Oct 18 2011
After 37 years, I’m moving into semi-retirement with the sale of the agency to my business partner. It’s time to go on to the third stage of life—having fun and enjoying one’s self.
I likely won’t be writing too many more of these blogs, but I thought I would take one of these final columns to share something that has made a huge difference in my life—that’s being a volunteer.
When I was a young man, I was active in the Boy Scouts and later at the district and national levels as a young adult. The committee of one local Scout troop asked me if I would consult with them on a leadership challenge. I had no idea at the time that they were looking for a new Scoutmaster to lead a group of inner city kids.
I carefully thought about it and the night before I had to give my final decision I had a dream that convinced me I should take on this ragtag band of kids.
Years later, one of those youngsters was looking for a college internship, which I was happy to oblige. I helped him find his first job, his second job, and counseled him when he was temporarily out of work and on the way to his third job. As the owner of a small start-up agency in the mid-90’s, I was appreciative of his business. As he moved from job to job, we earned more of his business. We retained the previous clients and added his new employers. Over the years, working with him has had a major impact on our agency.
Similary, in the late 70’s, I volunteered to run the placement bureau for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. I met a lot of folks over the next five years. As my term was up, I turned the job over to the head of a university PR department, with whom I had come to know through the association. Just three months after starting the agency, I received an RFP for a start-up trade association. The university PR head had been contacted for potential referrals, and he submitted our firm’s name. We got the job, and that small association grew five-fold over the years to become our largest client; I considered it our bread-and-butter client. That led to work with several other trade associations, for which we developed a specialty niche.
More recently, I joined a local community board and when we got no responses to a small RFP for communications work, our agency was asked to apply. So we did, and got the work.
One of the reasons I can be retiring at age 59 is because I’ve had good investment opportunities as a result of starting the agency. As I look back, I see literally millions of dollars that have come to the agency as a result of some simple volunteer work that led to future business engagements. I would never have guessed at the time the impact volunteering would have on my life. In some cases, it would take decades to realize. But in the end, I can link early selfless volunteering with great financial success. That was not the intent, but it clearly was the result.
So all of this is to say, when you’re asked to volunteer for a worthwhile project, to sit on a community board, or help with a professional association, jump right in. You may be amazed decades later at how it has positively impacted your life—through increased professional connections, new and long-lasting friendships, and unexpected financial success.
Ralph Yearick is CEO of Yearick-Millea, a full-service marketing communications agency specializing in business-to-business clients. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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