Emol A. Fails, Ph.D., founder of FMI, the nation's largest specialized management services firm serving the construction industry, died on July 31, 1996, at his home in Raleigh, N.C.. Dr. Fails will be remembered as a motivator, a dreamer, a philosopher, a listener, an educator and an astute businessman; as wise, tolerant, innovative, diplomatic, patient, kind, loving, positive and patriotic; as well as an avid gardener and fisherman. He made an enduring contribution to the construction industry and to all the people he taught and touched. Dr. Fails is well remembered and sorely missed.
A "Simply Extraordinary" Man | by Jerry Jackson, FMI
I met Dr. Emol Fails in the spring of 1968. I had been employed about two days when he came into the office. He seemed old ... or at least older than I expected. Ironically, he was younger by two years than I am today. This icon, this paragon, was also ... ordinary. I'm not sure what I expected, but he wasn't it.
The first time I observed Doc in a seminar occurred soon after in Philadelphia. Again, he wasn't what I expected. He was no podium-thumping, fire-and-brimstone motivational speaker. He was just a normal guy.
Then I began to "get it." His very magic lay in his "ordinariness." Here was a college professor, a Ph.D. for Pete's sake, who was approachable, who connected with the ordinary working stiff. He took complex ideas and made them simple, understandable, even funny. He used his cigarettes for years as an attention-getting prop. Was he going to burn himself before he lit that cigarette, holding a burning match while he shared just one more thought with the group? Some cigarettes took two or three matches to finally ignite, and not once did I see Doc burn himself.
Almost all of us in the company (five at the time!) emulated Emol: the pregnant pauses, the looking down over our glasses (even if we weren't wearing any), the matches and cigarettes (an occasional burned finger resulted from this stunt), and, of course, stealing his stories and trying to make them our own. It was probably pretty silly-looking for 20-somethings to be doing pale imitations of a 50-something. The world was young and so were we. We were going to live forever.
The years flew by with many miles of flying with Doc, making presentations with Doc (oh, how he must have gagged), making sales calls with Doc, doing consulting work with Doc. With amazing recall and application of Bible stories and mythology to business situations, Doc worked his "ordinary" magic, mentoring me and all the other associates of that era. He always had time for a chat, a story, a tutorial. I never saw Doc lose his temper or belittle one of us for our (at times, I'm sure) incompetence.
A mentor, a fisherman, a pal, a keen thinker, a practical man, Doc was no ordinary person. He was simply extraordinary. He will always be a part of my life. I am honored to have known him, to have worked for him and to have been his partner.