Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(76) Rob Starbuck and Simon Kennedy

By November 4th 1991 I had been selling ad space for three days on what was for me a new book at Cornhill Publications: World Graphic Arts Technology.
My job was to try to persuade people who supplied paper and pulp to printers to advertise in it.

At 4:25 p.m. I went, for no particular reason, up from the third floor where the sales force was situated to the fourth.
There I saw a visitor carrying a plastic bag from Dillons bookstore.
He was asking the receptionist if he could buy a copy of the Cornhill publication Corporate Quality Casebook.

He explained to me, having first joked that he had come all the way from Atlanta, Georgia to buy it (!) that he had been in Dillons, which was about five minutes walking distance away, and had been told that they had sold out.
However, he was informed that Cornhill’s offices were nearby and they could sell him one direct.

I asked how he knew of the publication, and he said that he had been at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia the previous week where he had heard a representative from our company, Rob Starbuck, give a lecture on quality control during which he had mentioned the book.
Rob had distributed leaflets about it in the hall in Atlanta.

He introduced himself as Simon Kennedy, Export Sales manager for a company called Klarin of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"My company is the biggest producer of pulp and paper in South America."

A light went on in my head.
What a splendid chance to sell an ad on my new book, not over the phone, but directly to the prospect.
I explained the nature of the publication on which I was selling and then went downstairs to tell my manager of this extraordinary opportunity.

Five minutes later we introduced the concept of advertising to Mr Kennedy, pushing particularly the "green" issues where paper and pulp suppliers might well want to state through an ad that their operations were environmentally friendly.

To our surprise he said bluntly that most printers were concerned solely with profit and, even though his company was attentive to conservation and environment issues, he did not think that bringing these to the attention of cynical clients was the way to steer business his way.
So we abandoned our attempts and made our way back to the office, with Mr Kennedy accompanying us to the stairway, for he was now about to leave the premisses.

We paused in the reception area, giving him the chance to write down his address, for he happened to have no business cards on his person.

Just then a figure dashed by us, on his way out from the Managing Director’s office.
As he pushed open the doors to the stairs I recognised him as Rob Starbuck and announced "And here he is now!"

Starbuck asked who the gent was and I told him that he had heard his lecture on quality control in Atlanta the previous week.
He was astonished, and eagerly entered into conversation with him.

Rob had addressed an audience of about one hundred people in Atlanta, and the conference had ended on October 30th. He and his fiancée had been due to fly back on the 31st, but delays had set them back a couple of days.
He had only been in the Cornhill premisses for about thirty minutes and was hastening on his way home when I had stopped him.

Then the idea of advertising in Starbuck’s publication, a copy of which he had just bought, was put to Mr Kennedy.

More than a year later, Starbuck was to tell me that they were still in communication.

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