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.

Jul 11

Let the seller beware

Abby Ellin’s article in yesterday’s Times re-reminded me why I love owning an independent public relations firm.Regret

Her article, entitled “After Selling the Company, Remorse” profiles a number of entrepreneurs who, having sold their companies, rued their lives reporting to parent companies.

The public relations world is littered with the debris of acquisitions gone bad. I know many, many erstwhile entrepreneurs who tell riveting, post-acquisition horror stories.

Don’t get me wrong: the buyer isn’t always to blame. Most mergers and acquisitions fail because of culture clashes. The other obvious problem occurs when the former entrepreneur finds himself shackled to new and strange rules and regulations. And, hey, after years of being the boss, it’s tough to take orders.

I’m hard pressed to think of one truly successful acquisition in the PR world. Sure, some are still in effect, years after the transaction. But, I can’t think of a single ‘seller’ whose image and reputation has improved as a result of a parent company’s acquisition. The latter like to ‘sweeten’ the acquisition talks by enumerating the various cross-selling opportunities within the holding company structure. But, when I speak with friends who have sold to the WPPs, Omnicoms and Interpublics, I hear the exact opposite. In fact, I’ve been told that some firms within holding companies have become arch enemies.

So, while I’ve learned to never say never, I continue to resist the notion of Peppercom one day belonging to someone else. I know Pepper, wherever she is, feels the same way.