Sep 27

“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.”

Those aren’t my words. They were spoken by John D. Rockefeller who, if memory serves, knew a  Rockefeller-7 little bit about business. And, although I’m not a fan of billionaires past or present, I do find profound wisdom in JRock’s words. You see, I’ve started, and conducted, business with friends and it’s almost always gone south.

While Ed and I were friends when we started Peppercom, it was a business friendship that had been forged through the ‘Romper Room’ days of Earle Palmer Brown and the Kremlin-like autocracy of Brouillard. Just like some of the case studies mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing book, ‘The Outliers.’  Ed and I had probably already logged some 10,000 hours of working together before we ever hung up the Peppercom shingle. We may have been nascent entrepreneurs, but we were tried and tested public relations executives.

Compare that example with the several times my friend, Tommy, and I have tried to help each other out in business. Thos, as he is also known, reached out to me first, hiring my firm to do some corporate ID/branding assignments for the credit union he was running at the time. It started out well enough, but soon I was receiving some rather unpleasant calls from Le Poer (another one of Tommy’s monikers) questioning an invoice. The situation quickly escalated and we agreed to disengage. Now, fast forward to a time when I was able to reciprocate. It occurred when Ed and I started our very own dotcom firm, called PartnershipCentral. This was at the height of dotcom mania and, like everyone else, we figured we’d be multimillionaires within a few months. So, Ed spun out of Peppercom to run P’Central and hired 26 souls to staff it (a ragtag bunch if ever there was one, BTW). TLP (yet another one of Tommy’s aliases) was one of the few, decent employees we hired. If memory serves, he headed up research. But, when the dotcom bubble burst, guess who had to be laid off along with 25 other luckless people? Tommy. And, while it didn’t damage our friendship, it certainly didn’t help either.

I’ve also crossed the line with Dave Mandell, a good friend from long ago who resurfaced to hire us. Having Dave as a client, no matter how well he treated us, nonetheless put a strain on a friendship that, happily, remains very strong.

Ed’s done work with more ‘friends’ than me. In fact, his extended network of friends and contacts has become affectionately known as The Moed Mafia within Peppercom. It’s been the source of some great new business (as well as some totally bizarre dead ends). But, I’ll leave it to him to comment on whether mixing business and friendship works. I don’t think it does.

That said, I sincerely appreciate new business and prospective employee leads that come from my friends. But, I’ve learned enough to know by now that I’ll never cross the line again. JRock’s words are spot on: a friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.

Jul 14

A different type of pitch for this PR guy

Pictures 060 Thanks to freelance publicist extraordinaire Greg Schmalz, this blogger had the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at last Friday night's Lakewood BlueClaws game.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but to a guy who grew up loving all things baseball, it was huge. I'd even call it a bucket list kind of thing.

It was unbelievably cool to take the mound in front of 7,200 fans (most of whom had naturally turned out to see the heralded RepMan's pitching debut). And, I need to thank Tommy Powers, the David Clyde of credit unions, for warming me up prior to my big moment.

Once given the ball, I'm pleased to report that I grooved a high, hard one right down Broadway and smack into the catcher's mitt. In fact, I think I spied a feint puff of dust explode from his mitt as a result of the ball's impact. And, like a crack addict, once I'd thrown one pitch, I needed to throw more. Lots more. I was ready to toss seven or eight strong innings had the BlueClaws felt the need to call upon the skills of a crafty, veteran lefty. Alas, no such summons was forthcoming and I dutifully returned to my seat in the stands.

Now that I've thrown out the first pitch in a professional baseball game, I need to move on to new, and even cooler, challenges. Maybe Sir Paul McCartney needs a stand-up comedian to open for him on his next tour? Maybe not.