03 March 2010

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

In the late 70s, I was working in radio in Portland, Maine, selling ads during the week and DJing on the weekend. It's the only industry I had seriously considered since I was 12.

In 1977 I met a guy socially who had recently started a map publishing company. His name was David DeLorme, and his company has since become a leader in the mapping industry. Then, it was David and a rotating cast of 2 - 4 others who worked for him. I sold him some ads on WBLM, the top rock station in the market.

Months later, he offered me a job as his sales and marketing guy. I dithered on accepting it. I wasn't doing well in radio, but it's all I had thought of for years and I was blind to how perfect for me the job offer was. Eventually I accepted and knew the first day it was a good move. That day was March 3, 1980.

The day I really realized how good I had it was when I made my first road sales trip in April. David sent me up the Moosehead Trail, which is the road from Newport to Greenville, Maine (at the southern end of Moosehead Lake). I was greeted as a returning hero at convenience stores and sport shops. "Hey, it's the map guy! Load me up!" I pulled boxes of maps and atlases out of the car, wrote invoices, and they paid in cash. Cash! In radio, nobody really wanted to buy advertising, and when they did, they really didn't care to pay for it.

Thirty years later, I'm still selling maps. It's been a wonderful career. I've worked for three of the top companies in my field, DeLorme, Mapquest and National Geographic. I've been president of my trade association. I created the first comprehensive web directory of map-related sites. I still enjoy this so much I bought a map company last year, so now I'm a publisher, along with my wife.

Thank you, David.

One of the radio ads I wrote for DeLorme in 1979


Margaret said...

Eric- I admire your kind words for David. You are a lovely human being.


Chris J said...

Happy Anniversary Eric! Great story. I haven't been at Delorme for more than 12 years and I still find myself telling David's story. Can't go into a convenience store without casing the map rack. What a product!

Funny, I sold ads at WCLZ prior to my marketing job at DeLorme.

Eric Riback said...

Around the time that I started, my insurance guy was a former potato chip salesman who schooled me in the art of rearranging product on the c-store shelf to your advantage. My favorite activity was this: When we had the Maine Geographic calendar, our competition was Down East. Their calendar came in a mailing box which was a great selling feature as many people bought calendars to send as gifts, but it meant they needed to have one copy outside the box for people to look at. I'd routinely put that display copy back in its box.

Mani Singh said...

Wow, this is an amazing story Eric. 20 years summarised so simply, just like a good small size map. Thanks for sharing this....

Eric Riback said...

I was just re-reading the ad copy, and wish I had already thought of the tag line I created after I went to work at DeLorme. It was a take-off on an old Maine saying made famous on a Bert and I record:

"You Can't Get There From Here, Without the Atlas and Gazetteer."