“Inproooo…In-corp-or-ated!”

This is the story of acquiring a major project from AT&T and The Bell System (pre-breakup) and the partnerships that were made and broken and the money that was made by all. Project launched AT&T machine-to-machine communications fore-running a hundreds-of-billion-dollar annual business.

In 1962, after a decade of clearing my future path through the woods of six advertising agencies, I decided it was time to start “My Own Advertising Agency”.  I was solid at business, world experienced, had enjoyed some marketable good publicity and also could ‘write my ass off”. The only thing missing was my skill at not being able to draw. Since I had not the money to both start a company and hire a top-dollar art director, I was stymied. I needed an art director who, like me, would work on the come. If nothing came, so be it.

Then, one day, a five-line news story ran in Advertising Age saying that famed Art Director and Creative Director of Cunningham & Walsh,  Steve Baker, was planning to launch his own advertising agency.

I called him immediately. I told him who I was and he said “I never heard of you.”  I told him that I had heard a lot about him (which was a lie) and we would make a perfect fit. He said he was busy and talking with famous ad men about partnering but if I called back and left my name and number with his secretary, he would contact me if nothing else came up.

I was insulted but, I faced it. I could not draw and he was famous for it. So, instead of calling his secretary, I stopped by the concierge at his Manhattan apartment and left my phone number and two clippings from Carl Spielvogel’s  ad column in The New York Times, one was headed “MacManus Picks World Unit Head” and the other (about women in advertising) was headed, ”… but Hockaday Hires Man Who Helps Land Jantzen”. In both, I was the man they were talking about.

One of the two clippings left for Steve. Note: Still known then by my formal name, John H.

The next day, Steve called me and invited me to his “office” to talk.

It didn’t take us long. His “office” was a triplex penthouse at 5 Tudor City Place (Charlton Heston had the adjoining triplex). It was also his residence.  We would run our new agency from there. Name would be Baker & Byrne. Baker’s favorite printer would let us use their address on 42nd Street as our “official” agency location and would place our company plaque on their door and would have our mail hand delivered the few city blocks to our offices everyday. Appearances are everything and we did not want to appear to be a tiny two-man agency. We “thought” bigger than that. Our letterhead had 5 Tudor City Place as a sub-address for Baker & Byrne’s “Creative Penthouse” with the main address on 42nd Street. When people would call us at 42nd Street or drop into our 42nd Street headquarters, they would be told Steve and Jack  were working that day at “The Creative Penthouse” and that we could be reached there. It pays to be skilled at illusions and we both qualified. (See Post: “It’s not Hanes until ….”)

We opened Baker & Byrne three weeks after our first meeting. Our first account was a luxury bathroom fixtures company, named Paul Associates and  owned by two brothers who knew and were awed by Steve. Paul Associatess had  a planned annual trade budget of $5,000 and, at 15%, an annual income to B&B of $750 (with Steve hoping to help them to grow as big as Sherle Wagner).  As a base for growth, Paul Associates was a rice-grain sized acorn. Nevertheless, in barely more than one year, B&B  had a huge money tree growing upon our new, much-expanded premises comprising a 5,000 square foot floor in the tower at 295 Madison Avenue.

It came about this way.

One of the notable ad concepts of my partner, Steve Baker, was his creation of the “Let Your Fingers Do  The Walking” campaign for the Bell System Yellow Pages published by Ruben H. Donnely, a client of Cunningham & Walsh where Steve was creative director.  To this day, it is one of the most recognized and effective visualizations and slogans ever conceived. The promotion department people of AT&T, the parent company, knew Steve and admired his creative hand. This led, during our first six months, to a well-paying project in which we wrote, designed and  produced a rather elaborate slide film directed at presenting WADS (Wide Area Data System), to industry, follower of WATS (Wide Area Telephone System) and forerunner of what would become a hundreds of billions of dollars industry operated by scores of  spin offs of Ma Bell. AT&T was quite happy with our execution of this relatively small  project.

Then, on the first anniversary of the launch of Baker & Byrne, we held a party at “The Creative Penthouse” for clients, prospects, trade friends and an assortment of actresses and models. Two attendees were project directors from AT&T, Gene Lape (in charge of promotion) and Frank Armstrong (in charge of construction). The party lasted into the late evening but Gene and Frank stayed on into the early morning. After the influences of alcohol, the friendly models and our creative charm, they said they wanted to talk to us privately. They did.  They told us that they were working on a very big project, too big for us, in which AT&T and the 40 Bell companies wanted to take a major step forward in communications service. They would like our thoughts, as a favor to them, even though they felt we were not up to the requirements for handling the project. The Bell Ssytem was rich with one-of-a-kind men. Gene Lape, for example,  was a true World War II hero, awarded a Navy Cross, for his action as a dive bomber pilot helping sink  the treaured Japanese Yamato, the largest battleship ever built. So I was honored to have them asking us for advice. (Later, Gene wrote his memoirs in a fact-based novel, Blood On The Rising Sun.)

The Creative Penthouse where ideas and deals were created for Baker & Byrne.

