The timing of our recent snow storm couldn’t have been more perfect. First, we’re going to have a white Christmas. Second and more important, it gave us an excuse to stay home with the kids (school closures); It also provided time for recovery after Fred Kiekhaefer’s farewell party Wednesday evening.
Fred recently announced he will be leaving Mercury Racing at the end of the year. He will continue representing our brand at boat shows, poker runs and other events. He also will provide consulting services for Mercury through 2014. Fred and his wife, Carol, are moving to Colorado where she will continue diabetes research with the Barbara Davis Center near Denver.
Erik Christiansen has been named General Manager of Mercury Racing. Erik, a 15-year employee of Mercury, was our Director of Engineering for the past four years and lead the development of the QC4v 1350 and 1100 sterndrive engine packages.
Fred has many cherished memories throughout his dynamic career. Certainly he is going to miss the daily interaction with his friends at Mercury Racing. Fred said, “I’ve spent more time with you folks than anybody else. You people are my friends. I may be moving on, but don’t think I’m abandoning my friends. Besides, I need you to take care of my investment here!”
Party at the 19th Hole
Immediately upon hearing the news, our company Christmas party was postponed and plans were underway to put together a party to honor our leader. Engineering began their secret project – and I had many ideas beginning to percolate as I started remembering events of my work experiences with Fred over the past 22 years.
Know Your Audience
Fred has been a mentor and personal marketing coach throughout my career. Prior to the age of e-mails and social media, press releases for the masses were sent via fax machine. Of course – releases from Racing were entitled, Speed Fax. I had written a release regarding a V-6 Mercury powered boat winning an outboard drag boat national championship. A Johnson V-8 had won the unlimited class for years. My headline, I thought, was brilliant: “Merc Beats the Big Johnson!” Fred, who has an uncanny talent for appearing out of nowhere, walked by and took notice. He said, “Do you really want to send that?” I said, “What? It’s true!” He asked me to read it again. I did – and I finally realized what he as getting at. Lesson learned: Have your work reviewed by others and know your audience.
To Rouen and Back
Our trips to cover the 24 Hours of Rouen endurance race have to be one of Fred’s more unique experiences. In 2000 Fred, Tony Esposito and I traveled to Rouen with the intent of providing hourly updates of the race over the web. The updates worked in a brief test in Fond du Lac. With crossed fingers and a few taps – it worked there, too. Fred was our photographer and videographer. It was a real hoot. Three guys and a lap top, sitting under a tent along the Seine River – posting away. Things began getting interesting when a French disco band, complete with platform shoes filled with live goldfish, began playing around us. At our farewell party, I presented Fred with a retro vinyl record featuring tracks highlighting his Rouen experiences. The record is a take off of an ongoing exchange of mock recordings between Fred and Vic Spellberg recalling a band from poker runs long ago.
Everyone in the know was waiting in anticipation for the unveiling of the ultimate door prize. Erik did the honors. Fred had no clue what was about to happen. Erik walked him over to the corner of the room which seemed innocent enough. Nothing really there – other than a big table with a white covering topped off with a colorful Holiday plant. Erik kept talking as he removed the plant and unveiled the beast; a complete 1350 engine with custom glass top. Fred was completely surprised and in awe. He said it was only the third time in his career he was utterly speechless. I later suggested Fred and Carol could use it has a kitchen table, coffee table, bar or perhaps transform it into a retro PackMan gaming center. Fred said, “That…is amazing! Is it a runner?” Sadly, no.
Fred, it’s been an honor to work with you. Your father’s legacy is well known. Yours is as well. You will forever be remembered for your leadership and vision. You’ve been responsible for the incredible success – on the race course and off – that Mercury Racing has enjoyed over the past 22 years. On behalf of all of your friends at Racing and Mercury Marine, thank you for your passion and support. May your future continue under full-course green – with a sprinkling of checkered flags. The Race Never Stops!