Rochelle Kopp and Susan Doctors, circa 1995

In Memoriam – Susan Doctors

When I was in the process of setting up Japan Intercultural Consulting in 1994, a person who thought that I was in need of advice from someone older and wiser introduced me to Susan Doctors. She was a seasoned human resources executive twenty years my senior, who had just gone out on her own as an independent consultant. We hit it off immediately, and she became the first person to join my team (the photo of us above is from approximately 1995). We worked together since then up through this year, becoming close friends in the process.

When I read the description of a “maven” in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point – the person who is always in the know and enthusiastically shares information with others – I immediately thought “that’s Susan!” Because no matter what the subject, Susan had either inside knowledge, a strong opinion, or both, delivered emphatically and with absolute certainty. This of course made her an excellent consultant and advisor, as both I and our clients knew that whatever unusual situation we might bring to her (and we had plenty!), she would know just what to recommend and wouldn’t hesitate to tell us exactly what she thought we should do.

Susan’s sense of the way things should be extended to every part of life. She had wonderful taste in clothes (which made her a great person to go shopping with!), decorated her home to décor magazine perfection, loved a good meal, and tended a beautiful garden brimming with flowers.

One of Susan’s strongest traits was her enthusiasm for everything that she did.  Whether it was understanding the complexities of one of our client’s corporate cultures, putting together an employee handbook with the perfect employee-friendly tone, or working on her many volunteer activities, she did it with gusto as well as enjoyment of what she was learning. “It’s so interesting!” was one of her favorite phrases.

When Susan got cancer it wasn’t some run-of-the-mill variety, it was an extremely rare one that there is no cure for, and it took her from us in less than a year. She leaves behind her children and grandson, a large circle of friends, and many clients and colleagues who benefitted from her advice.

Now that I can no longer call her up to run by her the latest unusual quandary I’ve encountered, I’m going to be asking myself “What would Susan do?” I feel fortunate to have had so much time with her as a colleague and friend, and to have been privy to so many of her life lessons.

Lately I’ve been mentoring young entrepreneurs through 500 Global, and the age difference is similar to mine and Susan’s. As I hear myself confidently telling them just what I think ought to be in their pitch deck or on their website, I realize that I sound a lot like Susan. I’ll do my best to keep carrying on her tradition of advice, curiosity, and living life with aplomb.