Although AT&T had a monopoly on voice-to-voice communications (86% share in the United States), they trailed RCA, Western Union, Collins Radio and others in machine-to-machine communications. So they had set aside a budget to support a promotional concept that would awaken the giant potential of AT&T, often referred to as a “Sleeping Giant”. They had narrowed the field of potential partners in the project to the great Disney organization, MGM, their advertising agency, N.W. Ayer & Son, and a pair of specialized “big project guys” named Bob Widener and Ted Mills who were finishing up the creation of the “ride” at the AT&T  Pavillion at the upcoming  1964 World’s Fair.

Aided by the lubricating influence of Stolichnaya, I started waxing (eloquently) about the way I would see AT&T  communicating with the CEOs and  communication heads of the United States 500 largest companies - not as a maternal Ma Bell pontificating from its power base, but as a partner in everyone’s future. I said AT&T should deal with these customers on a one-to-one basis, that the contact should begin before attendance at whatever the event and continue for the rest of the customer’s business lives and CEO’s wives should be part of the communication and so on and on. Rather then getting bored and leaving, Gene and Frank became rather  stirred up by this line of  thinking (about the “customer” before the “technology” and “about the “man” before the “title”)  and, by the time they were leaving, promised to appeal to the AT&T Marketing Board to add Baker & Byrne to the list of those soliciting their monumental project.

I’ve enjoyed many an unfulfilled promise made during nights with Stoly and friends. This was not one of them. It appears that they were still impressed the next morning after the bracing effects of a couple of coffees. Frank called late the next afternoon and said he and Gene had been able to make their appeal to the Board that morning and that he had just heard back from them.  Baker & Byrne were added to the “solicitor” list. After passing to each other whatever was the equivalent then  of “high fives” today, Steve and I took a collective gulp and looked at the task ahead.

We had two weeks to prepare and present our case. There were no rules and no guidance given us other than for us to show the AT&T Marketing Board the most effective way for AT&T to position its growing machine-to-machine communications services in the new Computer Age. Industry had grown to depend upon large IBM mainframe computer installations wherever they located a major plant. For example, if Boeing had two plant locations, they needed two mainframes, each costing millions of dollars. The Bell System wanted to replace all those duplicated computers with high-speed transmission links to the primary computer that would cost its customers far less than the duplication of IBM hardware.

We had no information as to what Disney was proposing or MGM or the agency, NW Ayer, or Mills and Widener, who had a Big  foot in the AT&T door through their highly sophisticated NY World’s Fair exhibit contribution. We assumed a major TV and print  business-oriented advertising campaign might be recommended by the agency and a superior industrial film from MGM and likely that Disney would pitch a location at Disneyland with a high-tech robotic presentation to business.  A similar multi-media environment concept might be proposed by Mills and Widener whose 1964 World’s Fair production for the Bell System was created as a chair ride through a highly imaginative presentation of  the history, present and future of telecommunications, with some 50 scenes containing 3-dimensional impressions, utilizing motion pictures, stage settings, lighting, multiple screens and optical illusions. It had taken nearly three years in the planning and was nearing completion as they were pitching the new project.

But, we were not sure of anything.

Steve and I exchanged thoughts for a day or two and zeroed in on what we felt was the approach that got us in the running and might even win the prize – the  project. We conceived of a permanent,  technologically advanced seminar environment which would continue to function for a decade or more. The CEO’s of the top business customers of each of the 22 associated companies in the Bell System would be invited for a day. This would include heads of industrial giants like U.S.Steel, General Motors, Procter and Gamble, Boeing, etc.  The Information Programming (IP) managers would come for three consecutive seminar days for an extended introduction with  details of the new AT&T data communications technology. The seminar would present case histories and simulated case histories of solving business data management problems through new communication links. We would have the data-speed equipment, itself, communicate from the floor of the seminar to filmed case histories on the seminar screen.   But, more importantly in concept, the invitation to attend would begin an ongoing relationship with attendees, starting with a formal invitation that was accompanied by a separate note to the executive’s family,  apologizing for taking him away for a day (or three) and explaining, in layman terms, the significance for his future, his company’s future, his family’s future and the entire nation’s future, of the new technology of communications. Timed to his visit to our seminar, a cheerful bouquet of flowers would be delivered to the attendees home as a “Thank You” from Bell to the executive’s wife (for letting us take him away for a day or three). Immediately after his return from the seminar, he would begin to receive monthly data technology updates from the Bell System as well as personal notes from the Seminar staff that had conducted his classes.

We had ten days to put it together, combining Steve’s inventive graphics, my logical words and a series of architectural elevations of the seminar environment from  architect, Paul Wrablica, who had volunteered to work with us on speculation for soliciting this prestigious project.

As one would put it today, we busted our balls, and, as we thought back in the 60s, we didn’t really believe we  had “a Chinaman’s chance in hell”. At the time, AT&T and the Bell System was the best known and, perhaps, the largest company in the world.  Our competitors were two giants, Walt Disney Studios and MGM and AT&T’s primary advertising agency, NW Ayer & Sons, and a small company like us, Widener and Mills, who had four big feet in the door as they were just completing a multimillion-dollar exhibit for AT&T at the New York World’s Fair. We were two guys and a gal, named Rita Kasky, working out of a Tudor City apartment. C’mon!

