By Art Gillis
Jack Henry always knew what the score was. More important than that, he made sure we knew the score as well. I have had lots of business encounters with Jack over the years, and not once did I ever worry about my backside. The first time I talked to Jack was by phone in 1980. I was working on a project for a small bank that needed a general ledger system. My mission was to purchase it from a small software company in Missouri. When I called to place the order, Jack wasn't comfortable dealing with a third party, so we had a back-and-forth exercise for about an hour. That's when I knew I liked this man. I never knew what he really thought of me. A few years later, I hand picked JHA for a client assignment at a midtier bank. The bank was in deep trouble with an outdated in-house system, and the task was to see if JHA could solve the problem. Jack flew to Minneapolis on his private plane. I flew Northwest. Jack beat me there. In the few minutes we had prior to our meeting, I told (begged) Jack to behave politely and let the bankers talk. Later we would have time to figure out the right strategy. It took about 20 minutes for Jack to figure out the problem, and he proceeded to give management his side of the solution. The bankers were the problem, and even the best new system wouldn't do much to improve matters. We were not asked to return. But Jack had it right. Within a year, the bank had been acquired and as a result, it was rescued from a management team that didn't have a clue as to how to run a bank.
Jack was a man of few words. Whenever I called him he answered the same way: "What are you up to now, Gillis?" His best compliment to me after I would mouth-off about an issue was: "That's right." Every encounter I have had with this man resulted in some form of business success, but in addition each encounter added some self analysis as to whether I got it right or not. That's why I'll miss Jack.