Richard W. “Dick” Snyder first visited our offices in the mid 80s, when SullivanPerkins was young and the validation of being hired by a client was just as meaningful if not more so than the income to be earned. It was summer, we were in the tiny conference room of our first, 800-square-foot office, and the air conditioning was not working. Dick was sweating heavily; there was moisture on his forehead and coming through his dress shirt. He explained that he had a company, SnyderGeneral Corporation (ironically enough, in the air conditioning business), and he needed a creative agency. He had heard something about us – that we would do bold work. He was bold himself, and so he thought there might be a fit. So the relationship began between SullivanPerkins and what became through organic growth and acquisitions the world’s largest privately-held manufacturer of heating, ventilating, air conditioning and filtration equipment, a global giant with $1 billion in annual sales.
Dick was more than bold, he was a powerhouse. Over the years we also got to know Bobbi, Dick’s wife of 53 years, who managed aspects of the business that we were most involved with – corporate identity and advertising. Bobbie was as much our patron as Dick. We would not want to speculate on who was the more forceful personality, but we do have two Dick Snyder stories to share now, in praise of him, and with gratitude.
Dick Snyder died this summer, and we remember him with respect and affection:
Early in the relationship – this was the mid-eighties – there was a need, in those days before websites, for a corporate brochure, with a theme, a timeline, portrait photography, an explanation of the various divisions of the company and so on. We presented the work, which he liked, and the cost, which was in the neighborhood of $25,000 for our services only. Dick’s response was that he could “buy a f******* Porsche” for that price. Aside from the fact that our cost was accepted and the brochure was completed, the remark tells you something about the nature of inflation and our business. Our prices have fallen since the mid 80s, but try to buy that $25,000 Porsche today.
And then there were Dick’s struggles to stop smoking; or, as we remember it, his struggles to avoid being caught smoking by Bobbi. This led to a number of furtive encounters, in which we needed to be complicit in the secret. One meeting that is burned into memory was the group conference with Dick at the head of the table and a number of lieutenants in the room (from McQuay, AAF, and other brands that SnyderGeneral had acquired). Dick, in shirtsleeves, had cigarettes hidden in a pocket, and he proceeded to light one up. It was an animated business discussion, the subject matter forgotten, but as the cigarette in Dick’s mouth burned down, the ash lengthened. There was no ash tray, since Dick was not officially smoking. The ash lengthened, and it lengthened, and then a bit of the glowing tip fell on Dick’s white shirt. He was not aware of it, but eventually the ash began to burn through the shirt fabric, and smoke rose from his chest. We all saw it, but it was as if no one wanted to acknowledge that Dick was smoking, or maybe no one wanted to shout out that the boss had set himself on fire.
This year, 2013, we can think of no client who had a more robust personality than Dick Snyder. He holds a special place in our hearts, and although we have not worked directly for Dick in many years (SnyderGeneral was sold in 1994 to the Hong Leong Group of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), we know that something’s lost in the air around us, now that he’s gone.