As part of the Amazon Growing Business Awards in November 2016, I had the honour and pleasure of judging and presenting a new category this year called the Triumph over Adversity Award.
Some of the readers that attended that evening will recall I took time to explain why I held these remarkable leaders in the highest regard, pointing out many of them were doing exceptional things whilst not 100 per cent well or through genuine adversity, and some of the stories they shared as part of the judging process not only touched and moved the judges but inspired them.
I was both proud and humble to be asked to present the awards and in a room full of incredible talent. I merely explained that, as a CEO of a small business, the stresses and strains are significant and posed the question. But imagine leading a business to greatness when you are not fighting fit or are dealing with emotional upheaval – and winning against adversity if you knew you were terminally ill?
There were two winners on the night for very different reasons. They were the incredible Katie Moss, from Trent Refractories, and a stand out guy by the name of Jeff Paterson.
Jeff, 48, was a proud, larger than life South African that led an amazing company called Fourex with his friend and business partner Oliver. They were serial entrepreneurs and had developed a great business, born from a unique idea coupled with passion, stubbornness, pure guts and determination.
After five years of costly time-consuming and brutal startup efforts, Jeff, as many business leaders before him had done, had almost bankrupted himself to deliver on his idea and was just starting to enjoy success when the unthinkable happened.
He developed a lump in his leg, it was diagnosed as a large tumour and very rare cancer that is only rarely found in children. After various treatments – some orthodox some not – Jeff had to take the awful decision and have his leg removed just below his hip. What followed was a tough recovery and months of chemotherapy, which took its toll.
But Jeff never stopped working, fighting, smiling, telling inappropriate jokes and standing strong.
Jeff had a period of recovery after his amputation and was so proud when Fourex signed a major contract that put the business on a very strong footing indeed. He was starting to look better and could have a brighter future.
Sadly, six months later Jeff was struggling to shake a cold and later, after tests, found out the cancer was in his lungs.
Jeff nearly didn’t make the award night as he wasn’t particularly well, but he got there and I had the proud pleasure of presenting him and the Fourex team this amazing award. I met him, his beautiful wife Michelle and their lovely 19 year-old daughter Monique – and it was the start of a lovely friendship which sadly ended on 12 February when Jeff bravely succumbed to his dreadful cancer.
Please take a minute to remember Jeff, a courageous, determined man that delivered his business through adversity.
In the words of Jeff’s wife Michelle: “We are so incredibly proud of the way Jeff handled everything that was thrown at him during the past 18 months – a cancer diagnosis, having his leg amputated, chemotherapy learning to walk on his prosthetic leg and all while he kept working on Fourex with his good buddy and partner Oliver.
“He was so passionate about his baby (Fourex), and it was what kept him going – but oh my God it was so difficult for him to walk away from it.
“He never once gave up and was brave, positive, determined and kept his sense of humour until the very end. He did of course do some crazy stuff.”
RIP Jeff Paterson, a truly courageous and gifted leader that left his business on a great footing now being led by Oliver and the talented team at Fourex.