I know three world class story tellers. My
brother-in-law Frank McDonald who married my sister Lois in 1971 is
one of them though he’d never admit it. Cliff Walker and Janna
Cosby are the other two. I met Janna in 1978 and Cliff a few years
later. In all this time I’ve yet to meet a fourth person deserving
of world class story teller title.
Greg Glomb introduced me to Janna. Greg is
one of my friends from the old Hinsdale days. He and Russ were good
friends and was often around when the 1010 rehearsed and performed.
Greg was a year ahead of me in school. We became friends as our
professional paths crossed at Hinsdale Camera where my photography
career was launched as was Greg’s video production career.
Janna was raised in Flora, a little Southern
Illinois town where her father, Prentice Cosby was the local judge.
Greg met Janna at Southern Illinois University where they both
majored in video and TV production. They fell in love and moved
back to Hinsdale after graduation. Janna began working for
ServiceMaster Corporation as a writer/producer. Greg worked for
Hinsdale Camera as a videographer.
While trying to get my professional bearings
as a young man in my late 20’s in the shadow of my 5 year odyssey as
Mr. Natural with Moss Hill Natural Foods, I was pursuing commercial
photography assignments. One day Greg calls me. Hadn’t heard from
him in years. He tells me about Janna and that she is hiring
photographers and that I should make an appointment to meet her.
I met Janna at ServiceMaster Corporate in
Downers Grove where I showed her my portfolio of photographs. Janna
was very complimentary and though totally professional she
charmed me with her warmth and hospitality. Greg later told me that
Janna was totally blown away with my photography.
Within days Janna hired me for a photography
project at ServiceMaster. She was a delight to work for. Janna is
masterful at working with creative people in the corporate world.
She pushes the envelope, breaks the rules of convention when
appropriate, demands perfection, and delivers excellent results no
matter what it takes.
I made good money with Janna while she was
at ServiceMaster also adding prestigious examples to my portfolio.
Janna soon outgrew ServiceMaster and was hired by AT&T as Director
of Corporate Communications.
I had expanded my professional horizon to
include all manner of creative communications while working as a
sales rep for Vanides and Mlodock, a graphic design firm in
Chicago. Janna called on me for creative concept ideas at AT&T.
Steve Vanides encouraged me to start my own agency using my
connection to AT&T with Janna.
I formed John Hora & Associates and began
consulting for Janna at AT&T during the time of the big divesture
looming on the horizon for “Ma Bell” in 1983. Newly married and on
my own, AT&T was a great account to have and Janna poured work my
It was great money, a great client, and
great fun. Though a demanding task master, Janna was also a mentor
to me. Together we produced some of the most creative and ambitious
projects of our respective careers.
Janna gave me entrée to the corporate
world. She leaned on me to develop creative concepts and ideas for
the countless meetings, events, and projects required to carry AT&T
through the sea change ordered by Judge Green in breaking up the
telephone company monopoly.
Here I was, high school drop out
photographer, working at the heart of one of the world’s largest
corporations to develop creative communications in the midst of
cataclysmic corporate change. Janna had the corporate world by the
reins and I had Janna’s 100% confidence to deliver the goods.
Working with Janna is a challenging
experience. She demands total perfection having to deliver career
critical excellence. Each AT&T project required the coordination of
all manner of multimedia involving print, photography, video, multi
image slide presentations, scripts, events, presentation
equipment, and staging.
With virtually unlimited budgets and
crushing deadlines, Janna took on each project with ferocious zeal
handing over huge responsibilities to me. Never before had
I opportunity and funds to produce projects on such scale as was
required here. I was ripe with ideas. My head was swimming with
Janna and I virtually danced our way through
the work… our individual skills, talents, and gifts perfectly
complemented each other.
One of my most favorite memories of working
with Janna is of a major conference we produced for AT&T in the
height of the pre-divesture corporate frenzy. Pressure was
mounting as the unknown consequences of divesture faced one of
America’s greatest and largest corporations.
Fierce competition for billions of
dollars hung in the balance for the deregulated telecommunications
industry on the verge of the “information age”. Corporate
executives trembled as they were soon to face competition in the
deregulated telecommunications business world.
Knowing the pressure that faced these
executives, I thought we should use comedic relief as a tool to help
them get perspective. I suggested we hire “Professor” Irwin Corey
to deliver a key note speech to the Midwest regional vice
“Professor” Irwin Corey was the most
frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and often appeared on The Smother’s
Brother’s Show. He is a famous comedian and actor known for his
irreverent satire of the intelligencia.
As a closely guarded secret, Janna hired
Irwin Corey to deliver a key note address toward the end of a three
day, critical conference of the AT&T Midwest Vice Presidents
pre-divestiture conference at Timber Ridge Lodge in Lake Geneva,
After three exhausting days of serious
career defining meetings, Irwin Corey as mystery guest was
introduced as a speaker from an East coast university to talk about
the economic impact of the divestiture of AT&T on the US economy.
We had prepped Irwin on the who’s who in
attendance. He was marvelously irreverent in sending up all the
VIP’s there. Uproarious laughter erupted as Irwin dressed in
disheveled tuxedo and sneakers carrying a dozen fake rolled up
charts stumbled toward the stage down the center aisle.
The next 30
minutes with Irwin Corey at the podium were a hilarious dissection
of revered AT&T corporate leaders. It was exactly what they
needed to relieve the pressure of the serious decisions faced that
It was great fun and also serious business.
Employing the likes of the beloved Irwin Corey to couch the impact
of corporate culture change was both a risky challenge and a great
delight, and it worked.
The success of that meeting afforded me
additional opportunity to work for AT&T. I never have imagined that
I would be an integral player in the fate of one of the
largest corporations in the world.
It was all because of Janna. She entrusted
me with a great responsibility and given the opportunity I found
myself able to rise to the occasion. Janna gave me the biggest shot
of my career. Many other projects with AT&T ensued to keep me busy
and gainfully employed.
Janna left AT&T to form her own company.
She graciously employed me to work with her on similar projects for
Holiday Inn, Pioneer Seed, Motorola, and others.
Measure my career path and note the great
spike caused by Janna’s confidence in me. She was the single
greatest influence that propelled my professional future. I
owe you big time Janna.