He was simply Bob and it helped that his name did not lend itself well to the affixing “Mr” right before it.
So whether you were calling or shooting an email, you simply shouted “Bob”. Bob did not have two sides to him. They talk of persona and personality. Bob loved people. He made sure you understood he loved you. Indeed you did not have to earn his love. You only had to be a human being.
So there were many happy memorable afternoons when his unmistakable booming voice would go ‘Hi George”. There’s nothing better for the adrenaline like instant recognition. Inevitably, his handlers would take the cue. This way, one meeting easily fed into the next.
His office would believe (thankfully) that you are his guy. The customer always came up early and frequently in any conversation with Bob. In fact, if truth be told, few companies respond as fast and as effectively to queries on service like Safaricom. I remember telling him about a connectivity (voice) issue near my rural village sometime last year. That very weekend, his engineer was on the ground to ensure that something would be done.
It may be something to do with the fact of his upbringing. His grandmother looms large in his early life while the mother picks up from somewhere when he was in high school. No wonder under him, women had pride of place at Safaricom. In fact on diversity, he would say these people were not just invited to the party; they were welcome to the dance floor.
Having taken over from a fairly enigmatic personality in Michael Joseph, we wondered whether he would ever make himself synonymous with Safaricom. Well he did.
An easy going, affable and suave gentleman, it helped that on the whole, you felt he was genuine. That he meant what he said. He believed on the Kenyan spirit. Our enterprising culture. The mural in his office of the Kayole matatu, yes Forward Travellers (FT) and the bicycle men told it all.
Maybe had he lived longer and got time to give full vent to his ever present artistic side, he would have sung lyrics to the Kenyan hustler. The Kenyan artist, photographer and painter were the better thanks to him. Just look at any Safaricom calendar.
He was quick to give us his wealth declaration. A testament to his belief in a less corrupt Kenya. When Bob’s history is finally written, it will be a bounty to would be and current CEOs. It will be very rich on how to manage a company and a people. How to inspire, guide, give hope and take a company to the next level.
It is upon Safaricom to see what would be the best way to immortalize him. The rest of us can but only pick and choose what we can fit into.
There is a saying among the Luo that once the rain has stopped, next time we are tempted to compare it with mere drizzles. May that never happen in the case of Bob.
For his energy, charm and easy smile, it was bounty that I knew him. Rest in Peace Bob Collymore.