
Graham got me into the industry properly when Incentives Two and Product Source were acquired by Bemrose, he taught me how to deliver value as an entrepreneur in a corporate environment and saved me from myself almost every week.
He was so talented as a business leader it was impossible to hold him in anything but the highest of esteem. He was an expert negotiator, human resources guru (he called it personnel) and leader. He took a company that was just a supplier of car park and rail tickets to the No. 1 company for promo products in the world. He knew when to invest and when to divest. He shared his skills widely; encouraged enthusiastically; and, every now and again, very elegantly gave you that look, and you knew you had not quite done your best.
He supported me when I didn’t deserve it. He had my back, front and side, and we laughed and we laughed and we laughed.
We travelled to all corners of the earth together looking for opportunities. We lost luggage; missed planes, trains and busses; and we were evicted from the Tsar's box at the Bolshoi Ballet for laughing too much.
When Graham had the chance to do a management by objectives of the print business and we discussed it, I said it was now his time to make the money he deserved. It was my chance to teach, albeit for 10 minutes. He took the business on, streamlined it and sold it to Appleton Paper in a brilliantly executed deal. He got to retire and, in his words, “found it surprisingly enjoyable”
Almost everyone in the U.K. promo space—and many in the U.S.—owe the vision that Graham had to where they are today, from Brand Addition to Dowlis, AdProducts to SPS, 4imprint to LSI, we all came from that same "stable" and were led by the best.
Graham passed away peacefully at the Butterfly Hospice in Boston, Lincolnshire, U.K., with his family by his side, and it has left me devastated that such an influence on my own life has been taken too soon. Frankly, it is just not fair.
In a message a few weeks ago to friends he gave some wonderful advice:
"Life is wonderful, live it while you can."
I am going to try and make Graham proud with that advice, as I hope I do in business.