A few days ago, I had my last meeting with my client, mentor and good friend, Win Holden, who is retiring after an incredible career. It was one of those bittersweet meetings. While I am happy for him and his next adventure, I am saddened that I won’t have the opportunity to work alongside him as I’ve done for the last few decades.
I have known Win for more than 30 years. In fact, I was just 19 years old when I was interviewed by Win for my first job in advertising at Phillips-Ramsey. He reminded me recently that if I hadn’t lied about my age and my college status he would have never hired me. But, in his next breath he stated how incredibly proud he was of me and the remarkable career he helped nourish. That right there is the real legacy of Win Holden.
Win has launched dozens upon dozens of careers. There are so many people who owe him their first and even second jobs. Even more owe him an immense debt of gratitude for impacting their careers in the most positive of ways. There are businesses that have flourished due to Win’s humble influence. In fact, I often tell my staff how much of Win Holden is woven into the fabric of Off Madison Ave.
Some of the things I do as part of the culture of this agency including buying ice cream on a hot day or doughnuts just because is something Win always did at Phillips-Ramsey. Many managers may think these acts are trivial, but Win knew it was the small things that made the staff feel appreciated. He understood the importance of everyone at every level of the company contributing to the culture and success. When I’m overheard saying that a great idea can come from anyone at any time, it’s actually Win speaking. And me stealing.
Win also taught me an invaluable lesson about clients: great clients believe in you as much as you believe in them. Don’t ever throw those relationships away. Ever.
I remember once when Phillips-Ramsey represented a challenger brand. The client’s largest competitor called Win and asked him to represent them, which would have meant a significant increase in agency billings. Win’s response, “We don’t piss off a smaller client for a larger one.” Classic Win.
There are far too many lessons I learned from Win than one post can do justice.
So, let me say this, I think the mark of a great leader is not what he or she has accomplished, but what he or she taught to those around them and what was accomplished because of that teaching and mentorship. That is Win Holden through and through. He stands in the background and lets others take credit. He skillfully suggests the right course of action while making you think it was your idea. He is always learning from everyone regardless of how much or how little experience they might have.
In my last meeting with Win, with days to go before he officially retires, he was still helping strategically set the course for Arizona Highways magazine, a publication Win has carefully nurtured and grown. His focus was on the future success of the business, the loyal customers and the people, which is truly his legacy.
With a tear in my eye, I simply want to say, “Thank you, Win, for everything.”