Secrets Of A Self-Made Biotechnology Multimillionaire

““A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”” – Saint-Exupery
A great way to get inspired is to read about the success of an ordinary person who takes a good idea (of which there is an endless supply) and changes it (by hard work, ingenuity, and naivete) into something great. The following profile, culled from one in USA Today, came to me from KY . . .In 1980, Mary Ann Liebert had an idea about publishing a magazine on genetic engineering. Her friends and business associates tried to dissuade her. She had too little experience, too few connections, and not enough money to last six months.She decided to ignore the naysayers and invested her entire savings, $18,000, in forming a company she named Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.Twenty years later, she’’s looking smart. Her 100-employee firm publishes more than 60 journals, books, and newsletters with a total circulation of 250,000. Her flagship publication, Genetic Engineering, is considered the world’’s most powerful biotechnology publication; 50,000 scientists, researchers, and analysts worldwide read the four-color biweekly.

According to the people who know her, Liebert does three things well: She can spot a publishing trend. She gets the best people to edit her publications. And she is downright tenacious.

“Mary Ann has the uncanny knack of spotting trends and new fields,” says John Sterling, managing editor of Genetic Engineering. “She stays close to the market and jumps on a new development as soon as it becomes hot.”

She is that one extra drop in the “tipping game.” (See Message #139.)

Liebert was the first to publish journals focusing on AIDS, gene therapy, and cloning. (Launched in 1999, Cloning is edited by Ian Wilmut, the researcher who cloned Dolly the sheep.)

Next year, she plans to launch four more journals, including Astrobiology and Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases, which will focus on infections from mosquitoes, such as the potentially fatal West Nile virus.

She is also extremely persistent, her colleagues say.

“She practically willed the biotech revolution,” says David Weiner, editor of DNA and Cell Biology. “Back in 1983, biotech was science fiction. There were two or three companies, no products, and the technology was still a pipe dream. But she was talking about it as though it had already happened, as if the industry was already established, like Procter & Gamble.”

Her persistence emerges as energy, positivism, and inventiveness, according to people who work for her. She describes her personality this way: “I have a 12-cylinder mind that’’s always revved up and running.”

But all the persistence in the world wouldn’t have made her publications successful were it not for her ability to seek out and land top editorial talent. Her colleagues say she is “one of the best” at this.

Her technique? Persistence, again.

“She is so persistent that it’s easier to say yes than no,” says Jeffrey Laurence, editor of AIDS Patient Care and STDs.

Liebert gives an example of her persistence that exemplifies the suggestion made by JT in Message #195 (“Adding Big Shots to Your Personal Network”): “I was on vacation in Palm Desert,” she says, “and was e-mailing Thomas Hornbein (a doctor who became well-known for climbing Mount Everest) and even calling him. I thought I was pretty convincing, but he still said no. Finally, I read his book and sent him another e-mail that said, ‘Tom, your book was fabulous. I admire your persistence and determination that enabled you to conquer the West Ridge. Tom, you are my West Ridge.’ He wrote back and said, ‘I surrender.’”

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]