Rich Bailey is retiring as the untitled “practitioner who provides leadership” at Bailey Lauerman, the local marketing and communications company he started, according to legend, in his basement. Its prominent clients include Union Pacific, the Big 12 Conference, Allstate, the Smithsonian Institution and the Bowl Championship Series. Journal Star Business Editor Richard Piersol asked him a few questions on the way out.
Aren’t you too young to be retiring? How do you expect to stay out of trouble?
I’m older than you think – it’s my boyish good looks that fool you. … You don’t simply walk away from something you’ve been doing for 42 years overnight, so I will continue in a diminished role with the agency. I will also pursue some additional teaching opportunities and maybe even do a little more traveling.
So how are you rearranging the deck chairs at your company?
Quite easily. My retirement is part of a plan that has been in place for two years, and it’s based on the fact that we have the strongest team we’ve ever had in the 37-year history of the company. They’re incredibly well qualified to take this business to even greater heights. Jim Lauerman, who is now CEO, has been a major force and a great leader in the operation since two years after the founding of the company.
He’s joined at the helm by co-presidents Pam Hunzeker and Carter Weitz along with senior executive vice president Ron Plageman, who is our CFO. They will continue to lead our management team in stellar fashion.
Tell us a little more about your background, where you were born, reared, educated, inspired?
I was born in Lincoln, and I have always valued living here with everything the city offers in terms of lifestyle. I am a grad of Lincoln Southeast High and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I majored in journalism and graphic design. One of the values of an education from the university is the fact that you were encouraged to explore business opportunities in your chosen field while studying. I was certainly inspired by notable practitioners in the field of advertising in Lincoln and Omaha during the 1960s and 1970s.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It was either a fireman or President of the United States. I can’t really remember.
Of what achievement(s) are you most proud?
It has to be the fact that through the years we’ve been able to attract an incredibly talented group that has been part of Bailey Lauerman. We pride ourselves in functioning as a team. I thank my lucky stars that so many worthy people have joined the team. I often wonder if it’s due to persuasive skills or just amazing good luck.
I’m also proud that we’re able to serve so many great Nebraska-based companies, like Ameritas, Union Pacific, TierOne, ConAgra Foods and Exmark while developing a national presence with clients like Allstate Insurance, Disney and Honeywell Aerospace.
What about your personality or talents served you best in your career?
I’ve always told people who seek to be part of this industry or join our business that the greatest single asset you can have is an incredible sense of curiosity, curiosity about people and how they make decisions. Curiosity about places. Curiosity about products and services companies market to their audiences. That would be at the top of my list.
What was the least pleasant part of your work life?
Interviews with the media.
If you had your career to do over again, what would you do differently?
Better interviews with the media.
If you had $1 million laying around to invest, what would you do with it?
I certainly would continue to invest in businesses like ours because I think that while the field is changing rapidly, the opportunities are as robust as ever. I’d also support more of the great organizations in this community that are doing so much in the area of the arts, economic growth, health care and social services. One of the downsides of a community this size is the fact that there are so many good causes and too few people to support them all.
What’s the funniest thing you ever wrote for the Gridiron Show, or any other purpose, for that matter?
Funnier than anything I ever did for the old Gridiron Show was a series of letters I wrote to my esteemed colleague Chuck Piper wherein I pointed out how superior my skills were to his. I didn’t convince him.
What can people in Lincoln do to make life better here?
It’s presumptuous for me to give an answer to that kind of question, but here goes anyway. Because higher education is such a key part to the economy here, I think Lincoln will always enjoy a very rich cultural life. I would hope that the city will be a bit more visionary in its thinking about growth in the future. I think Vision 2015 provides an excellent template and demonstrates what can be done. I hope, with the proper level of enthusiasm and support, these things can be accomplished.
I think that the city needs to pursue greater progress in the area of infrastructure. It’s surprising and somewhat sad that we don’t have a beltway around the entire city yet. And finally, I hope Lincoln can work in the future even more closely with Omaha in pursuing economic growth, employment opportunities and ways to attract people to the state.
Anything else you wish a reporter would have given you the opportunity to say?
I think I’ve been given the opportunity to say more than anybody really wants to hear. Thanks.