Lessons Learned and Shared
Having spent 26 years involved in various facets of direct marketing and having worked with some of the brightest minds in the field, Kurtz is at a perfect place to pass on what he’s learned—and so he does, through speaking engagements and contacts with up-and-comers who seek him out. “I didn’t invent anything I’m passing on; this all came from my mentors,” he is quick to point out when asked what lessons he shares with tomorrow’s stars. Here are his top five:
1. The only consistent feature of all your dissatisfying relationships is you. The idea here, says Kurtz, is to direct your focus away from pointless complaining. “We’re all writing our own story,” he emphasizes, so it’s up to you to make the choices that shape your career and business deals.
2. Home runs aren’t the only hits that count. Kurtz gets this lesson across with the familiar joke: “What do you call the person who graduates last in his or her class at Harvard Medical School? Doctor.” Not every idea in a brainstorming meeting has to be a home run; it takes plenty of singles and doubles along with the home runs to build a business. “I’ve had a lot of fun with the singles and doubles that we’ve had; they’ve been satisfying projects, they’ve made a profit and while they haven’t changed the world from a profitability standpoint, they certainly helped contribute,” he says. As venture capitalist Fredrick Adler says—and it’s on a T-shirt Boardroom produces—“Happiness is positive cash flow.”
3. Know what’s worth the fight. Based on the likelihood that we’re all dead in 75 years anyway, Kurtz pushes colleagues to consider how committed they are to the terms of each deal, project, relationship, etc. “As a direct marketer, you might say, ‘I’ve got to test this idea in this mailing.’ But how much does the test really mean to you?” he asks. And on the personal side, how much does it really mean to “win that argument?”
4. Make sure your follow-up is unique. You may not be successful in every activity you undertake, but you can be remembered for your approach to the challenge. “How many people say, ‘So-and-so wasn’t the best candidate for the job, but I loved that on the follow-up he came up with a concept that no one else did.’ And that’s true in everything, not just when you’re interviewing for a job,” Kurtz states.
5. Don’t get on a boat at an industry conference—especially one full of vendor company sales reps. “It’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone who I mentor,” Kurtz laughs.