Solutions for every walk of life. For example, our health (life expectancy has increased from about 50 to about 80 the past 150 years); our ability to connect physically (planes, trains and automobiles, etc.) or virtually (Facetime, Teams, Zoom, Duo, smartphones, etc.); or moral evolution (more opportunities for all people no matter their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.).
My first boss after college was one of those industrious, curious, relentless optimists. Howard Boasberg passed away peacefully last month at 87 years old after living a full life that included starting The Boasberg Company to compete from little ol’ Kansas City with PR and communications agencies 100 times our size from New York or Chicago. We worked on prestigious national and global brands in consumer products, pharmaceuticals, financial services, telecommunications, sports, healthcare and more. In all three phases, “Boasberg” was in the company name long after he retired because “Howie,” as he was affectionately called by colleagues, clients and the community, provided dozens of professionals the opportunity to be challenged, learn and grow. Many of us still stay connected and call it “the best place I’ve ever worked.”
Howie taught me a foundational lesson that I’ve applied throughout my professional and personal life. I was three months out of school and facing a significant problem with an unhappy client who demanded an answer in the next hour. The person I reported to was traveling and unavailable so with some trepidation, I reluctantly knocked on the president’s office door. Howie welcomed me with a big smile and wanted to know how I was doing? He knew I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t have a huge business problem, but he put me at ease quickly by asking about me.
I described the problem with as much context as I could give with my limited experience. He listened intently. I thought the next words out of his mouth would be something to the ilk of, “Well, here’s what we’re going to do…” or “Why don’t we…”
Instead he asked: “What do you think?” I was stunned. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t have the experience. I didn’t have an answer.
He said: “When you have problems, come with solutions.” He added that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have. What matters is that you give it thought first and come up with your own solution, and then talk to other team members and find the best solution together.
I passed on that principle to everyone I’ve ever led or hired including even those at the entry-level or interns. I told them they may not have years of experience, but they have a unique set of experiences drawn from their life, their family, their friends, interests and hobbies. And that had value, especially in the marketing profession where we’ve all been marketed to since we were four years old.
And I’m sure my colleagues passed it on too because so many wonderful people who worked with Howie are now in leadership positions at some of the strongest brands in Kansas City and nationally.
Howie lived his life focused on solutions, even when faced with life’s biggest challenges. When he had cancer, or the last couple of years when he had to have a portable oxygen tank with him at all times, he never stopped. He would tell me about his daily exercise regimen at our regular quarterly lunches. And he drove himself to lunch to meet me or legions of his other friends. He just kept moving.
It’s counter-intuitive but not accurate to say his legacy will live on in so many of us. It already has in so many of us for so many years.