Mike Small

Without question, and in so many ways, Jim Corbett was a great person. He was one of a kind. He was smart, kind, understanding and patient, accepting and forgiving; he had many elements and layers of his life that made him exceptional. So many of which I wished I possessed in my life. Qualities and characteristics that are hard pressed to find in one person, but Jim represented them all, and did them well. I have 10-20 stories about Jim, but I’m only going to tell one and it’s the story of how he changed my life FOREVER!

It was the early 80’s and I had just started a business in Evansville, Indiana, where Jim and Deborah lived at the time. I was brand new in the business world, and had started my business on a shoe-string budget, to say the least. I did the typical start up; I started with one employee and myself and that was it. The business had grown a little to the point that I had about ten employees; however, our accounting was performed by an outside CPA, and we had a basic bookkeeper. I was going along with my day-to-day activities, thinking the business was going good, when I received a call from our CPA asking me to show up at his office. We met, and he had great news … he told me the business “had made a lot of money.” He didn’t want me to get the big head; then proceeded to ask me what the business needed to go forward. Well, I didn’t need time to think about that and responded that I needed everything. He told me, “go spend $100,000 on what you need, but don’t go over that.” Out the door I went – big smile and had the world by the tail. Four weeks later, he again called me to his office and told me that his accounting personnel had entered all my accounts receivables twice with not cost included, and that I was barely about to break even at best.” He proceeded to tell me that at that time, because of what I spent, my company WOULD go bankrupt!” I was going to lose everything. 

Once I picked myself up off the floor, I knew I was going to need a new CPA and a good lawyer. I called Toby Shaw for a visit, and he said, “I’ve got the right guy for you and his name is Jim Corbett.” Jim came in the room as he always did with me and didn’t say, hi, how are you — just, “what is the problem?” I explained the situation and he looked at me and asked three questions, “have you lost any of your customers?” I responded, no. He asked, “have you taken advantage of your customers?” I said, no. Jim asked “are there any drugs involved?” I said, no. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “you don’t have a money issue — you have a calendar issue.” My response was, “WHAT!” Jim proceeded, saying this will work out in time and I’ll show you how to do this. For a guy who thought the world had come to the end, in one statement he changed my attitude, my point of view, my vision; he explained that I was not to blame, but had a real simple task to fix this. Jim led me through.  

For the next two years Jim became my BOARD OF DIRECTOR, and he taught me crisis management 101, one step at a time. He took me and my business by the hand and led me through each issue one at a time. Over the next two years whenever I called Jim, he would call back in a couple of hours, while never taking a dime for his efforts. He always said you just pay me later, and he never took money. Period.  

In those two years he taught me how to be a good person, help others, open your home to anyone and most of all “it will come back tenfold if you just help others.” In Jim’s credit box he saved my company, which today has 40-50 employees. Now, these employees do not have a clue that if Jim Corbett hadn’t been in Evansville, at the right place, at the right time, they would be working elsewhere. I learned from Jim to help others. I’ve tried to do my best to help everyone when they’re down, a trait that I learned from a great man, Jim Corbett.

After that we became good friends. I have multiple great Jim Corbett stories …  

1) Who wants to go to Canada to ski?
2) The first trip to Whistler.
3) Jim blows out his ACL.
4) 2 D’s and a D.
5) Cuban extraction. 
6) Trip to Chicago. 
7) Let’s go skiing in July (see photo above).

I’d love to tell them all. If you knew Jim Corbett, you were cherished to know a GREAT MAN, and you all know that. 

Our hearts pour out to Deborah and all his family. As you know, Jim left behind shoes that are impossible to fill. The world has lost a great leader and God has gained a person who truly lived and taught his vision. For me, it stemmed from a debt that can never be repaid.

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