I remember fondly the first time I met John Wright, who was then working for a firm called CDA Investnet. CDA Investnet was the first commercial entity to digitize the SEC insiders’ data and, after a company buyout, John’s role had moved from co-owner to Vice President of Sales. It was sometime in the mid-90’s and I had been invited to speak about our matching gift database to a group of his sales reps, many of whom would go on to be thought leaders in our industry.
Shortly after that initial meeting, John and I negotiated our first deal together. HEPdata would provide matching gift identification to the SEC insiders’ file and John’s team would sell it. Although John was 25 years my senior, we had a lot in common and I found him very approachable and engaging. I didn’t know it at the time, but this man would have quite an impact on my life and go on to be one of my greatest mentors and a good friend.
We would talk every few months, often about our industry, our respective firms or business opportunities. It was clear we both had a lot in common and a love of entrepreneurship. Eventually, those phone calls became lunches or as John would say, “belly to belly.” He and his wife, Karen, would take my wife and me for outings on his beloved boat, the Alleluia. We would sail from the Severn River into the Chesapeake past the Naval Academy, up to the Bay Bridge and back. As in life, a steady hand at the helm was Capt. Wright…
In 2005 and our friendship now ten year old, John came to work as a consultant for HEPdata. His title was Dir. of Business Development. I laugh at this now because, at the time, he told me he wanted to work 15-20 hours a week. I guess this was supposed to be semi-retirement. Fortunately for us, John ended up working 40 hour weeks for more than a dozen years. He was having too much fun and his creative mind was being stimulated by the growth we experienced, in large part to his contribution.
We were having a lot of fun together, traveling to conferences, negotiating partnerships and enjoying the fruits of our labor. However, something more important was going on. I was learning from a skilled master, someone who was incredibly talented and possessed the most important business skill there is: Knowing how to treat people. John also had an uncanny knack to know when a deal made sense or when it was time to walk away. John’s advice was always welcome and almost always proved fruitful. As my colleague and brother Ted said recently, “John was a true gentleman, both manly and gentle, a rare species these days.” I could not agree with him more.
While John is no longer sailing the Chesapeake and he isn’t able to join me for a sit down at his favorite tapas restaurant, his legacy lives on…. Rest in Peace, dear friend, you have served us, your family and humanity well.
-Steve Hafner, CEO