Susan Getgood tagged me in Kami's Thanksgiving meme
and since these two women have inspired ME tremendously over the past year, how could I not chime in here. The question was: Who had a big influence on you and how did that affect the direction of your life or career?"
At first, given the date, I thought of whom I was grateful for -- and reluctantly my parents came to mind. My mother had in 1965, according to Life Magazine, the best job for women in America -- she was editor of Harpers Bazaar. She was a pretty lousy mom, but a very good editor and surrounded herself with smart, savvy and very professional women, so all my role models growing up were high-powered editors so it never occurred to me that women didn't belong at the top of whatever mast head or organization I chose to work at. While she failed miserably at making me into the perfectly coiffed and dressed daughter she always wanted, she did a damn good job in instilling in me a great love of the written word and a ridiculous work ethic.
Then of course there was my father to whom I am grateful for my brains, my perspective on the world, my intellectual curiosity and my skill on a bulldozer and tractor, which he taught me to drive at age 5. I also curse him daily because he didn't teach me timing.. My motto still is "never wrong, just early..."
But then I reread the question and realized it wasn't really about gratitude but about influence. And for that there is no question. The first big influence was an editor named Geoffrey Precourt, at the Boston Herald, who truly taught me how to write in a way that made people want to read my copy. He'd tear every column and story I wrote apart word by word and make me write again and again until it was really good. He'd probably be appalled by my blog.
Geoffrey was followed by Charlie O'Brien who was an even better at turning me into a real reporter and understanding what made news news. Charlie gets extra points because he introduced me to Shel Israel who continues to inspire me on a daily basis.
But then there's Mike Austin, who was running his own agency in Silicon Valley back in 1982. I was the newly minted MarCom manager at Fujitsu in search of an agency. When the nice Southern receptionist asked him for his badge back at the end of our very first meeting, without missing a beat he said "Badges, badges, we don't need no stinkin badges." I figured anyone with that much irreverence was the agency for me. I was one of his first clients and we created award-winning campaigns together for years. He was part of the team that launched a little product called the LaserJet back in 1984. The marketing plan he wrote for us back in 1983 was so good and so comprehensive, I still use elements of it today. In a few short years he taught me everything I needed to know about high tech marketing. When I started Delahaye some 20 years ago, he was the first person I called. I asked him why he'd gone out on his own. He explained that he was genetically unemployable" and that to him, anything was preferable to working for someone else. After 10 years in Corporate America, I knew exactly what he meant. So I added "genetically unemployable serial entrepreneur" to my resume and the rest is history...