One evening recently I got into a conversation with an old college friend about all the guys we knew.  We remembered those who were no longer with us and speculated about those who seemed to have had successful and/or fulfilling lives.

In the course of this exchange I said something to the effect of personally not having satisfied my own ambitions; of not having achieved all I thought I was capable of.

Over the next few days I kept thinking about what I had said and wondered why I had said it.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt it was a somewhat hasty and inaccurate conclusion.

Maybe making questionable comments is the key to thinking things through more clearly and arriving at a more reasoned conclusion.  I believe that was certainly true in this case.

The facts of my career were I built a successful business out of creative ingenuity where there were no other real models like it to follow.  It started when I convinced my then employer, Electrical Industries Association, in a six-month series of discussions to allow me to continue managing their activities as an independent management firm.

We divided the budget up to arrive at my management fee.  I inherited the four other employees, and how that all worked out is the subject for another blog.  So now we were off and running, and over the next 25 years we acquired the management of several other trade associations, started a regional trade publication, and produced/managed several trade and consumer shows.

Although out initial thrust was as an association management firm, because we were located in Los Angeles it became apparent that our ability to attract enough substantial association clients would be limited.  The California state associations were primarily located up north in Sacramento and San Francisco and the national associations were almost all back east in Washington, D.C., Chicago or New York.

The latter group was skeptical of a relationship with someone who had a two or three hour time difference; and to be honest, they were right.  It was a handicap.  So, the answer to me was to diversify and bring under our umbrella a number of added clients we could service in different ways to achieve added growth.

At the same time, we expanded the use of the title client to include ourselves, i.e., projects we could finance and produce on our own.  That was how I built what I humorously called “the smallest conglomerate in the world.”

All told, I had an interesting and multifaceted work life, which has led to a very comfortable retirement.

We employed and supported as many as 30 people at one point, until I decided I was becoming an administrator and didn’t have time to participate in our projects.  Not happy with that situation, I scaled back to about 20 people with a few less projects and found that more satisfying.

It wasn’t all easy and there were many ups and downs.  Being a pioneer by starting a new type of diversified business was a bit of a struggle.  At times I felt I was in a continuous fight.  Added to this feeling was a suspicion on the part of some prospects that there was something wrong or immoral about a profit-making entity trying to serve a non-profit organization.

So now back to the statement I made about not achieving my ambitions.  On further reflection, I should have said “We built a very capable team of people who, had we been located more geographically closer to where the major prospects were, we could have been bigger and served many more accounts.  We weren’t; however, all-in-all, we did quite well with what we had.

I short, I am very satisfied with what we created and accomplished, while at the same time felt we had greater unfulfilled capabilities.

Thanks for listening!


1 Comment

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One response to “A LIFE FULFILLED

  1. Randy Bauler, CEM

    Art – I just read your Oct. 14 perspective on “A Life Fulfilled” and wanted to share another perspective.

    Building your business and achieving all you are capable of from a business and organizational lens is one way to evaluate your years of hard work and accomplishments.. I only wish I had helped you build a bigger, more successful “global conglomerate” during my seven years with MAS – which stands for Marketing Association Services, as well as Mr. Art Schwartz.

    Along the way, however, you achieved a great deal of significant and perhaps more meaningful accomplishments:

    1. You trained and guided a large number of employees, with many going onto fulfilling and successful careers of their own based on what they learned from you while working at MAS.

    2. You guided several local, regional and national organizations on how they could significantly impact the industries and professional members they served. You helped most of your clients grow and thrive as for-profit or non-profit organizations, achieving more than many thought they could.

    3. You energized and brought together a scattered and disparate electrical industry in Southern California — certainly a huge accomplishment given the large geographic region where these companies and individuals worked.

    4. You helped build and create one of the largest machinery trade shows in the US, always focusing on improving the customer/attendee experience to grow attendance and thereby the exhibit floor.

    5. You launched a series of smaller shows that caravanned across the US, touching the lives of professional woodworkers and enthusiastic hobbyists. You brought enjoyment, education and new skills to many lives on cold, blustery winter days when the Woodworking Show came to town.

    6. You believed in the value of continuing education and professional certification — encouraging your employees and customers to always seek knowledge from credible sources. You supported industry organizations and believed in volunteering as a way of “giving back” to your profession.

    7. Perhaps most significantly, you earned the respect, admiration and love of the people you touched — association members, volunteers, Board members, business owners, show attendees, vendors and suppliers as well as your many MAS employees and their families.

    When you think about all the lives you touched and influenced in a positive way over many years, you can and should take justifiable pride and joy in “A Life Fulfilled.”

    Randy Bauler, CEM
    MAS Employee 1984-1991

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