Ron Elgin is perhaps one of the luckiest people to ever live – and he knows it. He was fortunate to be surrounded by smart people with brilliant ideas, including his business partner, David Syferd, who first came up with the idea of starting their own advertising agency. Huckster tells the story of this womb-to-grave agency and the role Ron played in its success. Founded in 1981, Elgin Syferd was for thirty years a powerful advertising agency in the Pacific Northwest. Ron was also lucky or smart enough to marry “Belle Bonnie” so that she could keep him online when he needed to, to hire people smarter than him, and to have sense not to hire. assholes.
Lucky for us, Ron was also smart enough to write this book and write it well. He didn’t want to write a dry “How To” book, so he wrote this collection of stories about the history of his advertising agency, filled with words of wisdom on how to run a business, and also many stories. hilarious that will make anyone laugh, regardless of interest in advertising.
The story begins when Dave first suggests Ron starting an agency, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a business that is always as nice as me and that you are trying to be? ” I suspect Ron is actually very nice, but he won’t mind. Despite this, and setting aside the luck he had, it’s clear that he worked really hard to make Elgin Syferd a success from the start. In fact, he worked hard from a young age. As he tells us:
“I grew up living in a social housing project in Seattle that probably played a big part in my lifelong thirst to be rich. As a child, I helped our family wherever I could by collecting and selling bottles of beer to neighbors. yards, and finally, I graduated to kill rats at the Fisher Flour Mill for fifty cents each. I got my first hourly job in high school. The two longest were the change from graveyard to railroad as a yard clerk (also aptly named “mudhoppers”) and after school at a gasoline pumping and oil change service station. “
From there Ron went to college, interned at a successful advertising agency, made a stint in the service during the Vietnam War, returned to advertising, and eventually co-founded Elgin Syferd, bringing a great experience with him, as well as with a certain arrogance, a gentle heart and a great sense of humor.
The stories Ron shares on the ad are that rare blend of true entertainment and education. For example, I loved the story of the airplane ad he was convinced was great. The ad had an image of a plane taking off and a plane landing; Unfortunately, the customer told him that the plane looked like it had crashed. Not wanting to change it, Ron went to the airport to show the ad to the passengers on the plane and get their feedback. By the time he was done, a man threatened to kick his ass if he didn’t stop scaring people and Ron was eventually stopped by airport security. The lesson – never be too arrogant to listen to others.
I don’t want to rob you of the fun of laughing at the many other antics of Ron and his colleagues, but if you’re looking to learn anything from reading this book, Ron sums up his stories with many key points, such as, “There is a million ways to solve a particular problem ”,“ Doing a good job is not enough to keep good customers. Constant care, contact, cultivation and asking the right questions are essential ”and“ If an employee is reluctant to be replaced on any agency business, it may be time that the future of that person within the company is reassessed. “Some of these lessons are common sense, some are like light bulbs that exploded for Ron, and others are lessons learned hard from the mistakes he made.
Ron is serious about his business, but he isn’t above finding humor in everything, and you only have to read this book to believe the clients and whacko colleagues he has dealt with many times. One client invented a shield to prevent brain cancer from cell phones, and another decided to breastfeed her child during a presentation. Then there was the woman dying of cancer who wanted to work for the ad agency, without revealing what her full schedule was, and you’ll never forget Ron’s client and friend who thought he was. God. There were also lots of good times at advertising agency golf outings, boat parties, and fun business trips where Ron or a coworker sometimes had one too many drinks. I swear if I didn’t know better, I would have thought that the editors of NBC’s The Office were visiting Ron’s agency to get material.
Through it all, Ron rarely found himself in trouble – except with his wife. In fact, Beautiful Bonnie got Ron in trouble at times, such as when she decided, on a trip to the USSR, to help illegally buy infant formula for Jewish mothers, which could have led the couple to be shipped to a gulag. Even so, Ron continued to take trips with her – to China, Bangkok, Singapore, and the Kentucky Derby – all of it said in the book, and it was all hilarious.
Despite the humor, often self-deprecating, in these pages, I really appreciated the honesty Ron shows about his business, the mistakes he made, what he learned and the general sense of goodwill about the work and life it presents. Anyone in business will appreciate the stories and the lessons. Those involved in advertising or looking for a career in advertising will particularly enjoy this book – they will even find it revealing and enlightening about how the advertising world works. Huckster would make a perfect gift for anyone about to enter the business world as well as anyone who just loves a good story.