With this column, I am ending 25 years of my day-to-day contact with CSP. My transition work has been rewarding, and it was completed this month.
Many people at the recent Outlook Conference asked me how I’m liking retirement since selling CSP 18 months ago. Well, first, I am a firm believer that if you rest, you rust. And second, I dislike the “R” word!
Turning 65 last year, I looked forward to putting CSP into hands that would build on the leadership brand and integrated communication platform we pioneered. We founded the industry SOI conference and eventually merged it with NACS. We were the first company to introduce and lead the way online. We have unmatched conferences. We pioneered Ideas 2 Go for NACS. We’re acknowledged as the most consistently award-winning print publication in the industry. And so much more.
Doug Rauch, Outlook’s closing speaker, is a former president of Trader Joe’s. In a few sentences, he summarized the playbook that built our company: Trust your team and they will trust you, and it becomes “our” company. Build a relationship with your customers by thinking of and treating them as individual people. Develop a relationship with them, not solely a business transaction. Their success becomes your success.
In 1997, Drayton McLane joined CSP as chairman and my business partner. (It started with a few fond words we both now have fun with: “Hey, Drayton, got a minute?”) He remained a key influence until many years later, when he exited a satisfied shareholder.
I could write a book on “Draytonisms.” One of his many pieces of advice went like this: “Paul, there are only three things you need to do in business: Do not break the law, never compromise on your personal values, and make a profit.”
From there, CSP never looked back. I especially remember the impact the trust factor had as we maneuvered through the Great Recession. It was our team’s care for “our business” that made the difference in successfully riding it out. Afterwards, our business roared ahead.
CSP’s mantra has been to listen to what people inside and outside of CSP needed, then work at overdelivering on those needs. At the time we sold, I believe we had a clear runway and the talent pool to double our business in five years. No doubt with Mike Wood’s skills, CSP will grow to twice that size.
Now I get how much of a challenge it is for Oscar winners to thank everyone in 30 seconds. There are too many to thank publicly. Nonetheless, a special shout-out to Jim Dickens, a true gentleman and friend and whose commitment to CSP was critical; of course Drayton, the world’s ultimate mentor; Mitch Morrison, the most inquisitive mind and wordsmith I have ever worked with; Kay Segal, whose thoughtful approach and dedication contributed greatly; John Callanan, who pioneered the Internet for CSP and the industry; Jim Bursch, whose talent just makes stuff happen; David Jobe, who is the most disciplined performer I know; Lynda Hislop, who makes complex conferences run like a Swiss timepiece; Kevin LeSueur, whose reliability you can always bank on; Jennifer Bulat, whose years of patience and editing got this column out the door despite deadline mishaps; Myra Kressner, who began on Day One with me when CSP was hatched, and whose creative mind, energy and email never sleeps; and Arnie Van Zanten, unmatched in so much quality. Should I get to heaven to see him someday, it will be a much better-run place. After God met Arnie, I’m sure he put him in charge of process, critical thinking and integrity.