Letters to the Editor
Benson’s Fan Club
Your interview with Brian Kurtz [October 2007, “Direct Marketer of the Year”] was a great reminder of the influence mentors play in our lives, often without us even realizing it at the time.
Brian has been a mentor to many, as was his early mentor Dick Benson. A few weeks before the article was published, I had gone to search for Dick’s photo on the Web, and I was shocked and upset to discover that it was nowhere to be found.
How could someone so influential in our industry vanish so soon after his passing? This was a man who at any given time was continually on the phone with numerous marketers, always willing to give a tip, always speaking the truth whether the client wanted to hear it or not. (He was so straightforward that he never said “hello” or “goodbye” on the phone. He just got to his point and moved on.)
I sent a note to Dick two years after he had finished consulting for me at Sports Illustrated to thank him for all he’d taught me. I was at a key point in my career, changing to the software industry, apprehensively moving into a huge new job on an opposite coast in a city where I knew absolutely no one.
A few weeks later the phone rang at my new job, and there was silence at the end of the phone. And of course, I knew who it was. To my surprise, my curmudgeonly mentor simply wanted to say hello. Years later I realized that Dick’s brusque manner was due to nothing more than shyness (unless he was talking about direct marketing, which he knew so well).
Dick was generous to us all in his later years. And that’s the way the best mentors are. So, I encourage other readers to think of someone who’s influenced you, make a donation to the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation (www.the-dma.org/dmef) in his or her name, and tell your mentor why you did it.