In 1979, I was an Instructor at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Radio, TV and Film teaching a course about new technology, including satellites and cable TV. I also was a community activist and gadfly opposing the local cable TV operator who delivered a lousy service.
I found out that there was this cable guy in Denver who was angling to either purchase the company or acquire the franchise so I called him and asked if he would speak to my class the next time he was in Austin. He agreed and that’s how I met Bill Daniels. He would oftentimes go out of his way to encourage young people to become involved in the cable TV industry.
At one point, the Austin City Council held a public hearing about the incumbent cable operator and I was one of several people testifying about what a crummy operator we had. I wanted the City to throw the bums out.
Bill owned the cable systems in nearby Waco and Round Rock, doing business as Cablevision. The afternoon before the public hearing, Bill had every single Cablevision truck drive to Austin and park in front of City Hall. He literally invaded and occupied the political center of Austin and no one could enter City Hall without seeing the fleet of maybe 40, shiny-clean Cablevision vehicles parked bumper to bumper in front of City Hall. I wish I had a picture. I learned that Bill understood both theater and warfare.
Bill attended the City Council meeting, and we both sat in the front row. He did not need to testify during the public hearing to declare that he wanted to be the cable operator serving Austin. The artillery surrounding City Hall said that for him. The city had an alternative and the incumbent cable operator was put on notice that a battle was about to begin. I’m sure there were phone conversations the next morning.
A few months after that event, Bill offered me a job but said he didn’t know what he wanted me to do. “We’ll figure out what you’ll do when you get here” he told me. He simply thought I could be useful somehow. He owned the company and was never constrained by HR policies and procedures. So, Aimee and I moved to Denver and Bill changed our lives.
I started as a freshly-minted MBA working on a variety of projects reporting to Bill and John Saeman, the President and CEO. I consider both Bill and John as my mentors and will be forever grateful to them for what they taught me about business and life
My last role at Daniels & Associates was Vice President of Operations and Customer Service when the company was sold in 1988. We were known in the Industry for our superior customer service and I am proud of my small part in the effort. My experience with the company has been the foundation of my business career and the principles that I learned from Bill continue to guide my business philosophy.
Bill stayed in touch with me after the sale of the company. When he called, he would ask “How’s life at the sorority house?” a reference to the gender imbalance at my house, delivered with just the right amount of envy.
In 1995, he sent me a letter explaining why he was reluctant to have the University of Denver Business School named after him. He noted that the DU faculty unanimously voted to approve the name change and wrote that the DU “faculty has never unanimously agreed on anything…”
He concludes the letter by hoping that “the principles that I believe in so strongly will be passed on from generation to generation.” He should rest in peace knowing that his principles are indeed being passed along by the many people he touched, including me.
I am a better person because of Bill Daniels.