This post continues the story from last week’s “MINOU’S PREDICTION.”
“E-A-S-Y!” I said to Yoshi on the phone, “It’s just a report.”
It was February 3rd, 1994 in Weehawken, New Jersey. It was rapidly turning into a bad day.
The line was, however, already dead. Behind me, I heard and felt a massive weight flying up the stairs from the basement. In an instant the door burst open, and there was Yoshi in my face, ranting and raving. Again, he repeated the line about me abusing my family name; just because it was “Olcott,” I had the right to treat others poorly.
Strange how that never occurred to me. If he only knew what my last name really entitled me to!
But how could he, of course?
In any event, I saw an apoplectic 250 pound man in front of me, acting like he just got sprung from Dannemora, smashing his fist in his other hand repeatedly, all the while screaming at me. He wasn‘t just angry. This was harsher than the “if you want my sneakers, take ‘em” stare. This was “your ass, his foot.” I was being threatened. Physically.
At least, I was used to being shouted at.
Read More “REPRIEVE DENIED!”
Once in a purple moon, we had a new hire. Like the time I had to (extremely) vet my own replacement, Paul Campo, in 1986.
Do I just train someone who was going to be taking my place and throw him to the wolves? Many of my readers would be quick to answer, “Yes!”
However, that is a sure way to run low on wolf chow. I always thought that hurling virgins into volcanos was a much better path to karma.
But I digress.
For the love of Pete, I owed it to Paul to explain or at least give him a brief warning about Dad’s “quirks,” to put it mildly. Even though I had not yet worked in many different work environments, I knew intuitively that bosses don’t typically act like my Dad did normally.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of bad bosses out there. The ones that do things behind your back, and then have the nerve to call you “sneaky.” Or the screamers. Or maybe a good boss one day turns bad the next. A good boss will always be happy to discuss anything with you — after all, information is their currency in trade. But what if they deny a meeting request to consider some changes because they “had already discussed it with you.” Really? Not so good.
Read More “ALPO’S APPEAL”
By 1994, I was not only loading patent data into 3 different Patent Management Systems (“PMS”) – one for DOS, a second for Windows, and a third for Mac – and going on the road to demo them, I was also seeking ways to leverage business trends of the day to the marketing advantage of Olcott International.
However, as my readers well know, I operated under some daunting limitations – I knew that if I went out on a limb in terms of my non-existent authority, I could be subjected to painful rebukes in front of the employees. My last name offered me no protection from the boss; it merely singled me out for extra abuse. After all, the family name didn’t save anybody from getting trolled in Jamaica (Queens, not the West Indies) in the 1920s, 1930s, or afterwards. Not by a long shot.
Getting poorly paid to do little in your job is akin to a short-term stay in a shabby motel room on the outskirts of Hell. You don’t know when or to where they will move you, but you’re sure to like it less.
Read More “JOB WELL DONE. NOW STOP!”
As discussed in the comments section last time, the problem with my Mom’s and Grandmother’s “invention” back in the late 1980s was that it wasn’t an invention. It was just an idea, which cannot be patented.
All patents start with one, of course.
Dog waste on the streets of any big city, like New York, is a very special problem in the summer time, when the city becomes a tropical “paradise,” albeit with world-class dining and entertainment, together with daily bus tours. Before the “pick up after your pooch” laws were enacted some 15 years ago, the heat could “cook” the waste, rendering the streets virtually unpassable to pedestrians. Except for real New Yorkers, of course!
As one reader, or expert, commented two weeks ago, dog waste will naturally decay into dust. But this process can take weeks, which would seem like centuries to New Yorkers. The public interest is to get rid of it instantly. It would be possible, for example, to torch it with flame throwers, but this could introduce new, stranger, potentially unsafe possibilities.
Read More “ENVIABLE PATENTS”
Astute readers may recall my post, “A MAN OF LETTERS,” from August 2015. One of the points of the story was to explain my Dad’s preferred method of marketing Olcott International in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It wasn’t by way of a sophisticated advertising mix. After all, this wasn’t a service you could promote via highway billboards (not that that qualifies, but never mind).
The market for patent renewal servicing worldwide in countries from Nicaragua to North Korea (yes, there are a handful of foreign companies that register patents in North Korea!) was and still is not so big. It mainly consists of a tiny cadre of people working in large corporate legal (or more specifically, patent) departments. And the person calling the shots in such rarefied zones is none other than a pooh-bah called a “Chief Patent Counsel.”
