Twice I’ve met real princesses. Yes, really. One was the sister of the King of Sweden, the other the daughter of the King of Norway. Two encounters with royalty might be a small number for diplomats, Scandinavians, or the swells of Saudi Arabia, but how many of us are one of those?
I have also met heads of state, and not only from America. I have had lemonade with Finland’s President Martti Ahtisaari, who later won a Nobel Peace Prize. I visited David Oddsson at his residence—guarded by a single squad car—when he was prime minister of Iceland, and I shook hands with Jiang Zemin when he was president of China.
I have been fortunate in my associations in other ways. I worked for a senator and a governor, and during my tenure at this magazine, I’ve met skilled financiers, acclaimed academics, and many of Minnesota’s most accomplished businesspeople.
At this moment, you think I am boasting, don’t you? It’s not true. I am doing what writers call “creating context”— for when I say this: Except for time with my family, I have seldom felt that I was in better company than on the fifth floor of 220 South Sixth Street, in the offices of this magazine.
I decided 20 years ago never to work for anyone I don’t respect, and I’ve kept that vow even when it was expensive to do so. I am grateful to Gary Johnson, to whom I have reported for 10 years, and to Vance Opperman, the owner of this magazine, for sparing me any thought of incurring such cost again. Both have been nearly perfect bosses, supportive and challenging in ideal measure and with exemplary timing.
The people reporting to me have been equally impressive. They know, as I do, that this magazine is a small boat in a sea of commerce. (Now I am doing what writers call “creating bad metaphors.”) If we were playing baseball, we would be in a triple- or double-A league, not the majors. We would, however, be champions of our league.
Thanks to Denise Logeland, Gene Rebeck, and Mary Connor, Twin Cities Business has been named the best regional business magazine in America for four of the past six years and six of the past 10. For two of the past three years, it has won more gold awards and more total awards than any other magazine in any category from the Minnesota Magazine and Publications Association. More importantly, my fellow editors have expanded the time that readers spend with each issue and readers’ overall impression of its quality.
Because of the abilities of our sales representatives—Shelly Crowley, Mary Jo Davis, and Connie Van Housen, aided by Ashley Jensen—Twin Cities Business has become the largest regional business magazine in the United States in advertising pages and, we believe, in profit.
Thanks to Christa Meland, Melissa Loth, and Jake Anderson, the magazine is augmented by an annual Business Information Guide that is the best of its kind in our region; a Web site that draws 150,000 page views monthly; and a set of electronic business newsletters that have brought our electronic products into profitability.
Without Shelly Elmore, our Minnesota Business Hall of Fame, Small-Business Success Stories, and Health Care Heroes program might never have been launched, and our electronic products, supplements, and overall sales efforts would have been, respectively, smaller, fewer, and significantly less robust.
I’m not buttering anyone up. I’m retiring from publishing at the end of August, and this is my way of both saying goodbye and assuring you that with regard to the quality of this magazine, anyone who has made anything of my departure has made too much of it. The talent will stay here.
Me? I plan to spend a few months helping a friend establish his third limited partnership investing in distressed bonds. It’s possible that I’ll call you about it (and likely that you’ll be impressed with his past performance). I’m involved to varying degrees with six nonprofits, and I would like to join the board of a private company. We’ll travel, and I might read a couple of novels.
But before I leave, I want to provide an admonition to my co-workers, who will miss me less than I will miss them.
When my daughter, Amanda, was a very little girl, we used to “dance” in our living room. She would sit on my right forearm, her right hand in my left, and we would move to stereo music. Naturally, I did most of the moving. Amanda would sway a little, and pump her fist from time to time, but except to give me an occasional kick in the ribs, she didn’t move her feet.
“She’s a good dancer,” I once said as I set her down.
My wife was amused. “How can you tell?” she asked.
“A good dancer” I said, “always makes her partner look good.”
Here’s my advice:
Treat each other like partners; make each other look good.
Remember that character endures and that optimism wins.
Work only with people you can trust, who care about others, and who are committed to doing excellent work.
Believe that your efforts matter.
And just as if you were operating the little boat in the bad metaphor, remember this: When there is no wind, row.