I’d just unpacked everything and finished with all of the HR kinds of things and Ron came into my office, welcomed me enthusiastically and took me around to meet everyone. I was wondering who I’d be working with, and on what, as he walked me back into his office.
“I don’t want to pair you up with Sheila Berrigan (someone I once worked with) right away,” he said. “I want you both to be able to put some distance between Campbell-Mithun and here. And work with some other folks before I throw you back together on anything.
So let’s start with you reading up on the Bethel College Sociology Department. It’s a public service project that’s important to me and I expect us to help them and win awards on it. So go read up. You’ll be working with me.”
I was so intimidated. I remember thinking if we didn’t do something award-winning, I’d probably be forever doing janitorial work, if not fired. So I read up and made countless trips back to his office, expecting to sit down and concept with him.
I asked Pete Smith, who worked with Ron on several clients, if he was that hard to sit down with. “Ron’s head of the office and very busy. You’ll work with him, but you won’t get to spend much time. Best thing to do is concept alone, leave your ideas in his chair and ask him what he thinks. He’ll swing by, give you direction, offer thoughts of his own, but he won’t want you waiting on him to start.”
I worked the entire day and into the night. Scared to death of not being able to offer something remotely close to a great idea. I remember leaving a pile of things on his chair, some headline-driven, some visually-driven.
When I came in the next day, Ron was gone to an all-day client meeting. Diane told me Ron had been in early, looked through the pile and told her to tell me to get with Bob Barrie on some First Bank ads.
The next afternoon, he stopped by to say that the Bethel people loved the ad he presented, put his layout on my desk told me to write some good copy because it was going in the shows. He had taken what was a pretty good headline and turned it into incredibly arresting ad. He must have seen my jaw drop, as he laughed and said, “Wanted to see what you could do on your own because you can’t always depend on your partner to bail you out. Sometimes you have to bail them out.”
Ron Anderson, as I’m sure he was for everyone he came in contact with, did far more than make me a better creative person than I came into the office being, every day. He totally influenced my career in terms of his drive, enthusiasm, overwhelming optimism and amazing people skills.
Most importantly, he made me a better human being.