Making a ten-day story short, we finished our preparation just about two hours before we carried it to Ma Bell headquarters, the AT&T Building at 195 Broadway, and faced a rather mature jury of 12 powerful department heads who would judge our proposals. I did most of the talking, Steve did most of the showing. We felt a bit naked and unknown. Our two friends, who had supported our appearance, were not high enough up the corporate ladder to qualify for this committee.

Nevertheless, the group proved to be cordial, perceptive in their comments and questions, and after the two-hour ordeal was done, very  gracious in congratulating us on our efforts and thanking us for our interest in their future. It’s nice to be smooched by those who could crush you. We left feeling quite pleased with the meeting and our effort and even a bit hopeful that we had a chance.

A week later, a time when we were quite sure that Ma Bell had passed us by, I left Steve’s apartment, now known as The Creative Penthouse, and took 6:05pm New Haven RR train to Stamford, Connecticut where I lived. I got home at 7:00pm. 45 minutes later, I got a call from Steve, He was excited and oozing urgency.

“Jack,” he blurted, “you’ve got to come back to the city. Now. Right now.” I said, “Whaa?”

He went on to explain. He had just received a call from Bob Widener, our competitor. Widener reported that he had just heard from Jim Ryan, the Public Relations Director for AT&T. The voting had ended in a tie between our two companies, they wanted Widener & Mills for their technological skills and Baker & Byrne for their marketing insights. He said, unless our two companies could get together as one, that the competition will be re-opened and more solicitors invited to present with no guarantees for anyone.

Bob and Ted wanted to meet with us at anytime that night so that we could hopefully present a solution the next day by hooking up together.

I was in my car in five minutes, and since there were no trains for an hour, drove into the city at a pace consistent with the urgency in Steve’s voice.

Widener and Mills were at the Creative Penthouse when I arrived. Bob did the talking. He repeated what Steve had summarized and then said – “If we go in together, we will have all the power – nobody who had voted for either of us will be able to fight our demands. We must stand strong. I believe our contract should be that each of us should personally receive $100,000 plus a chauffeured limousine with phone (big thing in those pre-cell-phone days), so that we are always in touch, and that our company gets a 10% profit mark-up on everything it contracts for as well. AT&T would pay for all our expenses starting with forming a company, leasing offices, office furniture and equipment, paying employees, pencils and paper – everything, and it all gets marked up 10%.

I thought “This man Widener, looks like a hawk, and swoops in like one – this time for the kill at AT&T”.  We, at Baker & Byrne had been thinking of receiving a 15% commission on our work (we had not shaken that advertising agency man mentality) plus expenses. Bob’s concept, even though sharing the project with the two of them, would make Baker & Byrne at least twice the income that we had anticipated with, theoretically, half the management responsibility.

It only took another minute for us to come up with a corporate name, Inpro Incorporated, short for information programmers. This was early 1960s, that name and the concept was spanking new at the time.

Bob volunteered to call Jim Ryan first thing in the morning. He was sure Jim would be able to clear it with the committee and, in truth, Jim was in charge of the operation and the budget, the committee was assembled from various divisions of AT&T only to select the firm to do the job.

We agreed.

The next morning, Steve called me in Connecticut at 8:30am. He had just heard from Bob who had spoken to Jim Ryan and said, “Everything is Go.” Our next task was to find offices (which would be expensed to AT&T), present start-up  bills, figure out which of us would be responsible for what and put the details into a contract for AT&T. Wow! Easy as that.

Not long after that morning, we found out that Widener and Mills  had not told the exact truth. The exact truth was that Jim Ryan had called Bob Widener (who he liked and enjoyed working with on the World’s Fair project) and told him that he was sorry to report that  Baker & Byrne had been awarded the project by the committee. Bob, after a moment of dismay, had had a moment of brilliance and said, “Jim, what if we and Baker & Byrne got together as one company, wouldn’t that be better assurance to Bell of a successful project?” Jim replied, “Sure, Bob. But, I cannot go around the Committee to make deals of any nature. My instructions are to notify Baker & Byrne by tomorrow,  start of day, that they have won the competition.” Bob replied, “But, if you hear from us before then?” Jim said, “That would be within the rules and I suspect that all would be satisfied that the experience of you and Ted would still be available to us.” Bob ended the conversation, saying, “I’ll be back to you before 9am.” Then,  Bob called Steve with his less-than-exact story, and Steve called me.

The rest is history.

Sometimes being lied to is not all that bad.

Nine days later, Inpro was incorporated, a one-year lease was signed, and we had opened our new offices, complete with rental furniture, high in the tower of 275 Madison Avenue, 5 blocks from the Creative Penthouse. The Bell System was in a hurry and everything was billable. Each of the four partners had a large, four-windowed office, and there were eight other spacious offices to house our staff and visiting consultants from the Bell Telephone System. With the urgency of our image, Ted Mills hired an associate producer from Chicago by the name of Ron Michaels. Ron’s first job? To find just the right image and voice to be the Inpro receptionist. After 40 interviews in four days, Ron introduced us to Sybil whose  highly distinct, very-extended,  South-African-english-accented,  pronunciation of our prestigious new name … “Innn-prooo-Innn-corpp-poraaa-ted!!!” became our trademark. We were not to be your father’s information programmers.

