Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
Posted on November 1, 2016
Watching the Hamilton documentary on PBS a few days ago, the hit Broadway musical’s final song title stayed with me. November 2nd marks a special day for me, and one in a particular year.
In the Summer of 1986, school summer break had just started for me; my father asked me to teach a two-week course on desktop publishing to the graphic artists of the advertising agency Stamm-Werbung, where he had been CEO for over ten years. At the time, with just four years knowledge of programming and use of personal computers, I knew that technology would play a pivotal role in my life – but had not a clue what I wanted to do for a living. That Summer should change it all.
I agreed, for it meant getting my hands on a brand-new Siemens IBM PC-AT compatible Personal Computer with a monochrome 19” Viking and a color EGA screen. The system was completed with a QMS PS-800 PostScript printer and a Microtek 300dpi scanner. Details, I know, but ever so important for a mid-eighties geek. But my interest in technology was only one building block to what would become my life’s story: Studying Aldus PageMaker by its manual by night, and teaching what I had learned in one-on-one sessions the next day, the following weeks set the direction for my career choice, and defining the start into my professional life.
I learned about the advertising realm, growing up a boy in the mid-sixties. I got my first set of printer gloves at the age of two – the vendor did let me keep them because I was mesmerized by the smell of offset printing ink – and I distinctively remember accompanying my father at the age of five to a campaign pitch at a brewery in Dortmund. We didn’t win the account, but I gained a basic understanding of the fascinating world of corporate communications.
My dad did not take me to baseball games or Sunday hikes, but he talked about David Ogilvy’s ground rules for copywriting, the power of understanding audiences, and the relativity of marketing success. I knew the acronym AIDA [Attention/Interest/Desire/Action] as a principle for successful messaging before I learned that it was homonymous to an Opera by Giuseppe Verdi.
Fast forward three decades and two continents, I am sitting at my favorite keyboard – mechanical, blue Cherry switches – and I am thankful for the choices I have made, and where they have led me. Finding audiences in the areas of trade fair marketing, finance, insurance, retail, and wholesale; corporate communication for global and local brands on both sides of the Atlantic; brand development, brand management, and brand implementation; copy writing in German and English, design and layout, photography and image editing; living and breathing print production, and teaching it, shaping the talents of a multitude of apprentices, up to guiding them in their design diploma; integrated marketing, web planning, design, and implementation; and teaching digital communication standards for the last four years.
And being blessed with the award to be West Virginia’s 2016 Small Business Champion of the Year – bringing European standard and point-of-view to the heart of the Mountain State, and having a hand in changing its businesses for the better. Providing a helping hand, setting the course of two non-profits as a member of their Board of Directors. And making friends for life along the way – no matter of race, political partisanship, gender, age, or status.
As I finish a strategic re-positioning analysis for a client, I have spent the last weeks at these keys putting into words what will define the way they communicate for the foreseeable future. And at the end of the month, I will start my first professional coaching series for a Federal Government agency, having my calling to teach and mentor come full circle.
Today, eight years ago, my father passed away. His rubber-band leadership helped me develop a skill set that puts the value on the services I offer. His encouragement lets me explore the world of technology and earn my wings at a Microsoft OEM, and still called me home to help him build a company and transpose its skills from the analog to the digital world. His firm belief in small business instilled the attitude of servitude in me, not only for a job done well but done right by my clients. While I miss him every day, I count on my work to still making him proud. It’s only a matter of time.
I am glad I get to tell the story. Who’s telling yours?