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Dick Kuehn: The Consultant's Consultant

A few days ago, Dick Kuehn died. The cause was congestive heart failure, and while the past few months had been hard on Dick and his wife Cindy, the end came more quickly than they had expected. That's a bitter irony, because Dick made a point of NOT being surprised.

For those who didn't know Dick, personally or by reputation, let me explain. Dick became a telecom consultant 40 years ago, back when, depending on who's telling the story, there were only two or three other telecom consultants in the whole country. When he called Ohio Bell to get a listing in the Yellow Pages, they denied his request, claiming no such category listing existed.

That conversation set the tone for the rest of his career: He spent the next 40 years negotiating with carriers and equipment vendors to get enterprises what THEY wanted. That was a radical notion back in the early days of the post-divestiture era.

But referring to Dick as a telecom consultant is akin to referring to Michael Jordan a basketball player. Dick didn't just change the game; in many respects, he invented it. He not only cultivated a deep understanding of technology, he also studied contract terms and pricing details. He had an accounting background and so he was not put off by having to wade through reams of what the rest of us would consider minutia.

He also was devoted to his clients, and usually that loyalty was returned. It was not uncommon for his business relationships to last years, some went on for decades. While many of his clients were large enterprises, he equally comfortable working with small, local entrepreneurs, government agencies (he loved putting in communications systems for jails!) and not-for-profits. I swear the guy was "billable" 365+ days per year.

Dick was legendary. He co-founded the Society of Telecommunications Consultants (STC, now called the Society of Communications Technology Consultants International –SCTC). He took the lead in writing the STC's Code of Ethics, and became both a mentor and a role model to many of that outfit's members.

I met Dick 30 years ago, when I became editor of Business Communications Review, the print forerunner to No Jitter. Dick anchored the magazine with his Consultant's Corner column, which ran on the back page of the magazine. He also was one of our busiest trainers and he spoke at all of our conferences.

Dick was a world-traveler who never shed his Midwestern roots. He enjoyed good food and wine, but he loved his gimlets more. He and I shared many a meal and almost as many vices. The Enterprise Connect/No Jitter team and community extend condolences to Cindy and the rest of Dick's family. RIP Dick, although I'm guessing you've found a way to stay billable.