September 7, 2011

On March 20, 2011, I published my own tribute to Weld Coxe, shortly after I learned of his death. A few months later, I was honored to curate a special tribute to Weld Coxe for the August issue of Marketer — the journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services.

But I thought that I should tell one more story about how Weld changed my life.

Weld Coxe sailing 09/1982
Weld Coxe on his sailboat, Block Island RI, 1982.

I first met Weld when I was 30 years old and the Business Manager in a young-but-growing architectural firm in San Francisco. We had been hit hard by the 1974 recession, and we were just digging ourselves out, trying to figure out how we could get more work.

I went to a conference on marketing in San Francisco, and Weld was a featured speaker. I was blown away. Not only was he an impressive speaker, but he literally had the answers that we had been seeking about marketing our services.

At the break, I nervously stood in line to offer my thanks to Weld. Imagine my surprise when he actually engaged in conversation with me! He wanted to know who I was and where I worked, and what I was doing in the firm. When he realized I was from SF, he asked me for the name of the best restaurant in town, and after querying him about his favorite cuisine, I named the most elegant, La Bourgogne. A few minutes later, I went back to him and mentioned a new little café across the Bay that wasn’t really known yet outside the Bay Area — Chez Panisse in Berkeley, opened by Alice Waters. He immediately asked me if I’d join him for dinner there. I was stunned. Luckily, I managed to get a coveted reservation and then had the opportunity to have a one-on-one with the guru of marketing.

 

Weld had a phenomenal gift for staying in touch — checking in periodically by phone or sending written notes. A year after we met, I became a partner in the architectural firm (renamed Robinson Mills & Williams or RMW), and Weld was one of the first to congratulate me, also putting my achievement in perspective by noting that I was one of perhaps 50 non-architects nationally who were owners in design firms. Just by saying that, he raised the bar for me, and I realized that I was representing colleagues who were on the same path, with an obligation to all of them and others.

But not long after our firm’s ownership transition, we began experiencing major hiccups. Our marketing coordinator, Gail Gabriel, had gone to The Coxe Group Marketing Coordinators Clinic, so Matthew Mills and I went to a Coxe Group seminar on practice management. Matthew was convinced that Weld was the right person to advise us, and he persuaded David Robinson, the other founding partner. We all learned so much through our work with Weld, but since he relied on me to participate in every interview and meeting, what I learned resulted in an exponential leap for my own knowledge and confidence.

At RMW, we moved forward with renewed momentum, but 1982 brought another recession and, ultimately, a major career decision for me. I had been thinking about law school, and I turned once more to Weld for advice. He invited me to come to Philadelphia to meet with Nina Hartung at The Coxe Group and then spend a weekend with him and his beloved wife Mary Hayden on Block Island — a once-in-a-lifetime experience. One week later, I accepted an offer to join The Coxe Group, and my life changed once again.

For more information about my experience in the world of architecture, please visit our Research page. I hope Weld would be pleased….