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THE EXPERT: Gary Gottfried ’76 has nearly 30 years experience as a marketing executive, notably with Oscar Mayer/Kraft and the Cleveland Browns, where the member of UVM’s last football team was vice president of marketing for the NFL franchise from 1992 to 1996. He recently established his own firm, Crosslink Marketing, and revisited UVM last semester for several School of Business Administration guest lectures.

THE QUESTION: Being with the Browns when the franchise left Cleveland for Baltimore in 1996 had to be a tough time for the marketing guy. What did you learn from that experience?

THE ANSWER: One of Gottfried’s core business beliefs is the importance of valuing the personal relationships built throughout a career. The Browns move went from rumor mill to front-page headline swiftly. Gottfried actually learned about it from his Saturday morning paper, then went into the next day’s emotionally charged home game stunned. “It was surreal,” he recalls. “We just tried to get through it.” Football is particularly serious business in Cleveland and the Modell family, owners of the franchise, left town to death threats. The next day, Gottfried drove into the office to face the mother of all Mondays. “Instinctively, I just stood up,” he says. That meant picking up the phone and calling all of his clients, Sherwin-Williams Paints to Continental Airlines, one by one. Gottfried says there was a certain exhilaration to being at the eye of a storm blowing hard as a Lake Erie tempest. “It was like one of those soccer or football drills where you’re in the center of the circle and everyone is firing balls at you,” he says. Recently, he had a grocery store conversation with the Sherwin-Williams exec who had been one of his first difficult calls. He told Gottfried that seven years later he still remembers and appreciates the courage and candor of that conversation. Personally and professionally, that meant a lot to Gottfried, he says, and is a reminder of the perspective everyone should keep in mind when the seat heats up: “When you look back over the course of your career, your most adverse moments are going to be your most significant.”