The day that DaimlerChrysler announced the $7.4 billion sale of the Chrysler Group to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management is one that Allan Nahajewski, senior manager, Chrysler Group internal and electronic communications, won't ever forget.
And it has nothing to do with the successful internal communications effort to more than 80,000 employees he and his colleagues executed. His reasons for never forgetting are far more personal than they are professional.
"It was a Mother's Day I won't forget because it was the last time I saw my father alive," Nahajewski says. "If you ask me now, what was most memorable was that I had a very good last day with my dad."
After a 28-year battle with cancer, his father, 87, passed away at home a few days later.
Nahajewski was told the previous Thursday that he'd have to work on Mother's Day, May 13, which meant his family would have to alter their dinner plans and hold their annual Mother's Day festivities a day earlier than usual.
At 4:30pm on Mother's Day, after spending time with his dad the prior day, Nahajewski arrived on the sixth floor of Chrysler's Auburn Hills, MI, headquarters. He was joined by seven colleagues, including the VP of communications and director of corporate internal communications. Nahajewski says the bulk of the work that evening - and well into the night - was getting the messaging ready for the next day's events. The contract signing was scheduled for 9am German time, 3am EST.
"We were ready to get our communications started when the announcement was official at 4:42am EST," he notes. "We planned the next day's events, including the executives' Q&A events with employees and media. With that many efforts, a lot of the work is making sure there's a consistency throughout, so there was a lot of editing, writing, and planning events for Monday and Tuesday."
At midnight, May 14, Nahajewski, who also worked on the 1998 announcement of the Daimler-Chrysler union, went home for a two-hour nap. He says the general mood in the room upon his return was "a feeling of history in the making, camaraderie that we are all in this together, and anticipation of what a big day, week, and month we have ahead of us."
Bill Dawson, executive communications head at Chrysler, worked with Nahajewski in the wee hours of May 14. Dawson is in charge of writing executive speeches and crafting messaging for internal and external audiences, so his world sometimes overlaps with Nahajewski's. The announcement of the sale was one such occasion.
"He's a good collaborator and calm under fire," Dawson says. "We worked very quickly together to understand the information we were receiving and [deciding] how to tell the story to employees. When you're on a team with a lot of different individuals and perspectives, everyone needs to know where they are coming from and you need a steady hand."
At his dad's funeral, Nahajewski found another connection between his personal and professional lives when the funeral director told him he knew him from somewhere.
"It turns out I published his picture when I was the editor of the Chrysler Times 16 years ago," Nahajewski says. "He was a former Chrysler HR manager. The next day at church he brings out the clipping and gave it to me. It shows how people are touched by your work or your personal life and how it all comes together."
Senior manager, Chrysler Group internal and electronic comms
Various roles at Chrysler and Daimler Chrysler
Corporate comms, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MI