2010 April 26
Beckman's Big Pitch
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I was selling Yellow Pages ads in London, and for my first sales call my manager took me to this junkyard in the East End. Unbeknownst to me, he had sold them a full page the year before. It was this very seedy place with this huge man sitting behind the desk with tattoos all over his body and a dotted-line tattoo on his neck that said “cut here.” Oh, by the way, next to him was the biggest Rottweiler I had ever seen. So I’m a kid, an idiot, and I put my hand out and told him I was just out of sales training, and start my pitch, when all of a sudden he starts swearing at me. “You guys stitched me up last year! I’m not paying! If you don’t get off my property I’m going to set my dog on you.” Me, again, being an idiot, just continue with the pitch, and he looks at me as if he can’t believe anyone could be quite this naive and stupid. Eventually, he just knocks my boards off the desk, the dog leaps up, and I’m running back to the car with him chasing after me. By the time I get back, the dog has my ankle in his grip and my leg is pouring blood. Needless to say, I survived. When I became publisher of Condé Nast Traveler, my old boss sent me a giant stuffed Rottweiler to remind me how far I’d come. The nickname sort of stuck—the only way to get Richard out of your office is to set a dog on him.
Where do you think that comes from?
Impostor syndrome—you think you have people fooled for another year. It’s funny. People say very nice
things to me about my reputation, or things outside my career, and the last person to ever believe it is me. I think that truly is one of my drivers—insecurity.
Do you feel misunderstood? You seem a bit more sensitive than we’d imagined based on your reputation.
Anyone that knows me knows I have one of the lowest turnovers of people of anyone in the industry. I am fiercely loyal to my staff and they are fiercely loyal to me. I look at myself in the mirror every day and know I’m a really decent human being. But I’m not going to apologize for being passionate and doing whatever it takes to move this business forward.
You’ve had your share of tough press. Do you have any great regrets?
Unfortunately, people will say what they want about you. But all of us make mistakes and do things we wish we hadn’t done. The only thing one can do as a person is learn from them, grow from them, and ensure you don’t put yourself in those situations again.
Now, for the most important question. What’s your favorite movie?
That’s easy. Gladiator.
Who should play you in the Richard Beckman biopic?
I think years ago, Bob Hoskins. Maybe more Bruce Willis now? I don’t know. Who would you have play me?
Uh, there’s that other Brit. Terence...
Stamp! Yeah, Stamp. I like him. He’s tough. Very tough.
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