I was extremely lucky. Although, luck is relative. I mean, you have to take initiative to take advantage of luck, right? So I like to say I was lucky, but really, I capitalized on an opportunity. A great hallmark of entrepreneurs.
The year was 2000 and I was hired to run the sales office of a small start-up company. Over the next 7 years, as my career grew, so did the company. To the tune of $500 Million Dollars. So, by 2007, while my paycheck was fat, so was the organization and I frankly had enough money in stocks to give the proverbial F-you and walk away. A dream, right? I mean, who hasn’t wanted to walk into their bosses’ office, set their laptop on fire and walk away?
And then reality set in.
I quickly realized that getting a job with a compensation package of $300,000 – $400,000 a year wasn’t that easy. I went on several interviews where the interviewer asked me to “sell me this pen.” Um, no thanks.
Never being one to turn away from a challenge, and full of hubris, I mean, I just helped grow a one million dollar company into a 500 million dollar company, I thought, hey, why not just buy my own company?
I can tell you that in the spring of 2007 every pizza shop, liquor store and hair salon in Massachusetts seemed to be for sale. Not quite what I had in mind. Anyone who has ever seen me cook, drunk or do my own hair would know none of those options were going to work.
And then I saw it.
“Luxury Real Estate Magazine” FOR SALE. It sounded great. Heck, my background is in advertising – how hard could it be? Famous last words.
It was now the summer of 2007, I was the proud owner of Distinctive Homes Magazine and while the real estate market wasn’t as robust as it had been, I never in a million years would have anticipated what was about to happen. As everyone knows, shortly after, the financial markets crashed, whirling us into a recession reminiscent of the Great Depression.
Let me spell out in no uncertain terms what that meant for the company I just bought: No customers. My magazine generated revenue from advertising sales, to real estate agents. The client list, all of the goodwill that I bought all went away. Up in a puff of smoke, instantly.
Many of my peers closed up shop. In fact, today, my printer tells me that out of 40 nationwide real estate magazines he printed at the time, I am the only one that made it through.
How did I do it? The list is long and varied, in fact, I call this period my character building days. The bottom line is that I used the time to figure out what value the company did have left, figured out a way to increase that value proposition and went out and built relationships with my potential client base in a way that forged deep meaningful relationships. These are relationships that I cherish and the people that took a chance and believed in my vision back then are people I would lay down in front of traffic for today. People like Al Becker from Jack Conway,
Chobee Hoy, Roberta Goldfarb from the Realty Guild, Jamie Zudru from William
Raveis, Larry Rideout from Gibson Sothebys, Jason and Kerri Bonarrigo, Karen
Dumond from MAR, Jim Lowenstern from Castles Unlimited, Kelly O’Ryan from
Coldwell Banker and Kathleen and Robert Byrne were beacons. These people (and
many more) allowed me to get to know them, they got to know me and together we found solutions for their companies. These relationships were not built for
short term gain, they were built from honest exchange and they still, to this
day, mean a whole lot to me.
It was not easy. It was exhausting. I cried many times. But through this strife and stress, I got creative. This experience allowed me to reinvent our offerings and build a platform that showed that the company had foresight and fortitude. During this time I also started a Facebook page for the company, and as a result of these efforts, and my unique background in online advertising and marketing, I was able to increase business and teach my prospects how they could find the same success, for free. This was a way to get in front of the right people and I was able to use my knowledge to help them without ever asking for anything in
return. I was able to take lemons and make it into proverbial lemonade, while
at the same time fighting a lawsuit by a former friend.
So here’s the lesson: No matter what hurdles you have in front of you, there is a solution. You need to have the humility to ask for help, defer to other people, execute against a plan and show value to your target audience. You have to dig deep, and decide to fight. You need to get outside of your comfort zone and you need to believe that you can achieve a positive result. If it weren’t for these beliefs, I would have been curled up in a ball and probably would have lost my home.
If I can do it, you can do it.