D E A R YO U N G E R M E
(as your current friends, brother and mother will continue to call you forever, so don’t even think about trying to convince them to call you “Joe”), It’s 1979. You’re 22 years old and about to finish Clemson. You’ve worked hard, and are thinking you want to work in sports promotion or advertising. That job offer at Old Dominion is tempting. Great deal and a strong sports program; I know you’re close to saying yes, but you’re right to give the advertising idea time to play out. Soon you’re going to meet a couple of people who will change your life. Bob Reuschle at Henderson Advertising—truly one of the hottest agencies in the country right now—is going to give you probably more attention than you warrant, being fresh out of school and with a degree in political science, no less. Bob will take the time to talk to you about a job in media (which, admit it, you aren’t even sure what that means), and more important, give you the sense that there really could be a place for you in this industry. And then you’ll meet Bill Leslie. Leslie Advertising is doing some sharp regional work, and growing. You’ll find Mr. Leslie fascinating, fun, and kind. A little bit scary at times. You’ll appreciate all of that enough to go work for him, but what you’ll recognize years later is that he showed you up-close, day-to-day, what a leader is. How to be simultaneously strong and openminded. How to be both uncompromising and generous. How to change someone’s life by treating them with respect. Your mother won’t immediately appreciate your choice of jobs. Try to understand where she’s coming from. When you tell her your first job is in the mail room, she will be devastated (she
Business Black Box Q1 2017
might even cry). All her work as a single mother after your dad passed away 10 years ago…you’re going to tell her all that sacrifice was for the mail room? But then your advertising and PR skills will kick in, and you’ll explain to her that it’s just a starting point—which is true, you end up shifting to the media department on your first day—and that in no time you’ll surely be moving into a VP slot. Which brings me back to another big lesson from Bill Leslie. Your audacity—that assumptiveness you’d simply call confidence? Yes, it’s helped you make some good choices so far, but watch that. Sitting back with your feet on your desk, like you own the joint, don’t be surprised when Mr. Leslie walks in to knock them off in front of everyone. You won’t like that. But you won’t forget it, either. He’ll take you down a notch a time or two in front of everyone. Those are good lessons that you’ll be better off for learning the hard way. Not everyone gets to have a boss, a leader, and a mentor who cares enough to be straight with you, even when it’s brutally painful. Just know that this same man will drive you to the airport for your first job interview in New York, proud of what you’ve accomplished and learned on his watch. One more thing before we end this 2017 note from Joe to 1979 Joey—because a look back without it would be incomplete. You know the other person who’d be proud of you? Your dad. Losing him at age 12, when he fell ill at 39 and passed away so quickly, has shaped just about everything about you.