Remembering Warren Wertheimer
By Lisa Markey June, 2019
Warren was a board member of People with Disabilities Succeeding for 20 years, from 1999 to 2019.
Warren taught me to be a benevolent yet firm leader and he encouraged me to listen to my own intuition and heart when making decisions on behalf of People with Disabilities Succeeding. He taught me, “If it’s not an absolute yes then it’s a no” and all the lessons from “The Secret” and “ A Course in Miracles”....
In 1998 when Warren was a well known local millionaire and owner of Rolling Hills Club in Novato, this “non-practicing attorney” saw an article about me in the Marin Independent Journal.
I was in my 20s and running Pacific Diversified Services, which was struggling. Apparently Warren was impressed by the article and he called me into Rolling Hills Club to talk to me. I arrived, in my most professional looking clothing, to this fancy country club in the middle of a residential area of Novato. I walked in, thinking, “this guy is probably going to hit on me.” To my surprise and relief, Warren had no ulterior motives whatsoever. He just wanted to listen to me talk about my passion. When I was done telling him all about how I got started in my field and all about PDS, he asked me, “How can I help?” I suggested timidly, “I guess you could donate money?”. He told me that was not going to happen. Then he asked, “How else can I help?”
I suggested Rolling Hills could hire one of my participants with disabilities. He asked me what kinds of things they could do. When I came up with the idea of having someone pick up used towels around the gym and do the laundry. Warren said “Consider it done, what else?” At the end of that meeting I walked away with a free membership to his club, a job for one of my people, a personally guaranteed line of credit for my nonprofit and a new member of the PDS Board of Directors.
In the early days of PDS, Warren was the only board member who could really understand financial statements, because he was the only one who had ever been in business in the real world. But he worked on our thinking more than our financials. He taught us to have higher expectations for ourselves and for our organization. He told us to stop thinking so small. When we set fundraising goals for $30,000 he told us, “Nonsense, make that $100,000!” Warren transformed this nonprofit organization and he transformed me. He influenced my personal decisions just as much as my business ones.
Warren always laughed at my funny stories about my participants and wanted to take part in our mission to help them have a better quality of life. He once generously purchased tickets for our people to see Cirque du Soleil’s production of “O”, when he heard some of us were going to Las Vegas. Thanks to Warren I’ll always, live by “If it’s not an absolute yes then it’s a no”. And because of mentors like Warren who believed in me in the nineties, People with Disabilities Succeeding is a thriving organization now.
If you want to learn more about the inspirational Warren Wertheimer, read “Outrageous Ideas that Work in Business.” This is a truly good management book about creating joy in the workplace. I am fortunate to have signed copies that I will treasure forever.