Letters to the Editor
And then, like Brian and Dick, seek out a younger colleague for whom you can become a trusted source of wisdom, advice and challenge.
It’s the least we owe our own mentors. Ultimately, our pictures disappear in the wind—but a legacy of mentoring and shared wisdom lives on forever in the lives of those we leave behind.
BAIRD DIRECT MARKETING INC.
After he built and sold Contest Newsletter, the largest circulation newsletter of the day, Dick Benson went on to create the even larger University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter newsletter. By then, he had accumulated some 100 clients, most of whom were publishers. Children’s Writer, a client of mine for creative work, was one of them. Dick’s fee was $10,000 a year, including unlimited phone consultation but no written reports. As for meetings, “Come on down anytime, but don’t expect me to visit you.”
Dick had developed a unique business model: He was the unofficial U.S. Intelligence Center for Direct Mail with a vast network of clients, and was also one of its most successful practitioners. I had met Dick 12 years earlier at the office of a mutual client and had witnessed and experienced his legendary gruffness and monosyllabic responses. I was dumbstruck by the way he treated the client. But that was before I understood how limited and precious his time was to him, and how many pearls he had to bestow. I warned my colleagues, and we reviewed our questions carefully before we placed the conference call.
The voice on the other end said, “Yeah.”
“Hi, Dick. This is Prescott Kelly at Children’s Writer. I’ve got Bryan Judge and Mal Decker on the line, and we’ve got a few questions for you.”
After an awkward pause, we asked our questions and got replies as long as 11 words: “It’s test-worthy.” “Just run the numbers and you’ll see it can’t pay out.” “It didn’t work for me, but it might work for you.”