That preferred marketing methodology referred to above was – wait for it – by direct snail US mail to every pooh-bah you could shake a stick at. He or she received a personally addressed letter through the miracle of mail merges via MS Word. Windows version, natch!
Read More “CUTTING EDGE AND TOTALLY COOL”
‘Twas not all gloom and doom at Olcott International.
Upon my return to the office that spring of 1992, I started hearing odd noises upstairs and soon met Bobby Edwards, the Jewish cowboy. This wisecracker could make Dad laugh endlessly. Soon Dad asked me to get involved with his (minor) investments in the Kansas oil patch. “PANOLPY OF SWAGGER” recounts these welcome diversions. I remain grateful to the Jewish cowboy to this day.
Speaking of foreign countries, Japan has always been an important client base for Olcott International. I’ve written a number of posts about how my Dad conquered the land of the rising sun in the 1970s, a country where American culture was imported wholesale, albeit with many local twists.
Read More “BUCKED OFF!”
It was good to be back at Olcott International despite certain ominous dark storm clouds. And the odd soul grinder.
For one thing, Bob Gerhardt continued to be browbeaten and didn’t seem to like it any more than when I had left him to his fate back in 1986. But still here he was, plodding along in Weehawken.
Bob continued to lead up the development of patent management software. But oddly, there seemed to be more than one software project in motion in what ostensibly was not exactly a Fortune 1000 company.
Bob and my Dad had teamed up together in the late 1980s to create OIPMS, a DOS based application designed to intelligently manage the complete life cycle of patents. These were classic black-screen applications with blinking white cursors. They weren’t pretty but the design was so good that one of my readers here – a patent attorney no less – still uses his copy to manage his portfolio. As this is being written in 2017, that’s saying something!
Read More “BACK IN THE SADDLE”
Today I feature a guest essay by Ned McDonnell while I spend more time writing and editing. Enjoy along with my photo essay of the Chicago L!
My old friend and prep school chum, James Olcott, has honoured me by inviting me to remark on his engaging and insightful series of essays on the life of his extraordinary father, Bernard Olcott (1918-2006).
First and foremost, The Bernard Olcott Story is a cultural blog. The over-riding theme of these essays is the search for authenticity initiated by a son growing up under the long and often dark shadow cast by an extraordinarily successful, mid-twentieth century Horatio Alger type.
Bernard Olcott was not a public figure, but he amassed a significant fortune in his life-time by disrupting the sleepy global patent renewal industry in the can-do era of the 1960s. As Larry Ellison would do twenty years later in coding various operating functions, the elder Olcott computerized the seemingly mundane task of monitoring and renewing intellectual property protections around the world.
Read More “WHEN A CULTURAL BLOGGER TAKES US ON A FANTASTIC VOYAGE”
Ahhh! April flowers. The trees are budding. Boids are choiping psychotically.
Springtime, it’s often said, brings together hopes and promises. Well, why not? April’s the month of my birthday. Sometimes, when the weather is right, the trees bud and bloom in the latter part of the month, right around when I appeared at Mount Sinai Hospital, 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue some 50 (or so) years ago.
Spring in 1992 was an exceptionally golden era for me, especially at Polo Ralph Lauren, a company I never expected to end up in after leaving the family business and graduating from Business School. It was survival by wit, guile, charm, and, to speak plainly, a shitload of style. Ralph made sure of that! And it was often a lot of effortless fun as well!
In addition to my triumph at Polo, several other things were going very well in my life in early 1992.
Read More “ALL MY ROADS LEAD TO ROME”
When I wrote my last story, “CUSTOMER SIZES, PART 1” my first inclination was to regard my encounter with Carl as a curiosity, much in the same way as the one I had had earlier with Elton John (as featured in my story “ARRIVAL”). Carl’s book, Cosmos, was a favorite nighttime read of mine. Pondering other places (and times) in the universe had always sent my imagination soaring.
But halfway in writing this post, I came to realize that Carl’s brief and sudden appearance in my life was much more significant. His was an unexpected voice from the outside, the beyond, on an otherwise dull and dreary night at work. An incoming message far from random chatter that nevertheless pointed the way out of my predicament.
I don’t believe that I am extraordinary or special in this way. I think messages like this bounce around us all endlessly. The trick is in recognizing and decoding the signal. It makes no difference if you do this consciously or unconsciously. For me, I acted on it unconsciously. And only now, 27 years later, I can see the link.
And it all had to do with my flippant comment about running a regression to determine my favorite author’s true waist size. You see: the size of the customer. This is part two.
Read More “CUSTOMER SIZES, PART 2”