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In a Former Life: Tama Starr

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Present life: CEO of Artkraft Strauss, an outdoor-advertising company based in New York City. Founded in 1897, the company is best known for its Times Square work, including the original New Year's Eve ball drop.

Former life: As a graduate student in comparative religion at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Starr translated the book of Enoch into modern English verse. "Enoch was considered heretical by many. He talks about there being 10 heavens, and at the time the theory of the multiplicity of heavens was not accepted. So Enoch was not included in many versions of the Old Testament. It depended on which sect you were in, which doctrines you accepted," Starr says.

Lessons learned: "Studying how people would fight wars over which sect was the right sect, I found it easy to see how they were all getting away from the essential reality of a situation," she says.

Starr's knowledge prepped her for a business world in which competitors bend the truth. "There's always competition -- and a lot of people don't fight fair," she says. "They'll tell lies about your company, and if you respond emotionally, you will ultimately lose.

"Once, a competitor was slandering us to some potential customers. We were competing with him for a huge Times Square advertising opportunity. He gave prospective customers the usual line about us: that because we're 100 years old and because we do the actual construction of signs, we're somehow less savvy about technology or marketing. He wanted us to stay in our blue-collar hole. But we took the slandering in stride, and, of course, the developers eventually awarded us the work."

Last updated: Aug 1, 2000




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