About Robert Bailey
College. Meetings with professors. Late nights. Some partying. Deadlines.
I was sipping coffee and getting ready to head to campus. My backpack zipped up easily. A good day—not too much. A short day ahead. My college roommate held up the Greensboro Daily News, our morning newspaper.
He pointed to the headline. I could see he was amused. “Do you know about this?”
It was the first article I’d ever had written about me. It was about investing. It was a soft new story. But it was about me.
I had made some money as a cashier at the local gas 'n go. I decided to open a brokerage account with my proceeds. A classmate’s father introduced me to the elegant and charming Georgia native, Tommy Ward. He was a top-floor EVP at Merrill-Lynch in Greensboro.
His high-up corner office window was a lens on all Guilford County. Green pine trees and red clay all the way to the mountains. Roads to-and-from the cotton mills. New modern offices were springing up. Ted Turner had predicted this: The South shall rise again!
Here was the past. A small southern city where Jessie Jackson was thrown from a lunch counter sit-in. Here was the present of farmland and horse farms beside global textile conglomerates.
The future? That was under my feet. I was blessed then, and now. I could go, can go, anywhere.
To this day I don’t know why Tommy was so patient with me. I suspect I amused him. If you read the article you will see that the reporter made me sound quite rich: “Rob now has holdings in four companies.” This cracked me up then. It still does. Holdings indeed. A few shares!
Something else occurred there.
I read about myself. And well… I got hooked. Somewhere between the newsprint and living I was within my own dream.
This early fascination with investing merged, uncannily, with politics. My candidate was a brilliant man and the longshot against U.S. Senator Jessie Helms for his seat. (The Conservative Helms was re-elected handily over the liberal McNeil Smith.)
The campaign carried me, like a '57 Ford truck with the original tires, to business journalism. Journalism took me, with little upgrade, to real estate investing. Real estate to brokering, both big city commercial and luxury residential. Wind in my hair—or so I imagined.
The concept of capital flow led interested me and led me to a crash course at The Wharton School (Arresty School) and institutional investment consultants. This included foundations, pensions, trusts, union funds, high-net-worth and family offices.
It did not take me long to become intensely bored with traditional returns. What interests me are asynchronous returns.
Doctor Johnson noted, “Where everyone thinks alike, no one thinks very much.” I early understood and appreciated this. But, I have seen too many people readily accept less than they might achieve. It is a life tradeoff many make: Security for satisfaction.
Unusual returns and success occur only through risk and conviction. And I would add, an abiding faith in our Lord.
Today—my business investment clients want more. Someone—ideally not ANY way. I encourage growth. They can be irrational and loud. My adrenals have become used to it.
I was 21 when I “shot the pier” (surfing under the Huntington Beach Pier) without a single razor-like cut against the barnacles that scale the broad concrete pilings. I recall being a nearly top speed on top of my bright red pintail surfboard—cutting a 12 foot wave. Right there at Huntington Beach that glassy green wave spit me out in a spray of icy California seawater.
The whole event took less than a minute.
Flying over the water back into the atmosphere--out of a clear pipe of moving water? One of the best moments of my life. I won. What a blast!
Today—talking with business ‘masters of the universe’ about their copy I can have a similar feeling. I’m dry and unscathed by any razor-sharp barnacles but I have to be direct (courageous) to make their copy work. The client’s success, not our writing moments, is the real test.
You’ll enjoy my writing process (see Testimonials).
It’s very productive for us to know about each other. I find the strongest results come out of collaborative work with individuals who are decision-makers.
There is one other not-obviously-relevant experience: Construction.
I have built and renovated homes and participated in large commercial development. The point? Bringing a design idea to material existence requires accuracy, political savvy, money-sense, and flexible thinking. I have these in abundance. Please don’t think you won’t need them.
Creative business solutions come from unusual places.
If we are going to beat expectations, following the pack is ill-advised. Financial and marketing disciplines elude many groups, including surfers. For me, a proud achievement from discipline is being co-founder of Surfrider Foundation’s New York City Chapter. All volunteer.
For a time it was the fastest-growing chapter in the world. And then, many of the new members were NYC-based investment bankers from Africa and Australia. It aligned my two worlds!
I have done what I thought was right whenever possible.
Even with a Master’s in Journalism, I returned to campus to study finance—Wharton. (Why NOT the nest?)
Another right thing: In a 24-hour period, after eighteen years with her, my 2nd wife, Teddy, and I got married and baptized. It looks like this marriage will take.
That is a joke. She's my cats' meow.
I buy copies of important books to share with people I meet. I have ended relationships that I felt were unhealthy for my family or me. That’s who I am.
In the summer of 2017, I completed my first script, “Pride.” The story is based on the true story of a corrupt lawyer and legal system, in this case, in New Haven.
The Wall Street Journal is still tracking the prosecution. I have begun writing the novelization to back up my screenplay.
The screen-writing process was among the hardest jobs I’ve taken on. That is because the writer must master dialogue to drive emotion and action and any suspense or twists. But I completed and registered it with the Writer’s Guild. I expect a producer to want it someday, I hope that’s soon.
Now I am working on another script and another novel. But what makes these self-assignments relevant to you is my commitment to writing and communicating.
Scripts take time, but the same patience and persistence also make for the best copy. I always plan to spend part of my client conversation discussing the process. There are two reasons for this. One, without this discussion the client may not appreciate what I have learned and am applying for their benefit. And secondly, some clients become excellent partners in the creative process.
One final thing.
I have been working with several clients for years. Their businesses are moving ahead in ways they never dreamed. But I did.
When I do my job as a copywriter—my clients imagine their business in new and fertile ways.
I suspect that is partly from having lived in Brooklyn. It’s a tough place with very solid, very generous people. My biggest lesson from Graham Avenue is the importance of reciprocating loyalty and kindness.
It was self-evident. As I fit in with the close-knit Italian families, they looked after me in new and surprising ways. Badda-bing.
Reciprocation of good intentions as a habit makes for good neighbors… and way-better business.
That applies to any neighborhood. And every business.
Copyright Robert M Bailey 2019 All Rights Reserved