No question that there have been 4 influential men in my life… all of which have had a huge role in setting the course for my career. With the 25 year celebration at hand, it is clear that each deserve to be recognized. How about I tackle this in chronological order…
Dad. Of course he was the first influence, and as a salesman and small businessman his impact on me began at a young age. He was what was called a Dapper Dan, promo man, and scrappy sales guy all in one. Always the optimist, he could see the next big sale was just around the corner. He was a hard worker and dreamer that always kept us wondering: ‘what would be next?’ One day we were up and living in the lap of luxury and the next day…not so much. Dad taught me that there was always a creative solution, and with perseverance, anything was possible. His motto was ‘nothing happens until someone sells something.’ Not a bad thing to remember.
Mark – my husband of 30 something years. Naturally he is my most loyal partner and trusted advisor and over the years has played an important role managing the agency’s finances and other such matters leaving me free to do what I love – collaborating with my team and clients. It all started when we were high school sweethearts. We grew up in Los Gatos in Silicon Valley and began our lives and careers there. I was determined to find my place in corporate America, and eventually landed a marcom job at Tandem Computers. The early eighties were incredible days to work at Tandem and the corporate life was just what I wanted – exciting, yet safe. I wanted a paycheck I could rely upon and wanted nothing to do with the life I had as kid where as the daughter of a small businessman, I never knew if there would be enough money to make ends meet. Then we picked up stakes and moved to Newport Beach. I worked at a few small high tech companies. While my time at each was thrilling, these small companies were volatile and ran the course of downsizing and shuttering operations. I was so energetic and wanted to do more but each company stumbled – leaving me to seek the next opportunity. Mark kept encouraging me to go off on my own – ensuring me that I could do it and it would all work out. I resisted for a long time – but finally took the leap into entrepreneurship; something Mark knew all along that I should do. He never wavered once from believing in me and always made sure it was possible, juggling finances and our boys.
Cal Lee was an entreprenuer and the CEO of a company called Capro. In my twenties, I was hired on at Capro and handled marcom. Cal was a big thinker and had an enormous vision. His software had the potential to fuel the personal computer movement. At the time, PCs were just coming onto the scene and they needed applications. Building apps back then was a cumbersome undertaking, and Cal’s software was a development tool that accelerated the creation of apps. It was a dream come true for resellers who saw the potential in this new phenomenon. Cal needed to get his message out and found me to be a clean slate, with no preconceived notions and a willing and enthusiastic student. He’d spend hours with me at the white board sketching out his vision while I took pages upon pages of notes and found myself asking questions about things I knew nothing of. Cal taught me that it didn’t matter that I lacked technical experience, rather, what mattered was understanding the impact and how to connect the dots. He believed in me and gave me an incredible opportunity that I will forever be grateful for.
Chuck Ramsey – the definition of a curmudgeon. A journalist who turned to PR to apply his craft, he was not a huge fan of the compromises PR folks make when it comes to the integrity of packaging news and telling a story. I first met Chuck when I worked for a tech company and we hired his firm to handle our PR. As a young in-house marcom manager, I was intrigued by Chuck – who was not like any of the other PR, advertising, or promo folks I had encountered. When I launched out on my own, I quickly found that I needed a seasoned partner that understood tech companies and the industry – and knew how to craft a good story. I called Chuck and he agreed (with a healthy dose of skepticism) to help me. I was incredibly lucky in that somehow I was able to endear myself to Chuck and earn a spot in his heart. Our big adventure began in 1988, and Chuck became my mentor. I was on the front lines working with clients, traveling to trade shows, collecting the fees while Chuck coached me on the finer details of storytelling and dug into analyzing market trends and writing backgrounders, news releases and the like. His writing wasn’t just stringing words together: it was his method for revealing ideas, strategy and delivering new, memorable ways to get the message out. He had a twinkle in his eye that I will never forget. He taught me what really mattered in PR — to look beyond the surface, always find the story, identify the heroes and villains – and think from the outside in. Chuck passed away in 2002 but his lessons, his words and his passion still march on in my thoughts each and every day.