The Secret of Starting an Instantly Successful Business
Mercifully I had a file of catalog order forms. I spread 15 or 20 on my big desk, chose six that looked relatively simple, and stole smart, picking up different elements from each one. In two hours—rather than five days—I had an order form. It was no world-beater in creativity. But it was usable; all bases were touched; nothing was left out. It adhered to one of the universal rules of direct mail: Make it as easy as possible for the customer to order.
Only because of my giant swipe file was I able to meet Victor Kiam’s impossible deadline. That order form lasted for several years and worked fine. Gaylord built for Kiam a growing and profitable catalog business that lasted for eight years.
Enter Harry Walsh
In the 1960s to the 1980s there were a few superstar direct mail writers: John Francis Tighe, Robert Haydon Jones, Linda Wells, Frank Johnson, Chris Stagg, Hank Burnett, Bill Jayme and Harry Walsh. Walsh was a gruff, red-haired, hard-drinking, six-foot-tall former gunnery instructor in World War II and an alumnus of Ogilvy & Mather. He lived and worked in Westport, Conn., just up the Merritt Parkway from my house in Stamford. Every now and again he would call me up to say he had a new assignment and ask if he could look through my files to see what others had done.
After finding what he wanted, and making photocopies, he would invariably offer payment, which I refused. “Okay,” he said, “the next time I come down and use the files, I’ll buy you lunch.”
A month later Walsh and I were settling in for the first of several white ones at La Bretagne in Stamford when he said: “You know, I’d pay to be a member of your archive service so I could come down and use your library.”