The four equal partners each had a story to tell or to be told about them. Steve was a famed art director and author of a number of humorous books (How to live with a Neurotic Dog;  How to Live with a Neurotic Cat, How to Play Golf in the Low 120′s ((with photography by the to-be-famed  Howard Zeiff)), and most recent at the time, How to Live with a Neurotic Wife (See “It’s not Hanes until…”).

By the time of Inpro Incorporated Steve’s book on dogs had been translated into 12 languages including Chinese where dogs were often dinner.

Ted Mills was a network television writer of fame and had been recently given the Peabody award for his coverage. His wife was a famed French chanteuse, Genevieve, who was best known in America for her dozens of witty interviews on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show. Ted Widener was a super-telephone man, strong in technology, brilliant in convincing the Bell System to get him to consult on projects, owner of 15 phones in his apartment and of the first Girl-O-Disk which permitted him to search out desirable dates by choosing from many catalogued categories such, as age, height, sexual preferences, choices of type of entertainment and/or dining establishment. I was not nearly so well-known as the others but for my age had a number of conquests in business and socially, so bore the promise of more fame ahead.

Each of us were given our slice of the project to direct. Steve would be in charge of the creative direction and the design and art direction of the films and printed materials. Ted would be in charge of all writing and message content. Bob would direct the selection of technology including presentation equipment and Bell System equipment that may be incorporated in the presentation. Jack was to be in charge of construction of the selected seminar environment.

None of us was to be alone. The Bell System and its marketing arm, AT&T, had people fully capable of producing the entire project themselves. But, Ma Bell was rightfully nervous about public impressions and accusations of its existence as a monopoly. After all, it controlled some 84% of all voice communication business in America and not much less than that in other countries. So, it was a clear company policy that anything Bell can do, Bell will pay somebody else to do while providing salaried overseers to make sure they do it to Bell standards.

Within a week, twelve Bell System and AT&T executives had been assigned to our case. Four were from Bell Labs, with all the inherent genius that came with that employment and ability to provide all the technical knowledge that Inpro could ever need. It was a bit nerve-racking, I’ll admit, when one Bell Lab scientist, while reviewing a highly detailed and indecipherable mathematical formula, nudged his Bell associate and said, “Look, this formula scan’s in the same meter as John Donne’s “The Flea”. Most intimidating of all was, the partner understood this convoluted relationship between poetry and math.

Gene Lape was back on board. As promotion director from AT&T, he would work on the seminar promotional literature with Steve. He was normally in charge of scores of print productions a year for the 22 Associated companies in the Bell System. AT&Ts  chief writer of its hundreds of training documents would sit with Ted. And, AT&T’s exhibit director, Frank Armstrong, would work with me on construction (for which I was most grateful since, other than contracting out two family homes, I had never been involved in construction before).

Inpro Incorporated was on its way – but not on its own. Thank God!

By the end of the first week in our bustling new quarters, the project was fully outlined and work begun. There was a sense of urgency that was placed upon us from the first clear definition of the project by Jim Ryan.

In a week, we had determined that the project would be called The Bell Data Communications Seminar and that it would be located centrally in Chicago at the top of a new building identified by Illinois Bell and located at 40 East Wacker Drive. There would be a 12,000 square foot facility of offices, reception, kitchen and Data Communications Library surrounding a hemisphere-shaped 5,000 square foot, 15-foot high presentation room. The room would contain 25 automated arm chairs for the guests who would be facing a 120 degree wrap-around screen 8-feet high and  48-feet wide. Below the screen were to be paneled walls, the panels would rise up under the screen during certain moments and Bell System equipment, such as reel-to-reel data speed machines, would silently roll out into the room and interact with the program being shown on the panoramic screen. And, we had employed the architectural firm of Becker & Becker to work with us (with apologies to Paul Wrablica).

We were to create three  60-to-90 minute feature films presenting the new age of machine-to-machine communications as well as twenty-two film and/or slide film case histories of successful early applications, one case from each of the 22 Bell System associated companies. To present this communication story, we would utilize the most advanced presentation  techniques. We were to import three 35-mm Norelco-Phillips water-cooled projectors from Holland. They would be the first water-cooled projectors ever installed in any theater in the U.S.A.  And, to produce the maximum impact of the slide films, we would install eighteen Teleprompter Random-access automatic projectors, centrally controlled to work in conjunction with each other and with the story being told.

All this planning was completed by the first week of January, 1963. The sense of urgency? AT&T management had invited the executive vice presidents of all 22 Bell divisions to attend the first complete presentation on May 15th, 1963. In no way was the AT&T service company going to be embarrassed by asking all these highly important system executives to change their plans due to its inability to complete the task on schedule.

When Inpro Incorporated protested that it was being asked to produce a 12-month production in four months and a week, the response was, “Don’t worry, Ma Bell will pay for the overtime.”

We didn’t worry. Ma Bell paid.

