|“A lot of people were surprised when I began building my company, and my children thought I’d gone off my rocker.” |
Drucker says the idea for her manufacturing company emerged spontaneously more than a decade ago as she stood in the back of a crowded auditorium and monitored one of her husband’s lectures. “For many years,” she noted in a later article, “my role as the wife of a professional speaker was to sit in the last row and shout ‘Louder!’ whenever my husband’s voice dropped.
“I decided there had to be a better ‘feedback’ device — and if there wasn’t, I’d go ahead and invent one!”
The result was an electronic instrument that translates voice volume to warning lights on a console. Assembled with the help of a retired engineer, Drucker’s patented Visivox® system today occupies a unique marketing niche and is used in college lecture halls, in auditoriums and even in churches where the preacher wants to be certain the faithful hear every word.
Interestingly enough, Drucker also notes that her famous husband — an immensely popular business writer who “all but created management science” — provided little help in the enterprise. Although Peter Drucker had sold millions of books on business management, he quickly admitted to his entrepreneurial spouse that he could not assist her with Visivox: “Sorry, but I wouldn’t know the first thing about a small enterprise like yours,” he reportedly said.
But the determined Drucker, who had earned both a law degree and a PhD in economics at European universities before moving to the United States just prior to the outbreak of World War II, was hardly discouraged by her husband’s inability to help. Armed with engineering diagrams and extensive research data, she spent a couple of years nailing down all of the parts required for the launch of her brand-new RSQ Associates in 1996. As CEO (at 84), she then kicked off a national marketing initiative aimed at putting the product on the shelf everywhere.
Although Drucker’s entrepreneurial gamble took place late in life, her decision to build the start-up actually made good business sense, since she’d already spent several decades working as a freelance scientific researcher for U.S. companies seeking to create new products. For the veteran lawyer-economist-scientist, the struggle to create and sell new technology was actually familiar turf.
Describing the launch, Drucker notes,“I got to work with a lot of people whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. And when I talk electronics to a supplier — when I talk about the negative tip orientation of a charger cable, let’s say — I’m just another professional customer and not just an old lady in our ‘ageist’ society.”
Drucker also says she was greatly amused by the reaction of her management-savvy husband, as her fledgling company took off: “He watched it happen with great astonishment. Peter does my taxes — and I bless him for that — but he has no idea about building start-ups!”