Direct Marketer of the Year: Brian Kurtz, executive vice president, Boardroom Inc.
Many years later, Kurtz got permission from Benson to add an asterisk to the end of the legend's most famous quote, "No one spends enough time on lists," that would make Boardroom the exception. "He gave me permission verbally. I don't have it in writing, but he absolutely said I could do that. To me, that was a proud moment, and also part of watching our program grow," says Kurtz.
Mr. Kurtz Goes to Washington
For someone so heavily influenced by his mentors to give back, it was a natural outcome that Kurtz would one day lend his support to the industry in which he has been so successful. When trying to decide where he should volunteer-government affairs, education or ethics-he approached Lee Epstein who convinced him to get involved in all three. "While it sometimes wears me thin, I don't think I'd want it any other way," Kurtz affirms.
On the subject of government affairs, he stresses, "Everyone should be much more involved in the things that can put them out of business." He ticks off the threats to the industry: do-not-mail, privacy issues, postal rate hikes, list rental regulation and more. Excessive legislation in any one of these areas could change the direct marketing business forever. "To stand by and hope that it doesn't happen or that someone else will get involved on our behalf is not acceptable," Kurtz states.
Working with congressional representatives has turned out to be more than fighting the good fight. It's been an education in its own right. "Every congressman and senator-even if they're in office for a long time-have staffs that change quite a bit, and the new assistants don't understand the new issues they might be involved in ... They don't know the history of the issue, so we have to go in and reeducate them. There's no rest for the weary. If you take a rest, you could lose your momentum on an issue with a particular congressman who could make or break the legislation down the road," Kurtz explains.