To understand the dollar values in this urgent project, I will translate the 1963 U.S. dollar value into 2010 U.S. dollars in parentheses. Thus,  $1 in 1963 equaled $7 in 2010. The four partners were each to be paid $100,000 ($700,000) above their job expenses,  regardless of the time the project took. Inpro was to be paid 10% profit on all the expenditures (including overtime)  it contracted whether in excess of budget or not. Thus, the more we spent, the more we made. It does not sound like a very good contract for AT&T. But, in truth, we were four men so dedicated to Ma Bell and the project that nothing any one of us ever did was intended to inflate Inpro’s income or our own.

The projected budget was $3.5 ($24.5) million but, by completion with overtime,  it totaled $6.5 ($45.5) million with $650 thousand ($4.5) million for Inpro’s guaranteed profit.

275 Madison Avenue began to bustle day and night and weekends, too. Four writers, two designers and two photographers were hired to work under Steve and Ted in the film and slide film productions. Each of the 22 associated Bell companies worked upon providing us with story and support materials of its best machine-to-machine case histories. These would be assembled, embellished and produced for elaborate presentation on our 17-projector Teleprompter system. Ted and Steve “went Hollywood” creating three feature-length, wide-screen films telling the story of the history, of the present of and of the future of machine-to-machine communications and the role the Bell System had played, was playing and intended to play. Inpro’s task did not end at creation and installation. We were in charge of the entire program, This meant we had to write the one-and three-day scripts for the two seminar structures. It also meant we had to train the Bell System personnel who would staff the seminar environment from the day of launch. It also meant we had the responsibility to select, from the Bell System personnel data base, those employees who we felt were best suited to join the Ball Data Communications Seminar Team, interview them and authorize their employment through AT&T. There would be one seminar manager, one assistant manager, four seminar leaders and four assistants to these leaders.  All would come from the screening and selection by Inpro. There would also be a telephone operator and three clerical assistants. These fourteen people would comprise the permanent party. We had quite a few lives in our hands. We had a lot to do. But, remember, we also had a lot of skilled help from our client.

Most of the work on content, from the first draft of a slide film to word-for-word training of the seminar leaders presentations, was done in New York at our headquarters, or occasionally at AT&T headquarters at 295 Broadway.

3 partners stayed in New York City and worked on the program. One, me, with AT&Ts construction specialist, Frank Armstrong, left New York for a four-month relocation in Chicago. Our job was on-site construction and, along with Becker and Becker, contracting the General Contractor and checking credentials of and the work of every sub-contractor. We had two problems; one, the quality of the job and two, the time in which it had to be done. The architects had begun their plans the day after AT&T awarded us the assignment. A week later, these became more detailed and adjusted to the specific environment once the site at 40 East Wacker Drive in Chicago had been contracted.

The complex part, where no cookie-cutter plans could apply, was the seminar presentation room which would have a curved wall of 120 degrees (2/3rd of a hemisphere) that would carry the wrap-around screen, behind which would be eight curved panels, seamlessly joining, which would be raised individually, automatically and silently at certain moments of the presentations. At these moments, a data speed, teletype, facsimile or other communication machine would roll out, equally silently, on tracks hidden in the carpet of the room. The panels would close behind that machine before it would turn on automatically, reacting to some content of the projected film or of the seminar leader’s dialogue. Automation technology had developed to the point where all this was quite possible but the pressure upon perfection was placed upon every trade involved in the construction.

The Bell System wanted to “Show ‘em, not Just Tell ‘em” that the Sleeping Giant was up to “data” speed and as modern as the IBM whose advanced generation of information would be matched by Bell’s advanced transportation of it throughout the business world. Any stumble, any slip, any malfunction, anywhere on any day of any seminar was totally unacceptable. This was not a voice-to-voice project where the Bell System was King and ruled benevolently as Ma Bell. This was a machine-to-machine project where Bell was the New Boy on the Block and from the country, at that. The entire purpose of our task was to wipe away that image from the moment of receipt of invitation through the process of attendance and continuance through a lifetime of communication follow-up.

Any slippage could erase the effect of that conversion.

In New York, virtually all the people required to work extreme hours were entrepreneurs without union bosses to protect them. And, they were paid well for their work. Enthusiasm was high and so was the energy.

In Chicago, there was a fundamental difference. This was organized an organized city. All those involved in building construction,  metal workers, steamfitters, electricians, ironmongers, carpenters, and on and on:. All had unions. All had families. All spent their weekends with them. All believed that a promised delivery date meant “sometime around then, give or take”.  It was Frank Armstrong’s and my task to give these people a sense of mission, a sense of a greater purpose for the greater good. This was a time to put away old habits and reap the rewards of a historical job well done – serving the greatest company in the world, AT&T, with its greatest purpose,  to speed world-wide processing of data in the burgeoning Information Age.

We did do a pretty good job of it, by showing our concern for each union member, special concern for each union foreman, by giving small gifts of appreciation, and by devising contests between companies and teams to see who could “beat deadline” and so on. But, near the end of the project when the electricians were getting triple time for working Sunday nights, we had one group who had not kept up the pace.

American Board Crafts was a Chicago high-precision, high-quality, woodworking company filled with Scandinavians. These people had no union but had a great sense of dignity and rights. They worked hard. They worked late. They worked with great skill and craftsmanship. But, they never worked weekends.

