Ancient history: A start


First words

This is the first substantial technical document I wrote and produced (with my friend Rob Chamberlain). It  was a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) manual for CompuChem Laboratories in the Research Triangle of North Carolina. CompuChem needed the document to conform with EPA (and ISO) Quality Assurance guidelines for testing laboratories.

This document was written with WordStar (dot and Control commands) on a Sanyo MBC 555 with two disk-drives that held two, 5.25-inch floppies (360 KB). One drive was always loaded with the WordStar program disk and the second drive held the data disk. We strung together all 308 pages on a series of data disks.

The printer was first class: a 50-pound Diablo (the hot Xerox subsidiary) that punched out an astonishing 30 characters per second on a rotating daisywheel.


I think the final printing of the CompuChem SOP took about three hours.

Relationship marketing by snail mail

WordStar had a spellchecker (separate disk) and mail merge functionality, which I beat to death. Every month I assembled a prospect list garnered from trips to UNC’s Davis Library to find the names of company officers in Dun & Bradstreet and in various North Carolina business periodicals, Business: North Carolina and North Carolina Magazine among them.

I would then “compile” (read type) the names, titles and addresses in a source file and feed them into letter and envelop templates. My monthly goal was to send out 75 letters. Then began the follow-up calls. I learned as I went along about the importance of nurturing gatekeepers, reaching the right people in my target market and fostering relationships not only with people but with companies.

As I look back on the whole enterprise, I must have been nuts to think I could make a living by telling people that I could write and produce just about anything they needed. But I got (or made) some breaks and within a few years I  had lassoed ongoing gigs with Glaxo, Inc. (RTP), Harris Teeter, Inc. and it’s parent Ruddick Corporation (Charlotte, NC), Volvo Trucks (Greensboro, NC), and First Union Corporation (Charlotte, NC). As these good things happened, I also learned—through trials and errors— how to run a business, hire and manage a team of writers, and work with and direct graphic artists, video producers and printers.

In all of this, the most important thing I learned is that relationships matter most and that good, honest communications are the basis of a relationship. As well, although the mechanics of doing business have changed immensely since I started out, one thing has remained the same. Doing well in business means doing good—adding value—for your clients and customers.

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