In 2005 we wrote a column in the gone, but not forgotten, Craftrends Magazine we called “Milestones.” It was about out 15th anniversary as a speaking team. Well, it’s four years later and that 15 years has become 19 – 19 years! That’s kind of hard to believe. Here’s that article from 2005, we thought you might like to read how we got our start together.
Milestones . 2005
The American Heritage Dictionary of the American Language, a book we rely upon heavily when writing our columns, defines a milestone as “An important event, as in a person's career, a turning point.”
This is our fifteenth year as Kizer & Bender – we’d guess that qualifies as a milestone, don’t you think?
Fifteen years. We certainly never thought that first time we walked onstage to present our very first “Retail Adventures in the REAL World™” keynote presentation that it actually would be the first of many. For that matter who knew that “professional speaker” was a real job? Back then neither one of us could have imagined we’d end up here. But here we are.
Fifteen years is a long time. Those few times we’ve been brave enough to watch the video of that first seminar we see two people who look sort of familiar. (See photo above.) Georganne has some BIG 80s hair and huge glasses. Everything was big back then. And she’s wearing a red suit – the first of many – that hangs at the back of her closet in hopes that one day she’ll be able to button it once again. And aside from the beard that he grew around 1993, Rich looks pretty much the same. The man doesn’t age. George swears that, like Dorian Gray, Rich has a picture in his closet that gets older while he stays the same.
There’s a clip hanging on the bulletin board in our office from a 1987 article entitled “In Praise of a Partner” written by Linda Queen and Wanda Zeagler. It reads: “Many of you don’t have partners. That’s fine if it works for you. You obviously are not among the ‘Shared Brain People’ who inhabit this Earth. We are and we are very comfortable, each of us, with our own portions of our brains.” Some people who read that quote don’t understand it, but we do, and that’s all that counts.
Partnership is a cool thing. Just in case you didn’t know, but were curious, we are married. Happily. Just not to each other, thank you very much. Rich and Diana have been married for 32 years, and Georganne and Rob have been married for 26 years; their kids have never known a world without Uncle Rich and Aunt Diana. George loves to tell about the first time Uncle Rich took then five year old Kate, and three year old John, to Toy’s ‘R Us, and told them they could have anything their little hearts desired. Of course, they went straight for the $2000 motorized cars. It took a lot of convincing to redirect their attention to the coloring books …
We’re polar opposites. Our office is a big rectangle that looks more like a living room than an office, with two carefully disguised work stations, and a big conference table in the center. Rich’s space is a creative mess. George’s looks neat as long as you don’t open her desk drawers.
Rich is always on the lookout for out next big move. George handles the details, figuring out how to make that “next big thing” actually happen. Rich’s business brain never turns off.; George flips hers off like a light switch the second she leaves the office.
Rich devours business books and publications like a madman. George reads anything she can get her hands on – she swears her American Express bill keeps the lights on at Amazon.com. George is in charge of pop culture, loading up on brain candy magazines before every flight, reading each one from cover to cover.
Rich prefers to focus on one thing at a time; George is the queen of multi-tasking.
There have been people along the way who have been there to make sure we shay on track. Retailers like Adrian Taylor, whose been there each of those fifteen years, encouraging us every step of our journey. We won’t hear from him for months, then one day some article or CD will appear in our mail box. He’s always looking out for us, or as he says, “Making sure we reach our full potential.”
We’re grateful to Don and Jane Marski, and Bob and Shirley Ferguson, who have also been beside us since the beginning, offering advice, council, and wine whenever we need it. Creative industry great, the late Catherine Kay came to our first presentation at the ACCI Show, and many that followed. We cherish the wonderful letters of encouragement she’d send to us after each presentation. And we can’t forget our good friend Bill Gardner, editor extraordinaire, who trusted us enough to give us this incredible opportunity to share our adventures with readers each month in his magazine.
As you can imagine, we’ve had some unusual times – like the time we flew to North Carolina and the weather was so bad it was 3 a.m. before we finally arrived at the motel. Rich hauled his luggage up three flights of stairs, only to find that his room key wouldn’t open the door. He climbed back down to get another one, which didn’t work either. The woman at the front desk was alone and wasn’t allowed to give Rich the master key. She had just had her hip replaced and couldn’t climb the stairs, so Rich carried her, and her master key, up and down those three flights. He slept fast and made it to our 7 a.m. seminar in plenty of time.
Funny thing about Rich: he always seems to get singled out for strange things, like the time we were in San Francisco, walking along Fisherman’s Wharf, when we stopped to watch street performer Ken Zemach. Ken performs on a seven foot unicycle – before we even knew what was happening, Rich was balanced on Ken’s back while he jumped rope, juggled various objects, and told non-stop jokes, usually at Rich’s expense. Ken’s a world traveler. The last time we heard from him he was performing in Iraq, headed for Afghanistan. Knowing Ken he’s making a lot of people smile.
In that first presentation we called ourselves “Retail Pathologists” because back then we studied the bones of dead companies to see what went wrong. We learned a lot and shared a lot, and tried to help retailers avoid the same pitfalls. But studying dead and dying companies was just too depressing so we took another path. Today we’re known as “Retail Anthropologists” and we study what retailers do to be successful. It’s so much more fun!
We’re grateful to everyone who has helped us along our 15-year journey, and we are grateful to the thousands of heroes we meet each year at conventions, and meetings, in seminars, and in stores. You, who have shared your wisdom and your stories, and who have always made us feel right at home. You have changed our lives, and we hope that we have impacted yours just a little. We’re looking forward to 2020, after another 15 years, when we will both be … 25!