This became are greatest completion issue. With four weeks to go, the seminar paneling had fallen behind schedule. To catch up, we needed at least three weekends of full-time work from all the righteous Scandinavians.

Frank and I struggled to find a solution. We thought of all the factors of argument and seemed stymied until I said, “Let’s think “Chicago” who gets things done best in Chicago?” We understood each other. I had not been close to this supplier. Frank, having been a carpenter had developed a very good relationship with the aging owner, Pietra,  almost a Pietra/Father and Frank/Son bonding. One time when he needed to pressure Pietra for weekday overtime schedules, he made up a story.  “Pietra, the company responsible for this project is INPRO, have you heard of them?” “No!” “Well, in New York you would have. They are Big, Powerful, they get big things done fast, and nobody likes to stand in their way. So, Peter, I would like you to build a box from yellow pine planks about six-feet by three-feet and two-feet deep and keep it here for me.” “Why?” “Because if I don’t finish on time and Inpro fails in its promises, that’s what they’re going to put me in!”

So, Frank and I thought “Chicago”. I visited the hotel haberdasher and bought a black shirt and a white tie and a black fedora. I already had the black shoes and Chesterfeld coat. Then, Frank called Peter and requested that he arrange for us to visit the shop. He said Inpro wanted to visit with  each woodworker on the job and try to convince each one to put in some weekend time. Peter responded with considerable hesitation, “OK, Frank, if you say so.”

Here is how a typical Inpro conversation went from Inpro’s side.

“Glad to meet you, Heinrich. It is such a good thing you do and with such skill and dedication. You must be very proud. And, your family, they are very proud, too, eh. Of you, Heinrich, for having come all the way to this strange country and this strange city, and have such a good job, and  yet still live within your old-country pride and principles, eh. You have kids, Heinrich? I thought so. Well, summer is coming and wouldn’t it be nice to send them to camp or take them to the old country on vacation? Of course, it would.  But, that takes extra money. Well, you are going to love Inpro for this, Heinrich. You can make a lot of extra money during the next three weekends just by coming here to work and helping finish this job on Inpro extra-pay time. You, see, Heinrich, Inpro is NEVER late, that’s why we are so successful in getting jobs done in THIS country where WE grew up. Do this as a FAVOR for Inpro and your family and you will never regret it. Kapisch, Heinrich?

Underneath the delivery of the words was an implication that Heinrich better learn that in “Our Country”, things are done “Our Way”, not any other country’s way…………………………… or else!

The strategy worked. The carpentry was on time. The work was superb. Fear did not affect Heinrich’s and his associates’ steady hands. Frank and I never told our New York partners in the project about our “Chicago” strategies. Bell continued to believe that everyone was breaking their backs for Bell because they recognized “What was good for Bell was good for the country.” (Riiight!)

Now, nearly a half century later, the dollar amount we, back then,  projected would be the future value of the market for data communications (and suspected, then, that  we might be exaggerating) has proven,  in reality, to be a business many, many times greater than our own Greatest Expectations, totaling over $300 billion dollars annually and growing exponentially. It makes we Inproians feel we never charged enough for helping get it underway.

The Bell Data Communications Seminar

More stories will follow, including the contribution of Jim Henson who produced a Robot Muppet for participation in our educational program,

(Copy and paste url below into your browser to see Jim Henson-created “Robot” (http://techchannel.att.com/play-video.cfm/2012/1/23/AT&T-Archives-Robot)  shown at the Bell Data Communications Seminar.)

http://techchannel.att.com/play-video.cfm/2012/1/23/AT&T-Archives-Robot

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8 Responses to ““Inproooo…In-corp-or-ated!””

  1. Ron Michaels February 28, 2011 at 1:26 am #

    Ah, yes! INPRO! I was just 25 years old and you guys were my ticket out of Burnett in Chicago and into the Apple! What a ball. Widener kept me up all night for many nights. We’d go to Sardi’s East and eat Boconi Dolce while he tried to beat me at solving the Chinese Rings puzzle I had manufactured to illustrate the “Seven Basic Criteria.” Remember that? When I was invited to the seminar site in New York, I would have lunch, sneak the puzzle from my plate to my lap, dismember it in the blind, and gently pitch the two separated pieces in the middle of my lunch plate to the astonishment of everybody there. It was Magic! What silly fun!

    Thanks for the memories! And the education. I went on to create a bunch of successful companies that I also took public. Bob and Steve and Ted and Jack. What a ball! (The South African receptionist I hired was pretty cute, too!)

