Aug 27

Black October

Today's post is dedicated to Peppercom Co-founder, Edward "Aloysius" Moed.

Peppercom opened Suit_1920sfor business 17 years ago this Friday.
That's when two men, burnt out by the red tape and politics of big agency life
and chomping at the bit to capitalize on a bullish economy, gave the
entrepreneurial life a go.

And, Ed and Steve had a tough slog in the beginning.

The first month was dedicated to creating an
infrastructure, so they set up a checking account, had business cards printed
and did all the other things an embryonic, two-person business needs to do.

The duo's second month was spent on business development.
So, while Steve wined and dined former clients, prospects and the heads of
global agencies (asking the latter for any morsels too small for their
digestive tracts), Ed was smiling and dialing.

Between them, the co-founders set two new business
meetings each and every week of the second month. And, sure as the leaves fall
in an Autumn storm, every single prospect canceled at the 11th hour. Ed called
it Black October. Steve opted for Bleak October. Either way, it was one grim
month to be sure.

Then, in early November, their luck changed like the
seasons (this is starting to sound like a Sinatra song, isn't it?). It began
with a memorable lunch at The Yale Club. They were there with Ben Case, a former
client at Duke University. The entrepreneurs begged Ben to give them his
account. He played hard to get, saying they'd be so focused on building their
own business that they wouldn't pay attention to his. The trio agreed on a
compromise: three free trial months. If Peppercom delivered, Ben would put them
on retainer. They did. And, he did.

Being able to name drop Duke as an existing client worked
wonders with prospects. Soon, Ed and Steve landed two or three more accounts.
And, they never looked back.

Epilogue: I liken entrepreneurship to a roller coaster
ride. In fact, we're helping a client right now to build a new website aimed at
entrepreneurs. I suggested a roller coaster visual. They agreed, and will be
using it as one of their main visuals.

The roller coaster ride came to mind because there are
far more downs than ups in business, and resiliency is critical to an
entrepreneur's success. So is preparation.

That's why I advise any Mark Zuckerberg wanna-be to read
'The Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell. It describes the importance of first
logging 10,000 hours of practice before grabbing for the brass ring.

Mozart, the Beatles and Steve Jobs, among others, all put
in countless hours of blood, sweat and tears before they achieved their
success. Ed and I did the same at two prior agencies, where we amassed our
10,000 hours of practice.

As a result, we already knew who would do what and how
we'd differentiate ourselves on day one. It made all the difference in the
world. It also enabled us to survive Black October.

Nov 19

You are what you watch. Except when you aren’t.

Dog watching television According to psychographic ad targeter Mindset Media, the television shows we watch provide a  unique insight into our personality and can help brands better target their marketing spend (insert link).

For example, modest people, says Mindset Media, are more likely to watch 'Deadliest Catch' while altruistic types, such as Ed Moed, dial up cooking shows like 'Rachel Ray.'

Hmmm. Color me skeptical about all this psychographic psychobabble.

In describing viewers of my favorite show, 'Mad Men', Mindset says it attracts creative types. (No duh. The show's about an ad agency.) But, the creative types who watch 'Mad Men' are also emotionally sensitive (Well, yes, that's me.) and intellectually curious types (Damn, right again.) who tend to be more often dreamers than realists. (Whoa. Back off, Mindset. That's not me!)

Mad Men watchers are also liberal (Gee, these guys are pretty good.) and prefer brands such as Blue Moon and American Express. (I order sauvignon blanc, but I do like a Blue Moon on occasion and carry an AmEx card.) Mindset says I wouldn't be as interested in Campbell's Soup or the Cadillac Escalade. (That's putting it mildly.)

Mindset analyzed viewers of other shows as well, including ‘The Office’ which, while it's gone steadily downhill, is still a favorite of mine. “Like Michael on the show,” says Mindset, “watchers of The Office think they are superior to others.” (Rubbish.) In fact, says Mindset, fans of ‘The Office’ believe they are extraordinary (Which I am.) and happily brag about their accomplishments. (I'm a shameless self promoter.) Viewers prefer Starbucks (Not me. The coffee's way too bitter.) and the BMW Series 3 (Now, this is scary. I own an M3.) They dislike McDonald's (The word 'loathe' would be more appropriate.) and the Lincoln Town Car. (I'll ride in one, but you'll never catch me behind the wheel.).

All in all, this psychobabble stuff IS pretty impressive. Their analysis of me based upon my viewing of ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Office’ is eerily accurate.

BTW, in case you watch ‘Glee’ (which I can't stomach), you're “in touch with your own feelings and may even feel happiness or sadness more intensely than others.” I'll bet you didn't know that, did you? You also drink Evian and drive a Volkswagen. You dislike Quaker cereals (What's your issue with Quaker cereals?) and the Chevy Silverado. (Does anyone like that car?) Oh, and as reluctant as I am to add this in, Mindset says ‘Glee’ viewers are closest to viewers of ‘Mad Men’ when it comes to being creative. Not true. We ‘Mad Men’ types rule.

So, what's your favorite TV show and what do you think it says about you? I'd go on, but I need to DVR 'Eastbound and Down.' I'll bet Mindset would have a field day with viewers of that show.

Aug 17

He who parties last, parties best

It was 15 years ago today that I held what was supposed to be a backyard pool party for my Steveanded fellow employees at Brouillard Communications. I’d selected the date a few weeks earlier and invited my inner circle (I was at war with the CEO and, naturally, asked only those folks who shared my progressive, statesmanlike POV on things).

In the days leading up to the pool party, things further deteriorated between the CEO and me. I felt compelled to call a showdown session on that Friday and came loaded for bear. I was armed with multiple memos detailing how he’d undermined me, uninvited me from meetings and second-guessed my decisions. Imagine my surprise when, upon entering his private conference room (a sanctum sanctorum, if you will), I was greeted by the CEO, the CFO and the head of human resources for J. Walter Thompson (the parent company). Rather than discussing my ultimatum, they laid out the terms and conditions of my severance package, demanded I sign the paperwork and immediately leave the premises. I refused to sign but did bolt forthwith, tail tucked firmly between my legs.

Now, fast forward to my pool party the next day. Is it a party if no one shows? No one did. Except for good, old Edward Aloysius Moed (who had quit two weeks beforehand and set-up Moed Communications in his squalid, one bedroom east side apartment). Ed and I split a case of beer, tossed a baseball around and discussed next steps. He was planning one of his frequent Caribbean pilgrimages and would be gone for 10 days. That was fine. I needed the time to reflect, recover and plot next steps. I figured I could always find another job, so why not take the plunge and start a business with Sir Edward (note: Ed was knighted after opening Peppercom’s London office in 2001). The only things standing in the way were two mortgages, two car payments, raising two kids and a wife who didn’t earn a paycheck.

I decided to give it a shot. I called Ed, told him I’d show up at his apartment the Tuesday after Labor Day and see what would happen. We both agreed to give it six months. I raised $12,500 in seed money to pay for a computer and other start-up necessities, Ed created an office infrastructure, and we both started smiling and dialing. The rest, as they say, is history.

It’s nice to reflect back on Peppercom’s beginnings. I’d actually forgotten about the party that wasn’t. And, the people who decided it wasn’t politically expedient to attend. They’ve moved on to other things. The agency in question went belly up a few years back. And, we’re in the midst of planning a 15th anniversary shindig to celebrate. I guess he who parties last, parties best.