- “I always knew that the only place I ever loved, really loved, was BNA. BNA with all its faults and silly culture. I loved working there.” --Hugh Yarrington
- “BNA was unique in my opinion…. I really miss those days at the Bureau…. I enjoyed CCH, but it never felt like a real family.” --Becky Karnes
Bill Beltz. I'm probably giving him a length-of-service gift.
Bill Beltz was hired as an editor at BNA in 1956 (a year after I arrived there) and succeeded John Stewart as BNA's president in November, 1979. From the start, Bill became one of my best friends in the company. Our families vacationed together – separate beach houses -- in Rehoboth, Delaware.
Lili was hired shortly after Bill and worked on the same publication unit. After her husband died, Lili left BNA for a few years to spend more time with her daughters. When Lili returned to BNA, she headed up the research and special products unit, which answered subscriber inquiries.
For 15 years, I was the associate editor for BNA's human resources publications. And for most of that time, Brit was the product manager assigned by the sales department for those publications. Our business connection evolved into the most intense relationship of my life.
You either loved Brit or you hated him. I spent time in both camps. Two alcoholics. One a womanizer; the other a closeted homosexual. 'Nuff said.
The BNA Family at Work and PlayBNA was a fun place to work. Probably the peak of BNA's family fun time came in the 1970s, an exciting time to be in DC. Many of us were often out on weekends marching or demonstrating for civil rights or protesting the Viet Nam War or demanding President Nixon's resignation when the Watergate scandal broke.
Even with a Republican in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, major laws were enacted dealing with the environment, clean air, and occupational safety and health. This legislation generated new BNA publications. President Nixon issued executive orders concerning wage and price control and discrimination by government contractors… actions that boosted BNA sales. Back then, politicians had the peculiar idea that they were elected to improve the general welfare, not just to focus on raising money to get re-elected as is the case today.
So BNA kept growing and its employees worked hard… and played hard. Two-martini lunches were the norm in the '70s, at least in cities like Washington. BNA's executive editor ate lunch at the same restaurant every day. The waiters knew the drill: Menus appeared only after two rounds of drinks had been ordered. I attended one of these lunches with the editor of the Machinist Union's Journal as my guest. At one point he whispered to me, "Do they serve food here?"
There were many opportunities for socializing with coworkers in those days: bridge and poker games, theater nights, golf outings. Close friendships – and extra-marital affairs – were natural consequences.
BNA's president John Stewart was a regular at poker games and golf outings. But as a hard worker and dedicated leader, he made staffing decisions based solely on business considerations. It didn’t matter if you were a poker or golf buddy.
Like John, Lili Crane made decisions for business – not personal – reasons. One example: Lili, my wife Diana, and I were close friends for years. Diana applied for a job on Lili's staff. During the interview, Lili asked Diana the question she asked all applicants: “Why do you want this job?" Diana, ever honest, replied, "It's more money than I make now." Lili said "Wrong answer" and denied Diana the job.
But Bill, Brit, and I had some difficulties in this business vs. personal arena. Our close friendships occasionally clouded our business decisions. Assembling this post, I started brooding about some things I did – and didn’t do -- back then. But that was then. I reminded myself of one of my AA slogans: It's OK to look back. Just don't stare.
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