It was 16 years ago yesterday that I washed up at the front door of Ed Moed's squalid, one bedroom apartment and we began building what was to become one of the nation's top independent strategic communications firms.
To mark what is a very, very Sweet 16th anniversary, I thought I'd create a two-part blog for today and tomorrow that captures the 16 events (good, bad and otherwise) that are permanently seared on my brain. Note: I suggest you listen to Rebelution's “More Than Ever” as you pour over the remembrances. Written as a love song, it works equally well in a business context.
So, here then, are the first eight recollections from the early days:
1.) It's September 5, 1995, and I enter Ed's one bedroom apartment. He has a beaten-up desktop computer on his dining room table and a fax machine. That's it. We divide up responsibilities. I'm assigned to smile and dial. He sets up our first phone line and bank account. (FYI, we started the business with a $5k loan from my brother and another for $7.5k from my mother-in-law).
2.) Our first fight. Ed wants to name the firm after his decrepit building, the Andover. I lobby for something a tad more cutting-edge and suggest, instead, we name it in honor of my black lab, Pepper. As you'll read in point #6, the winning name turned out to be a multimillion dollar stroke of luck.
3.) Our first employees are hired. Peter Harris brings professionalism. Karen Cleeve brings passion and Efrem Luigi Epstein brings a pair of world class shoulders needed for ongoing grunt work.
4.) We win Take Good Care, a health care superstore whose goal was to be the Wal-Mart of wheelchairs. Needless to say that didn't happen and we were fired faster than one can empty the contents of a colostomy bag.
5.) Valerie Di Maria takes a huge gamble and hires us to publicize GE Financial Assurance. The win establishes Peppercom as a player.
6.) Our firm's name inadvertently begins to attract droves of dotcom clients who have no clue we have no clue about technology. We begin growing at a clip of 100 percent annually.
7.) The era of employee entitlement arrives and is best personified by a junior AE named Kenny Juarez who, after a mere two months with us, marches into my office and DEMANDS a raise. I turn him down.
8.) Manish Mehta is fired days after embarrassing Ed in basketball at a summer outing. New employees are thenceforth warned to never, ever embarrass Ed at a company event. As you'll read in tomorrow's blog, someone forgot to forewarn a Northeastern University intern.
(Read tomorrow's blog for the next eight milestones.)