38 and Counting Tips

5 lessons learned through 38 years in business

As I celebrate 38 years in business this September, I’m recalling lessons learned and how those lessons will impact the future. In late August 1982, I asked my boss to become my first client. I had a dog, mortgage and $600 in the bank. With his thumbs-up, a marketing education gained with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and a creative, persevering brain (thanks dad, mom and stepmom Lois), I went to the mountains the next day and sat on a lounge chair in a river reading and drinking a six-pack. The following Monday, I started Mark Lusky Communications with a commitment to provide solid customer service and high-quality writing and marketing communications.

Thirty-eight years of lessons learned. Where to start? Fortunately, this is the first of a five-post series through the month of September—so I don’t need to eat the elephant in one bite.

OK, here goes…

Don’t take too much advice…You may wind up making other people’s mistakes.

This plaque hangs prominently near my desk. It was one of my dad’s favorites, as it is for me. The takeaway: Be prudent and discerning in what advice to follow, and what to discard. Too often, we play “follow the leader” because the “leader” is currently a hot property and prominent. Just because they’re today’s celebs doesn’t mean that their advice and wisdom is sound for everyone in every situation. In many cases, they’ve found a way to exploit trendy or time-honored ideas to make a bunch of money because it’s the “current big trend.” My process, involving both personal and professional issues, always has been to discern what’s valuable and discard the rest. I’ve never drunk anyone’s Kool-Aid, and hopefully never will.

Hit ‘em where they ain’t.

This was the answer onetime outfielder great Wee Willie Keeler gave about his hitting prowess. The takeaway: In both business and personal endeavors, stand out from everyone else when you can. Don’t look like (or try to look like) everyone else in your business or personal life just because there’s a supposed “model of success” that’s all the rage. Let your personality, pronouncements and positives shine through to inform distinctive marketing, customer service, employee relations, and other stakeholder policies and protocols. Same for your personal life.

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

This FDR quote sums up perseverance perfectly. The takeaway: I’ve been through several recessions, a variety of business and personal crises, and times when I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, much less do something productive. Given that I’ve now done this for 38 years, I’m fairly confident that perseverance is a chief cause of success. Of course, it helps a lot when you love what you do. Which I do.

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

This Teddy Roosevelt quote is one of my all-time favorites. The takeaway: Don’t stagnate, whether you’re suffering through a pandemic, economic difficulty or political angst. Moving forward in some way provides momentum, much like an airliner stays aloft by moving swiftly ahead through the air. Even when making mistakes, you’re still moving forward. Those that sit and wait, perhaps suffering analysis paralysis, are more likely to struggle to stand up later.

Let advertisers spend the same amount of money improving their product that they do on advertising and they wouldn’t have to advertise it.

The takeaway: Be good, don’t just talk good. Costco personifies the essence of this Will Rogers quote. They’ve invested in unbeatable customer service, top-notch employee relations and making product choices that resonate consistently. They have no formal advertising and marketing department, yet they continue to soar. Anyone wanting to make their life or livelihood all it can be needs to invest in being good, not just talking the talk. With social media and other prying eyes everywhere—serving as constant lie detectors—truth will out, and so will lies. Be real, strive to get better and tell the truth.


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Mark Lusky

Veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience. Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage. Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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