How do you say farewell to a man like Phil, on his retirement ? You just can't. Period.
How do you even begin to say farewell to somebody who has spent 42 years in the company. No that's not a typo. The number is right. FORTY TWO years of sterling service to the company. He has seen it all - he's seen the company's many victories and some setbacks. He has seen people come and go. He's seen history being made ; well, he made much of the history.
Phil's an Australian and typifies everything that's great about that country. Sporty, fun loving, thoroughly professional, amazingly warm in a non sentimental way and above all, a wonderful human being. I bumped into him on a lovely barmy day in Sydney in 1994 ; an instant friendship grew that carries on to this day and will undoubtedly carry on for a long time more.
I could go on and on about his professionalism. He's the only person I have ever known who drove an initiative that was right for the company, even if it meant his job was going. He's amongst the rare breed of men who's untainted by even the faintest whiff of corporate politics. Scrupulously fair, unfailingly honest, brilliant at execution, but rarely bothered about acclaim - seeing Phil renews your faith that such people still exist.
But even more than his professionalism is his ability to build fabulous relationships with people across the world. Across nations, across cultures, across geographies. I've seen him in tough negotiations out of which would emerge friendship , not bitterness. He virtually redefined the concept of win win in a business relationship - in every deal I have known him to do, both sides won. Now how many people in the world can lay claim to that.
As he became a senior statesman in the company; his energy actually grew, not diminished. I've seen many brilliant people become cynical and static as they age in a company. Not Phil. He actually became younger. He became even more energetic, if that was possible . Every youngster was treated as a friend and equal ; not an ounce of condescension. He was still at the forefront of company dos even as his retirement was looming.
He has a love affair with India. He's been here many times and has hosted countless Indians in Sydney. He's taken us to innumerable restaurants for many a warm evening. He's taken us to the Sydney Cricket Ground to see Indians play. When all didn't go well for us in business, he stood by us like a rock. He's guided and coached many many of us during times of trouble. He showed us how to imbibe the wonderful Australian spirit of winning fairly. Phil's an Indophile in the true sense of the word. In fact, one of his granddaughters is actually named India.
Thank you Phil for everything that you have done, for what you are and for the incredible relationships that you built with so many of us. You leave a wide gaping hole in the company as you retire. I know that in your typical way, you would say somebody else will pick it up and do an even better job and that the business would go on. But the place won't be the same without you Phil - not by a long chance. And many will miss your presence deeply. It so typifies you that you would be missed not only inside the company, but by every outside organisation you have dealt with.
Many readers of this blog know Phil personally and I invite you to record your thoughts in the comments section.
Au Revoir Phil. Thank you for the friendship and wish you much happiness in the years to come.
Phillip L Cox retires this week after 42 years of sterling service to Unilever round the world.