GGBA’s Interview with David Perry
Tell us a bit about your firm (Areas of Expertise, Number of Years in Business, Types of Projects, Key Clients, etc.)
I first came to San Francisco in 1986 and immediately knew the City was for me. I moved in 1987 and started working as the Advertising Manager for San Francisco Opera. After that, I was the first Communications Director for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and then Marketing Manager for the San Francisco Partnership, working with the SF Chamber and Mayor Willie Brown’s office. In 1997, I opened David Perry & Associates, Inc. and we were incorporated in 2004. We specialize in government affairs and large-project media and crisis communications and community affairs, and also do videography (aerial and ground) and graphic / web design. Favorite projects: Running of the Olympic Torch (2008),George Lucas’ Skywalker Properties, Super Bowl 50 (2016) and the recently completed Rugby World Cup Sevens. And, of course, guiding the Rainbow Honor Walk into reality has been, and continues to be, a great honor for me.
To what would you attribute your business success to?
As a note I found in my mother’s desk shortly after she died read: “Success is a journey, not a destination.” I’ve never forgotten that. She loved her work (having worked for AT&T for 42 years) and taught me that was the most important thing: love your work. Also, I’m a great believer in the adage “hire / work with people smarter than you: they make you look good.”
As a successful business owner – what has been one of the greatest obstacles you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
The great thing about having your own business is you can’t fire yourself. The bad about thing about having your own business is that you can’t fire yourself. You’re always working: pitching, selling, working. Sometimes, it’s a lot to track. I’m a “to do” list person: Since I was 16 years old I have kept a several-times-daily-updated list of EVERYTHING that crosses my mind, or needs to be done. Getting every tactic, strategy or idea “out of my head and onto paper (a digital word document)” is second nature to me. The key: use and constantly update that “to do” list. I’m always tickled by people who write things down, and then never look at the list again. Also, when I opened my PR practice, I had no ‘guide book.’ Making it up from scratch, in retrospect, was stressful. At the time, it was just what needed to be done.
Name an entrepreneur who has been an inspiration to you.
I’d have to say my fellow San Franciscan Chip Conley. I first met Chip when he was on the inaugural board of directors for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Watching the way he created, managed and marketed Joie de Vivre Hotels was an inspiration. He was the first professional I met that truly walked-the-walk and talked-the-talk of fair workplace practices and living a balanced live / work life.
Is there someone in the LGBTQ community who has been a profound influence on you/your business?
Yes: two people. My husband and business partner, Alfredo Casuso. He can tell me things that others might not. I married up: smartest most talented person I’ve ever known. And, secondly, my longtime mentor, the late Rev. Anthony Turney: openly gay archdeacon at Grace Cathedral and former Executive Director of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. He was the most brutally frank person I’ve ever met. His advice was sometimes difficult to take, but I always knew delivered with love. I miss him every day.
How do you navigate that ever important Life/Work Balance?
Two things spring to mind. 1) I keep regular hours, Monday through Friday. With rare exceptions, I do not communicate with staff, clients or media before 8am or after 5pm, and never (unless there’s a weekend client event) bother clients or colleagues on the weekend. My clients and staff deserve a weekend and time at home with loved ones, and so do I. It’s not “Hippy Dippy” – it’s practical. Without “down time” our brains don’t – my brain certainly doesn’t’ – work well. Also, since we travel a good deal for work, I communicate with colleagues “where and when they are.” So, if I’m working from Europe (as we are this summer), I don’t email our office at 9am my time…..I communicate in Pacific Time. It’s thoughtful, and also, more efficient. It takes organization, but is totally doable. Finally, I take a yearly “digital detox”: no personal social media – reading or posting – for two months. It’s cathartic. I’m in the midst of my third one now.
How has GGBA impacted your business?
GGBA is and has been vital to my business. Having colleagues that share the same community perspective and involvement is key. Also, the annual “GGBA Power Lunch” is, simply, the best business networking event to which I go every year. It’s just the right mix of business development and community support.
What advice do you have for young LGBTQ Entrepreneurs just starting their business in the Bay Area?
Have a year’s worth of money in the bank before you do ANYTHING. Also, get a good accountant, tax person and get out and meet people. In this high -tech world, it’s the “high touch” approach that breeds the most success.
If you could have dinner with a famous person from the history of the world – who would it be and why?
Wow – that question really stumped me. I had to really think – there are so many choices. Some – like DaVinci seem obvious, but I’d be so awed I wouldn’t be able to get through my salad. I’d love to be able to tell P.D. James how much I loved her writing. But, if forced to choose, I’d have to say Benjamin Franklin – always my favorite patriot. Brilliant, internationally traveled, and funny. I think dinner with Olde Ben would be a hoot. I’d hope he’d be something like the episode of Bewitched when he comes back from the past, or the way he was portrayed by Howard Da Silva in the musical 1776.