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Marchand--Hail and Farewell, My Friends . . .

April 1999
We are all at risk of staying too long. Whether as a guest or in a business meeting or even, I suppose, as a columnist. Knowing when it's time to leave may be no less important for columnists than it is for boxers and ballplayers. For me, that time has come.

I haven't lost a step, and I'm still at the top of my game. But nothing erodes desire and competence faster than the loss of motivation.

I have sold my business. Confident that my former clients are now in the strong and very capable hands of Charlotte Seligman, my colleague of many years, I am no longer certain that I will remain attuned to the rapidly changing nature of our industry. If I'm not in the daily struggle to figure out how new digital applications affect printing markets, I will become even more distanced and philosophic than is already my wont.

For me, the time has come to take on other responsibilities. I'm going to provide pro bono services to a few worthwhile organizations. Can my skills be used to help people who need it? Do my abilities have more than commercial value? I really don't know. I intend to find out what my skills are good for outside of a business context.

First in the pro bono line is Lifeline, an organization that shelters homeless mothers and their children in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Lifeline provides a home for the families it takes in and supports them while the mothers receive the education and job training they need to get a new start. Will my knowledge of marketing communications and public relations translate well in the nonprofit world? I hope so.

I owe thanks to numerous readers—those who have read my columns for years and especially to those who have hired my company. You (and Eva, my successful, real estate-selling wife) have made it possible for me to turn from the pursuit of Mammon, well before the usual age of retirement, and use my energy and skills for other objectives.

In your service, I learned greater respect for market-driven business. But, I also learned something that may come as a surprise: If everything we hold dear is not to be made into a commodity, limits must be placed on the very means of our economic success. Just as unfettered competition tends toward monopoly, the application of marketing principles to every aspect of our existence eventually drives out equities that can't and shouldn't be subject to strictly defined commercial criteria.
 

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