While fulfilling my New Year’s resolution to purge a filing cabinet jammed with papers, I came across a tattered photocopy of an article about E-WRITE that appeared in the “Fast Forward” feature in the February 1997 issue of Working Woman magazine. Our business was only about six months old at the time, and we were thrilled to be interviewed for the magazine. But we weren’t thrilled when the article came out; we were stunned. What we thought would be a celebration of our forward-thinking woman-owned training business was, instead, a major mock-fest.
Apparently, the idea that we were charging four figures for a day-long e-mail writing course for 25 people seriously offended the author: “They get $2,000 for a day’s worth of advice on how to tighten sentences and shorten paragraphs on-line.” The piece portrayed us as snake oil saleswomen: “O’Flahavan and Rudick admit they have no technological expertise, but they sure know how to exploit the cyberboom.” Not content to belittle us herself, the author recruited experts to corroborate that our business idea was merely opportunistic. She quoted Joanne Serling, an account manager at Wilson McHenry in New York, skeptically stating “If you can’t write, you’ve got bigger problems than any e-mail course can fix” and Malcolm CasSelle, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who said “If you ride a fad, you can write your own price tag.” (You can download the 1997 article, which I’ve retyped, so you don’t have to squint at the image.)
Thirteen years later, this nasty article makes me smile with pride:
- We were right and Working Woman magazine was wrong. People do need, and do value, e-mail writing training. Our curriculum and our client list have grown. We’re thriving, even in tough economic times.
- In 1997, we didn’t even have business cards, but we did have clients. Only six months old, we were doing business with Lockheed Martin and Cable & Wireless. Not too shabby.
- The author compared us to “Mrs. Bunmaster, your tenth-grade English teacher.” Well, in a former career I was a tenth-grade English teacher. I was honored to be compared to one in 1997 and I am today.
- The author used quotation marks around the word expertise, as in e-write’s “expertise.” Well, expertise grows with time. In 2010, our expertise is real; we’re authors of a book on e-mail writing, and I’ll be giving e-mail-related presentations at three national conferences during the first half of the year: Annual Call Center Exhibition, HDI 2010, and the Government Customer Support Conference. No quotation marks needed.
- We shared page 16 of the magazine with Tony Bennett.
Do you have any interesting business artifacts from 1997 that you’d like to share? Sometimes, looking back is the best way to get ahead!
— Leslie O’Flahavan