I first met the Judge when I attended one of his live training seminars in Chicago, IL in August of 2009. It was well attended and the Judge went through his prepared material like the professional that he was. As I left with my two training completion certificates – one for the four hours of RCRA training and another for the four hours of HazMat Employee training – and a head full of information, I couldn’t help but think that I could conduct a training session like his. Unlike the Judge, I didn’t intend to go it alone; instead I thought of it as a project for me with my employer at that time, Fehr-Graham and Associates. Looking back, it was the Judge’s confidence and knowledgeable presentation of the material that made it look so easy, like it was something I could do.
I later had the privilege to have a short conversation with the Judge prior to his preparation for the next day’s training. During our short time together he was polite, open, and engaging. Keep in mind that he knew he was speaking with someone that wanted to enter the same market as his and could become a competitor. The fact that he shared anything with me at all speaks to his generosity and kindness. The conversation further reinforced my belief that a training service was something that Fehr-Graham could accomplish, with me as the training provider. To this day, I still use some of the tips and techniques I learned from the Judge during our meeting.
Fast forward a few months to November 2010, and my plans had changed; I intended to leave Fehr-Graham and start my own training business: Daniels Training Services. Once again, the Judge was my inspiration. I don’t know how he ran his business, but it appeared to be largely a one-man operation; which is what I intended for myself. The fact that he had gone up against some of the big corporations that provide training and had carved out a niche resonated with me; I thought with hard work and time I could do the same. I had – and have – however the advantage of the internet with all its free or inexpensive resources to assist a regulatory compliance business like mine. It is notable that none of these things were available when the Judge started in the late 1980’s.
In the one and a half years since I started this business, the Judge has been the yardstick to which I measure my success and my guide to how I operate. “Is my website ranked as high as his?” “What cities is he scheduled to visit? And when?” “What would the Judge do?”
Like anyone who ever strove to accomplish something, I’m sure the Judge had his critics – I was one of them at times – but those criticisms, and any remaining critics, fade to irrelevance when compared to his creation of a business that was recognized nation wide.
I had hoped to meet the Judge again and, if possible, have another conversation. My questions would have been different, reflecting my hard-won experience over the intervening years, but I suspect he would have been the same: polite, affable, professional. The truest statement I can make and, I think, the best compliment I can give to his memory is that I wish I could talk to Judge Ken Reilly just one more time.