    Best regards, Ron

    • Jack Byrne February 28, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Ron,
      What a pleasure to hear from someone in the mix over half a century ago! Inpro was a happening, indeed. As you can ascertain from my blog posts, I have had a mixed bag of experiences since: lots of CLIOs, lots of death threats (Russia), lots of successes, lots of failures. So you discovered our South African receptionist whose voice answering the telephone gave this blog its title. Steve is gone so are Ted and Genevieve (leaving behind actress Alley Mills) but I have no idea of the condition of Bob. Do you? Incidentally, your Stratford Group might have an interest in a developing product I have been consultant, stockholder, to for 20 plus years. It is a 3-D visualization system, I named LifeVision which requires no glasses. Plenty of opportunities along the way, plenty of mishaps, current court battles, but a hot potential if one can take the heat. Regardless, I would love to keep up some contact with you. Perhaps you could fill me in on NYC Inpro with some of those intellectual interchanges that occurred (like the 7 rings) while I was struggling through Chicago construction trades with Frank Armstrong. This blog post (someday to be chapter in a book) would love some more details of the depth of this program and the unique group of people involved. Thanks again for the contact.
      Jack

  2. Ron Michaels February 28, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Great to hear from you, too! Ted and I got close because we both came from broadcasting (I started as a jazz and classical disc jockey when I was a freshman in college). After graduation I worked in Chicago as a disc jockey and announcer before getting drafted. I didn’t know Genevieve very well. We had a pleasant dinner now and then but that was about it. I thought she was charming. Most of the time it was Ted telling war stories about NBC and, since I had worked while young for both NBC and CBS in Chicago, my “war” stories were relatively unimpressive compared with his. I started as talent. And I was a popular young guy. I was leading a pretty wild life at a very early age. I was paid an unconscionable amount of money while living in an apartment on the Near North Side. It wasn’t until I got into sharing program and commercial production (in both film and videotape) stories that Ted perked up and things began to hum. We became pretty good friends.

    I just looked up Alley on the Internet and discovered that I had seen her for years and never knew she was Ted’s daughter. She was 11 or 12 when I started at Inpro. I only saw her two or three times in those years. Today she’s married to Orson Bean (I think). A personality from my early years in New York television production — specials for ABC and agency commercials as a house producer at Videotape Center.

    I first met you four guys at The Creative Penthouse. I was in town from Chicago for a visit with a friend of mine from the army. He lived in a walkup on Madison at about 68th. I was on my way to the airport when a friend of his phoned and asked me to stop by her office first. After 20 minutes, as I rose to leave, her phone rang. She said, “he’s standing right here.” It was 5pm she wanted me to answer a call she just received from The Creative Penthouse where they seemed to be looking for a guy with my background.

    Her name was Verche French. She was a head hunter with her own firm. My buddy wanted me to move to New York so he had called her to see if she could get me a job offer in my last 2 hours in town. She gave me your address in Tudor City. I was to interview for a new company called Inpro.

    When the door opened at the Penthouse, I was impressed. Who walks into a penthouse apartment with a wall of windows with a view of the United Nations Building and the East River? There was a huge living room with a solitary sofa in front of a fireplace. We talked for about an hour and I left. Two weeks later, I got a phone call in Chicago offering me a job in New York.

    I had been with Leo for two years. I was told later that I had shot up through the ranks very quickly and that I had “great things in store for me.” When the “guys upstairs” heard about the possibility of me leaving for New York, they put on their suit coats and came down to my little office. They gave me a signed copy of Leo’s book (with a little note from The Man), told me I was invaluable, asked me to stay, and left. I never forgot. That put Leo Burnett at the top of my “First Class” list. I gave them a lot of business through the years.

    I left for New York.

    I had no idea what an Associate Producer was expected to do for Inpro. But one of my first duties was to find a receptionist. I took that seriously. I interviewed about 40 young ladies. I believed then (as I do now) that the voice on the phone and the legs under the desk would be perceived by clients as the physical manifestation of Inpro’s corporate image. She would be the first thing our clients would encounter on the phone and in person. Not only did she have to be beautiful, she had to be perfect. Everyone who came to visit was astonished and captivated. Her voice, her figure, her eyes, her carriage and dress, were superb. I never knew where she and her husband finally settled.

    One of the presentations written and produced by Inpro was called “The 7 Basic Criteria.” I thought it would be great to have something we could give out to the seminar attendees that illustrated the concept. I walked all over Times Square looking for — something. I went through promo catalogs. I talked to some of our vendors. No success. Then, I remembered a puzzle that seemed to be perfect. Yet, it wasn’t manufactured with more than six rings. I had it made with seven rings. It then demonstrated the main thesis of the presentation: namely, 7 items required for successful and effective communications. Each ring could stand alone but all seven were inextricably linked to each of the others making it essential that all had to be manipulated together. You might be able to move one or two, but others also had to be moved in a special sequence to solve the puzzle.

    Bob was fascinated. I went to a manufacturer to have samples chrome-plated to make them “first class.” There were 96 steps to solve the puzzle. I got to the point where I could do all 96 in 7 seconds. You know Bob. He was very competitive.

    At about 11:30 each night, after a hard day at the office, Bob would either hire a car or we’d get a cab and go to Sardi’s East (they really had one on the east side in those days). He would buy dinner and dessert and then pull out the Rings and ask me to time him until he beat my fastest time. A couple of hours of that in an evening and I’d be falling asleep on the table. He wouldn’t stop. He would keep me going until I finally got wise and slowed down. When he finally beat me, I learned I could go home and to bed. Until the next night.

    Fred liked me. He always treated me like a son. He actually became my first business mentor. I learned a lot. Inpro did me a big favor. Bob demonstrated the puzzle to everybody. As a result, I became the local gunfighter. I represented Inpro as the “fastest puzzle-doer” on the east coast. Great fun. But everyone in AT&T seemed to travel uptown (their offices still were downtown in those days) to participate in Inpro’s version of “dueling puzzles.”

