By Mike Ackerman
DigiPay Solutions Inc.
We all meet individuals who seem to come along at just the right time and influence us in essential ways. Dick Graeber is one such person for me. He has been a lasting inspirational presence in my life.
Before I began my payments career, I worked at Pepsi Cola, where Graeber was General Manager in Southern California and one of the three creators of the "Pepsi challenge" marketing program. Graeber believed in supporting young people and gave me responsibility for all marketing, public relations and advertising for the Southern California region. I began the job in 1984, the year of Michael Jackson's sponsorship and just before Coke introduced the disastrous "New Coke" reformulation.
From Graeber, I learned to be assertive and pursue my goals; his guidance was uniquely bold and commanding. He also supported my passions and consistently pushed me to do my best, even when I didn't think I was ready.
Here are five lessons my mentor taught me:
In Dick Graeber, I see a great coach who led a team through a winning season. Our five-year plan to overtake Coke took only 2½ years to accomplish. Graeber enabled me to play a leading role in the Michael Jackson sponsorship, with a hands-on position that was central to our company's marketing strategy. Our Southern California location, the epicenter of the entertainment industry, was a key asset. We had product placement in several movies, including Top Gun, and dominant product rights at SeaWorld and other major venues.
Dick Graeber's guidance gave me a solid foundation for future success, with principles I've applied to my payments career. The value of having a mentor is the opportunity to learn firsthand from a professional. Mentorship is not a class. It's not, "I teach you and then you're done." It's an experience. And the greatest lessons come from being in the presence of someone who possesses the qualities you hope to one day embody yourself.
Mike Ackerman is President of DigiPay Solutions Inc., which specializes in high-risk, high-volume, card-not-present and business-to-business merchant services. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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