Our community lost a truly remarkable person last month with the passing of our dear friend and Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Max Henry.
We asked many of our staff and founders who had the good fortune to work with Max about his impact, and three themes emerged, over and over again.
An unwavering commitment to helping others
This support took many forms, from business coaching to being a great sounding board, a constant cheerleader, and a connector.
“Max was an amazing mentor and friend to me, and to the entire NextCorps community over the last eight years,” shares Matt Foley, Director of Incubation Services at NextCorps. “He had such a talent for listening, asking great questions and sharing his wisdom with our founders in a way that was insightful, yet accessible. I already miss hearing the incredible stories about his career over wine and lunch, which always occurred in that order. His presence will be missed, but as he would advise us, ‘Onward, and hurry up!’”
Ahlia Kitwana, founder of Careal Bayo adds, “Having Max as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) was just what I needed starting out. Beyond being an expert and incredibly knowledgeable, he was kind, supportive, and encouraging. Without his guidance, I’m not sure I would have made it through the past year. I am deeply thankful that he was a part of my journey.”
“From day one, Max was a consistent supporter of my dream,” says Tanya Mooza Zwahlen, founder of Instant Input. “Beyond tactical advice, his belief in me mattered the most — it allowed me to be my whole self. Max and Matt Foley patiently let me share our progress and setbacks, and then we’d set a path forward.
“Sometimes, Max would note that I was being hard on myself and remind me to ease up. Other times, he would urge me to do the tough thing. He was always attuned to where I was in my entrepreneurial journey, and encouraged me to enjoy life now. I will carry Max’s support with me as I continue forward, and I am committed to giving the same type of unwavering belief and support to others in my life — my kids, colleagues, and friends. Thank you for that gift, Max! It really is all about the people.”
Deep gratitude for family, friends, and every interaction or opportunity that came his way
This was always acknowledged at the beginning by a warm “howdy” welcome, and at the end by a hand-written thank-you note, chock-full of inspiring comments, which was often delivered just moments after an encounter. We all marveled at how quickly he was able to do what we referred to as his signature move.
Zack Ellis, founder of TheirStory, explains, “When I think of Max, of course I think about his leadership advice. But most of all, he was someone who was fiercely loyal and put his family and friends first. After I had a tough breakup during COVID, I had wanted to put off dating and just focus on my startup. Max encouraged me to keep a balance and start dating again. That led to a relationship with a partner of more than a year and a half that brought me a sense of joy, adventure, and challenge outside of work. I am better for knowing Max, both personally and professionally, and will be forever grateful for his friendship and guidance.”
“Max was an A++++ person who was truly a force for good,” adds Max Sims, founder of Pollinate. “I am very grateful for his 10 years of friendship and the countless laughs we shared between Rochester and Geneva. I know his legacy will live on through the many entrepreneurs he coached and inspired to always do the right thing.”
A powerful sense of what’s truly important
It’s the third theme that really defined the impact of Max’s life on others, with so many people who knew him saying that he helped to make them a better person.
“Our conversations have had lasting impacts. I always learned how to be better both personally and professionally after speaking with Max. I considered him a mentor and will deeply miss his presence,” says Sashti Balasundaram, founder of WeRadiate.
Mike Mahler, founder of Smoother Nutrition, agrees. “We loved him dearly. He was a special guy with great insights into people. I just re-read his emails and found a statement that’s simple yet profound. Its wisdom hit me again with renewed vigor: ‘Your goal is to help people, not sell to them. It sounds like you really want to help.’ There are basic tenets in business that one can’t hear enough. Max was great at keeping these tenets in focus.”
“I was fortunate to be able to bring Max on board at NextCorps as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence to mentor the startups in our incubation program,” shares Jim Senall, President at NextCorps. “Over the eight years with us, he probably helped more than 100 entrepreneurs right here in the region, who were fortunate to get exposure to his Hummingbird Leadership philosophies, and to what some of us like to call the Max-isms.
For those who weren’t fortunate enough to get to work with him, his impact can carry on through his sage advice:
- Always have a meeting agenda, and send notes and action items afterwards.
- Show up early.
- Be grateful. Say thank you. Send handwritten notes.
- Ask great questions. Listen well.
- Always do the right thing.
- Run to the Roar.
- Ask, ‘WIIFM and DITM?’ (‘What’s in it for me?’ ‘Does it threaten me?’)
- Talk is cheap.
- Focus – ask, ‘What’s the recommended solution?’
- Kill ‘em with kindness.
- People are clumsy.
- Hurry up!
“…Just to name a few.”
Senall adds, “It’s impossible to try to sum up 20 years of friendship and conversations in a handful of sentences, but if I had to think of additional themes about Max, they would be as follows:
- He was an optimist. He chose to always see what could be possible versus why something might not work. Even when facing challenges, his attitude was always, ‘I’ll figure it out.’
- He was private. He was not on social media. He didn’t want people to know about his health issues. ‘No one wants to hear about problems!’ (He’s probably cringing right now that we’re all talking about him!)
- He was generous. He gave out books and kindles. He tipped servers very generously and handed out lottery tickets. He even offered his friends the ability to borrow his Porsche for a weekend.
- He was all about people. He kept lists of great people. We talked about people at our meetings, and he encouraged staying in touch with them and helping them out whenever possible.
- And, above all… He put his family first. In fact, the first agenda item at every meeting was ‘family updates.’ His wife, children, and extended family were always his number-one priority. He loved the time he got to spend with them, and we loved hearing stories about them all!”
While we’re all sad that we won’t have any more lunches and meetings with Max or get to bounce challenges off of him for advice, we know that he wouldn’t want us to stay down, to pity ourselves or anyone else. His spirit, his philosophy on life, and his ‘Max-isms’ will continue to live on through the thousands of people he has coached, mentored, and been friends with throughout his life. And that’s an amazing legacy.
Cheers to you, Max!