It’s been my treat for over 10 years now to call J. Emerson Hartzler my client, then colleague, and finally friend (for life). He is one of the most principled and disciplined men I’ve ever met. He invested in me deeply — and for this I doubt I’ll ever be able to re-pay him.
My dear friend Cindy introduced me to Emerson in late 2004. At the time, Emerson was COO of the largest cardiology group in Kansas City; indeed, among the 20 largest similar practices in America. Apparently, one of their Physicians had come to him questioning investment performance and expenses of their retirement plan — he had enlisted Cindy to help him address the issues. Cindy solicited my assistance, for which I will be forever grateful.
Emerson and I hit it off immediately: I found him to be thoughtful, considerate, intelligent and worldly (I imagine he found me to be immature). Initially, we had a marriage of convenience — we both had something each other needed. I was able to answer technical questions and provide less expensive, better performing options; Emerson offered access to one of the more sought-after physician groups in Kansas City. It was classic “You scratch my back, I,ll scratch yours.”
But Emerson was far more interested in me, and my development as a professional, than I could have ever dreamt at the time. He taught me how to organize and lead a Committee meeting (stay calm). No multiple-page handouts: one-pagers, no more! “If you can’t get it on one page, you don’t know it.” He reminded me that my vision didn’t always matter. I remember explaining in painstaking detail how we would come on-site to his firm to conduct wonderful workshops for his employees. He gently reminded me, “Geoff, that’s great, but just so you know, even if the Pope rolls through town, we don’t stop seeing patients.” And ultimately, “You will know you have succeeded when they know your name.”
Turns out Emerson and my partner Jim Mullinix had met at church 30 years prior. And when they re-connected in 2005, Emerson shared with Jim his vision for the next chapter of his career. You see, he did not believe that retirement meant an easy chair and daily golf, but additionally he was driven to help regular folks make better financial decisions. This meant revolutionary notions like living within your means, spending less than you earn, saving money systematically, setting goals, giving generously and tracking your progress. He believed Triune should believe this, too.
Emerson, Mr. Principled & Disciplined, had already thought this out. He wanted to help others, with literally no regard for himself or his own personal gain. Thus, Triune’s pro-bono practice was born. As a result of Emerson’s influence, we have and will continue to serve clients without regard to their ability to pay us. Thanks to Emerson, we recognize we have no choice but do so — it’s the right thing to do. As Emerson departs, we’re committed to this important part of our company.
Emerson Hartzler, don’t be a stranger. We will miss you too much — and so we may be forced to let the air out of your bicycle tires.
If you’d like to send Emerson warm wishes on his retirement, you’re welcome to send them tothe Triune office. He’ll always be part of the Triune family.