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Steven A. Marx, age 69, passed away May 23, 2017, immensely grateful for his loving family, dear friends, extraordinary professional colleagues, and an abundant life. He was blessed with endless opportunities to use his talents to help improve the lives of a great many others; what more can one ask for?
Steve was born and raised in Rochester, NY to German refugees Kurt and Marie Waterman Marx. His older sister, Elinor Marx Stein, passed away from breast cancer in 1973. Steve graduated from Cornell University in 1969 with a BS in Organizational Behavior. But many would say he “majored” in the student-owned radio station, WVBR. There he confirmed his interest in radio, and indeed that was the direction in which he pursued his career. His initial roles were in radio programming in New Haven and Pittsburgh where he had the good fortune to work at the world’s first radio station, KDKA, and to be part of its extraordinary 50th anniversary celebration. During these early post-college years, Steve also served six years in the US Army Reserve. While at KDKA, on the best blind date ever, he met Merrill. They were married six months later, a bond of love and partnership that lasted until the day he died. He and Merrill were blessed with two good children, Jeffrey and Emily. Good? To Steve, good is the highest compliment one can pay a person.
Observing how poorly most radio advertising salespeople practice their craft, he said “give me a list!” and thereupon switched his career focus to sales, initially at WEZN Bridgeport. Within six months he was the top revenue producer. He was recognized and rewarded two years later by being named Vice President and General Manager of the company’s newly acquired WAAF/WFTQ Worcester. As a result of his innovation and leadership, the stations reversed their downward trends, multiplied their revenues nearly tenfold, and moved from red ink to cash cow.
Seven years later he re-oriented his career focus again, this time toward consulting on sales performance improvement. He conceived and established The Center for Sales Strategy in 1983 and led its growth as CEO for 25 years, from a one-man shop to a roster of 30 full-time staff, stepping back in 2008 into the role of Chairman Emeritus. He was especially proud of the talent he selected to join the staff; today the firm is led by a cadre of those highly talented people and enjoys broad success with clients across the globe.
Many looked at Steve’s success in business and saw a story of entrepreneurship. But most of his colleagues and clients saw something else first and foremost—mentorship. Steve’s relentless focus was not on growing his business, but on growing people. He helped people understand their talents and how they could use them more effectively. He impacted the lives and careers of thousands, and hundreds at a profound level. Upon learning of his terminal illness, The Center for Sales Strategy developed a website, SteveMarxTribute.com, where some of those he helped could express their appreciation.
Steve wrote one of the most unusual books ever written on the topic of selling. Close Like the Pros—Replace Worn-Out Tactics with the Powerful Strategy of Interactive Selling—was published in 2007. The book is the authoritative work on partnering in business-to-business sales, and has been very well-received, as evidenced by 5-star readers’ reviews on Amazon and consistent sales from year to year.
Steve was always active in community and religious affairs. While in Massachusetts, he was a Director of the $1.6 billion BankWorcester Corporation, was very involved in airline service development as a member of the City Manager’s Special Airport Task Force, and served on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce and Temple Sinai. He was a board member of the Worcester Jewish Federation and chaired its Budget and Planning process.
Since relocating to Tampa, he served as a trustee of Congregation Schaarai Zedek, as well as its VP Fundraising, chair of its Torah Circle committee and its Eternal Light Endowment committee, and member of the board and Secretary/Treasurer of its Brotherhood. He was awarded the President’s Cup in 2013 in recognition of his service to the congregation, and the Brotherhood named its annual speaker series in his honor in 2016.
He was active with the Tampa Jewish Federation, on its Annual President’s Dinner committee (co-chair of the event one year), as well as its Tikkun Olam Award committee and Allocations committee. In recognition of his many novel ideas and his out-of-the-box way of looking at things, the Federation established the annual Steve Marx Innovation Award in 2015.
Steve served for many years on the board of the Hillels of the Florida Suncoast, chairing its Development committee and Executive Director Search committee. He was a trustee of the Tampa-Orlando-Pinellas (TOP) Jewish Foundation and chair of its Marketing committee. An avid supporter of Israel, he was a member of the Tampa Bay Leadership Group for AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
He was especially proud of his work in marketing and in raising scholarship funds for Academy Prep Center of Tampa, a school expressly for at-risk inner-city kids of middle-school age. For more than a dozen years late in his life he served on the Board of Directors of the Cornell Media Guild, the non-profit that holds the license for WVBR-FM in Ithaca, the place where it all began for him decades earlier. The Guild bestowed its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award on Steve in recognition of his service over a five-decade span.
Steve was an amateur graphic designer who, among other things, created a number of the organizational and program logos in use in the Tampa Jewish community. In fact, he viewed himself more generally as a “designer” of productive processes, purposeful plans, persuasive presentations, powerful paragraphs, pretty pages, pleasing places, and yes, sometimes annoying alliterations. Steve was a great fan of architecture and played a significant role in designing two homes he had built for his family, in Cape Cod and in Tampa.
He was immensely proud of the adults his children became and of their spouses, and regretted that he would not live to see his grandchildren grow and mature. Preceded in death by his parents Kurt and Marie and his sister Elinor, he is survived by his beloved wife of 46 years, Merrill; his son Jeffrey and daughter-in-law Jessica of Dallas; his daughter Emily and son-in-law Matthew Perl in greater Philadelphia; and his grandchildren, Nathan and Hannah Marx and Oren and Samantha Perl. He is also survived by his late sister’s children Lisa Stein, Andrew Stein, and their brother Mark Stein, as well as many cousins in Israel, Great Britain, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil, as well as the US.
Graveside services will be held at 1:30 PM Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at Gan Shalom Cemetery, 3527 E. County Line Road in Lutz. A memorial service will be held after the burial at 4:00 PM at Congregation Schaarai Zedek, 3303 West Swann Avenue, Tampa, with a reception immediately following. A Mincha service will follow the reception at 6:45 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Academy Prep Center of Tampa, Hillels of the Florida Suncoast, or a cause of one’s choice. Condolences may be expressed online at segalfuneralhome.com.
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