The Wit & Wisdom of Chairman Russ

In presenting these sayings of Russ Reid, we carefully considered the advice of Robert Benchley: “The surest way to make a monkey out of a man is to quote him.”
Nevertheless, we have often heard these proverbs, platitudes, dictums and bromides from the Chairman of the Board of the Russ Reid Company, and present them for your edification and amusement.
Some of these sayings are wise; some are witty; not all are original; all say something about the essential Russ Reid. So we present them in the words of the Chairman himself: “This stuff is like perfume; you need to sniff it, not swallow it.”

1 “Hello! I’m Russ Reid.” ~on walking up to strangers, potential clients, employees, maitre d’s, friends’ pets, etc.

2 “It’s hard to fall off the floor.” ~an optimistic statement about the success of a proposed new strategy, after the first effort has failed.

3 “He wouldn’t know segmentation if he met it in his porridge.” ~muttered under the breath when confronted with a self-styled direct mail expert.

4 “No good deed goes unpunished.” ~spoken to the wall after a conversation with someone who complained that the heavy mail response had taxed the endurance of the mailroom employees.

5 “The facts are friendly.” ~on how to explain a mistake to a client. Sometimes expressed simply as, “Whoops!”

6 “I’ve learned more from my failures than I ever have from my successes.” ~a sober reflection generally following the previous statement.

7 “We never really grow as long as we blame someone else for our failures.” ~an even more sober reflection following the previous statement.

8 “Handle it! Just handle it!” ~Russ’s version of Star Wars. A defensive weapon used, for example, in the face of computer problems. Always accompanied by hand movements—both hands in front of the body, brushing outward with a rapid movement.

9 “This is like trying to put socks on an octopus.” ~spoken in exasperation when a project has to be approved by a large committee.

10 “When you let someone treat you as less than a person, you’re selling your soul.” ~first uttered on his way home from school when his third-grade teacher took away his copy of Ad Age.

11 “That’s like going up the fire ladder without a hose.” ~when someone forgot to put the codes on a direct mail response card.

12 “There are some immutable marketing principles that can legitimately be used to promote the Christian cause. The greatest sales letter I’ve ever read is Paul’s letter to Philemon. He absolutely lays it on as to why Onesimus should go free.”

13 “Sometimes I feel we don’t have 25 years of experience. We have one year of experience 25 times.” ~spoken deliberately and to no one in particular when employees make the same mistakes he faced and solved years ago.

14 “Many times an entrepreneur destroys what he builds, because he doesn’t have the sense to know when to delegate and when to give up authority so that others can make it bigger.” ~Article 14 in the “Russ Reid Revised Confession of Faith.”

15 “If you really care about your employees, you’ll keep short accounts with them.” ~meaning, “Don’t forget to tell them they did a good job, and be honest with them about their failures.” ~also engraved on the bottom of the company’s monthly P&L statement.

16 “You can’t market the whole Gospel through mass media. But you can start where people are hurting and show them how Jesus Christ can move into that area and help them.”

17 “Once you lose your enthusiasm, you lose your integrity. And once you lose your integrity, you’re a con man.” ~on why he must be a partner with his clients and not just a vendor.

18 “This could be the best and most successful show we ever produced.” ~frequent closing statement in a Russ Reid sales presentation.

19 “There is no lack of money for God’s work. There is just a lack of clear articulation of causes.” ~a reflection on how much money God’s people might be willing to give if they knew about the need.

20 “You can’t be half pregnant.” ~spoken out of concern that implementing only half the project will result in no success at all.

21 “Watch my lips.” ~interpreted means, “I’m the only one who has personally signed on all the notes at the bank.” ~apparently uttered in the presence of Republican campaign officials who adopted it for their own use.

22 “My mother used to say, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Lord would return!’ And I’d respond, ‘Mother, I want to go to heaven only when I die.’ A few years ago I bought a computer company, and shortly thereafter I was heard to say, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Lord would return!’”

23 “Timing is everything.” ~while trying to build a computer company and waiting for the Lord to return.

24 “I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile, then rise to fight again.” ~on selling the computer company.

25 “You’re only dumb when you stand where lightning strikes twice.” ~in response to a recent suggestion that the agency purchase another computer company.

26 “Look, you came to us because we have resources and you don’t. My goal is that when we’re finished it won’t be the other way around. I want us both to be successful.” ~spoken to potential clients who want to know why the Russ Reid Company charges for its services.

27 “Oh, sure, you provide the ocean; we’ll provide the boat.” ~spoken to someone with no money, no staff and no plans, but a great idea which he wants Russ to execute.

28 “You can’t outgive God.” ~explaining why the company returns a good share of its profits to various causes.

29 “That man has the social skills of an aardvark. Let’s start there.” ~which is to say, we can’t make him something he isn’t; let’s accept him as he is.

30 “Process is as important as performance. Relationships are as important as results.” ~repeated slowly seven times after a client calls Russ personally to describe why the board might stop a successful program.

31 “Success is never final; failure is never fatal; it’s the courage to continue that counts.” ~actually, Winston Churchill said this a few years before Russ, but probably not as often. At the darkest hours of the company, well past midnight when all others had gone home or surrendered, fire came to his eyes, his jaw stuck out and he’d proclaim, “Success is…”

32 “We come into the world owing everyone. Our job by the time we die is to reverse the account.”

33 “I also like power.” ~explaining why anyone in his or her right mind would risk all, ride the red-eye, stand down the creditors, stand up to the bankers, and hazard one’s health to build a company.

34 “It’s bigger than I planned and better than I deserve.” ~on celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Russ Reid Company.

35 “Remember whose name is on the door.”

To view a downloadable PDF of this article, click here.