Whenever Danny and I attended a business event he would introduce me to a prominent business owner by saying, “I have been working for Tom since I was seven years old”. Danny was my Detroit News paper route carrier substitute. It was his way to honor his big brother. The truth is that we became partners in 1960 and remained as such until his passing on May 27th. We were blood brothers, fraternity brothers, Plante Moran Partners, boat partners, Sandbox & Doescher Advisors brothers, and Christian brothers. We could speak unfiltered to each other if we wanted or needed to. It was safe. We could finish each other sentences.
Many think Danny followed me into business. Actually, I was planning to be a football coach. For some reason, he was always planning to be a businessman. We did not even know any businessmen! We grew up in a blue collar home on a dirt road in the country. Danny did however love to play Monopoly to win.
When I think of my partner, the word that comes to mind is “Big Dreamer”. After joining Plante Moran, Danny was offered a chance to live in a Southfield home owned by the firm, where a Plante Moran office would eventually be constructed. Danny decided to call his residence “International Estates”. Although he had no knowledge of or any international clients, he was already dreaming about his international activities two decades before they became a reality.
I have fond memories of my office landline ringing and the caller I.D. flashing “Dan Doescher”. “Do you have a minute?” Often he would share the most amazing story or dream. I used to wonder how he came up with that. One day the call was about a new client opportunity. The company was a very large, famous business. One of his contacts was on their Board and pushing to hire Plante Moran as their auditors. As he was outlining the details in his very enthusiastic and convincing tone, I am thinking this is a real long shot. So, when he completed his description of the situation, I asked, “What do you think our chances of getting this audit are?” After a brief reflection, he said, “I don’t know, maybe 10%.” He too thought it was a long shot, but that did not discourage him. Turns out we did not get the audit, however his performance with the client executives and Board was so impressive, they hired Plante Moran to do their outsourced internal audit work where the fees were greater than the original proposal. Danny’s “can do” dreaming resulted in a huge win.
For years, he would tell me that we needed to have a Japanese Audit Partner. I would listen patiently to his ideas, knowing that the chances of a little regional firm in Detroit retaining a Japanese Partner were pretty low, maybe lower than 10%. Time passed until one day the phone I.D. flashed with his name. “I found him.” To which I said, “What are you talking about?” “The Japanese Partner.” And he did. Only through a Danny Doescher’s persistent dreaming and hustling, we ended up with a Japanese Partner, Yusuke Kuramochi, who along with his Japanese team now handle over 100 Japanese owned auto suppliers resulting in millions of annual fees. Possibly one of the greatest new business development stories in Plante Moran history.
An element of Unco Dan’s success was his willingness to take risks and fail. One day we were talking about failure and he said, “Tom, in my world, there are no failures. Life is one great laboratory full of experiments providing opportunity for learning experiences.”
Since leaving Plante Moran, we would speak regularly and I would say he was on top of his game and having a blast. In the last year, he shared the following Life Goal: “I Aspire to: Be a meek, trustworthy, humble man of integrity, full of gratitude expressed through generosity”.
He and his princess, Jan, were doing awesome. I still remember the night he met Jan. The next day he told me, “I met her”, to which I said, “You met who?”, and he responded “my wife”. She is indeed his special lady of over four decades. He always spoke of her in an endearing way. Their three children, significant others and granddaughter are all doing well and would regularly visit Jan and Danny at their second home in Daytona Beach.
In it’s seventh year, Sandbox Partners International was rocking and he was having the time of his life. He would tell me about deals he was working on that far exceeded his Plante Moran Dreams. One day in the last year, I told him, “You know I hit a lot of singles, some doubles, a few triples and an occasional home run; but you swing for the fences to hit the ball out of the ballpark with the bases loaded”. And he did!
Danny was Bigger than Life. He was a true Impact Player.
Over the past few days, I have thought a lot about what a Lucky Guy I was to have Danny as my brother, partner, and best friend. On a scale of 1 to 10, he was a “15” and I will truly miss him!
p.s. Why do I call him “Unco Dan”? When our son, Joey, joined our family at age 7 from his homeland of Viet Nam, he struggled with saying the letter “L”. So, he would say, “Unco Dan”. I adopted it as a phrase of endearment.