    I lived in different places in Manhattan for about 16 years. My last home was a brownstone on East 62nd between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. I was asked to put other companies together because of the reputation I acquired from AT&T management telling others how I designed Inpro reporting systems. I built a few companies that went public very nicely and I became a consultant to a bunch of our vendors when Inpro finished the project but didn’t finish all of the visuals. I followed up with each as someone who knew how everything fit together (I guess).

    There’s a bunch more but you’ll be asleep before I finish my 16 Manhattan years so I’ll leave you here. Hopefully, some of what I’ve said will jog a few memories. Let me know if you have questions. Any questions.

    Best,

    Ron

    • Jack Byrne March 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

      Great to hear stories of those glory days when we were inaugurating a business worth hundreds of billions. The Penthouse was where we started Baker & Byrne and then, when joint venturing with Bob and Ted, we moved to Mad Ave. Amusing Penthouse story is “It’s not Hanes until …..” which happened pre-Inpro. After INPRO, we merged into bigger and bigger agencies (Mogul Baker Byrne Weiss and then Griswold Eshleman Baker & Byrne.) In 1970, I left them all behind and formed Jack Byrne Advertising – lots of JBA stories on this blog and more to come. I created the concept of an eyewear superstore which was copied by Lens Crafters which led to me opening an eyewear wholesale and retail chain in the FSU where I lived for 8 years in the 90s (St. Petersburg and Riga, Latvia). Lots of stories (like life and death) and more coming about that. My continuing Great Wealth Hope is a 3D technology named LifeVision (by me), which has the best (no glasses) 3D viewing in the world but is a financial shambles. I live on E 58th between 2nd and 3rd so we were but 4 blocks apart, if you were there as late as the time I moved in which was 40 years ago. Last note: I worked with Orson Bean as well – he recorded a number of commercials for my clients. Small World. Good luck – keep in touch.
      Jack

      • Ron Michaels April 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

        When the INPRO project was over, I was engaged by AT&T and some of the vendors to help tie up the loose ends on a few of the production pieces and design elements and then was asked if I would join Interpublic. I was asked to leave the “writer/producer” mold and move to account services where I worked on Bristol-Myers (not Squibb in those days). You know Marion. He moved a small group of us guys around to different agencies as “experienced management.” I was with Marschalk, InfoPlan, MarPlan, McCann-Erickson, et al. Ted Bates recruited me and I wound up at Grey back on Bristol-Myers. Jack Tinker was changed to a full-blown agency when he pitched Alka-Seltzer and got the account. Without a Think Tank, Marion took me, Marcella Free, Bill Free, Bill Sansing and a new guy who they recruited from Continental Can where he was the head of packaging and package development. I was the marketing guy. We got the 35th floor of the Time Life Building (Marion was on the top floor with the Interpublic Exec offices) and became a hush-hush new product development Think Tank (to pick up where Jack left off). We developed Tab for Coke, Cor-10 Steel for US Steel, 24 household products for Bristol-Myers (a new division), and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve been doing the same thing since then but with companies. That is, I take a company, mold it, finance it, and run it and either sell it or take it public. All traceable to the days in New York. I was engaged by Control Data Corporation and Commercial Credit Corporation (two biggies) and sent as a resource to serve four state governors out west (where my family has had a house since 1948). It was so great being back here that I decided it was time to leave the Great White Way and settle down in the sunshine running around from state to state as an advisor to politicians. What a life! I’ll be back in New York sometime in the next month. Will you be there?

        By the way, could I ask a favor? I noticed the kind reference you made to me in the Inpro piece. Could I ask you to correct the spelling of my name, please? It’s M I C H A E L S. If someone wants to investigate me I certainly want them to find me in your blog because you made me look good.

        Thanks.

        Best regards,

        Ron Michaels

        • Jack Byrne April 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

          Ron, thanks very much for that review of your illustrious career. Appears we have crossed paths more than once.
          When Paul Foley was head of McCann, we talked a number of times about me joining McCann in a “one-man think tank” role for Coca Cola.
          When Jack Tinker and Partners was just four people (including Jack, Herta Hersog and copy head and account man (names escaping me). I was seriously
          considered to join as the 5th. In the 80s, I was consultant to Interpublic with an office at Time Life Tower, reporting to Carl Spielvogel, Vice Chairman,
          and his boss, my friend, Paul Foley. I consulted with McCann, Marschalk, and Campbell Ewald for them and negotiated the buy Of Albert Frank Guenther Law
          which would have gone through but they wanted me to run the business as CEO but at a price which was less than I was taking home in various
          consultancies. Also at Baker and Byrne, we were new product consultants to Bristol Myers. Life is filled with crossing paths.
          I would be delighted to see you when you come to New York. I am always here.
          I will now (with apologies) change the spelling of your name.
          Best wishes,
          Jack

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] the Bell Data Communications Seminar — without a mention of the Henson involvement — is on the blog of Inpro co-founder Jack Byrne. It later was renamed the Bell Business Communications [...]

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