Of Mentors and Mentos

I was incredulous. It went against every B-school rule.

“Why don’t you find his replacement first, then fire him so there’s no client disruption?” I asked.

“Because I would never want that done to me.”

That’s Mike Sheehan.

Mike’s a great writer. A legend. He’s won every award there is to win. Multiple times. But honestly, there are lots of great writers — some even better. But there’s no better guy.

The genius of his copy was in his targeting. It wasn’t for the coastal cognoscenti. Mike always sided with “the people we fly over” as most of his peers (but seldom his equals) liked to say. It certainly wasn’t for the industry insiders or their award shows.

It’s never been about the trappings. Mike’s always had a genius for finding that middle that hits us all. Not the average. The middle. The human bit that makes everyone nod unconsciously at his work. He knows what makes people tick.

The long and short of it.

The long and short of it.

Long after I had tired of agency life and it had tired of me, Mike pressed on, indefatigable. That’s because he always held it in proper perspective. It was a means to an end not an end to itself as nearly everyone else in the business held it to be. It was just a way to connect with people by helping them with a problem. It didn’t matter the client — from McDonald’s to John Hancock Life Insurance. They were all looking to talk to real people. That’s who Mike is and the people he knows.

As the agency uniform “evolved” from Brooks Brothers to Comme des Garcons to True Religion, Mike’s always been LL Bean. Just a kid from Weymouth with a horrific accent after two Screwdrivers — his limit.

He got a Mercedes sedan once. Had it a couple weeks. Then it was gone, replaced by yet another GMC Suburban. While Mike’s a very big guy, he’s never been larger than life.

And yet Secretary of State John Kerry called to congratulate him when he announced that he was stepping away from the limelight he never craved and seldom stood in anyway, passing the baton as the next CEO of Hill Holliday to the

eminently qualified Karen Kaplan. Kerry wanted to know if Mike ever considered politics. I laughed. He should do it though. He’d be a great politician. He doesn’t have a political bone in his body. Just flesh and bone.

I fear I’ve said too much. He’ll hate it and tell me so. But it needed to be said. He’s never wanted to be famous. He wanted his clients’ brands to be famous. More than that, he wanted his clients as people to be successful in business and in life.

As Mike succeeded the Don Draper generation, I hope the next generation that succeeds him keeps the compass, not the watch.

Timex. And a cheap one at that.

One Comment on “Of Mentors and Mentos”

  1. Jeff Palopoli says:

    Must be that fine Saint Anselm College education! 🙂


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