It was as some will say, the early days of the Internet. Email was spelled E-mail. Modems and tube monitors were everywhere. Phones could hardly text.
I am from Delaware. Delaware is an island in business. Looking for work in Delaware amounts to searching the “greater Philadelphia market”. I responded to an add to an up and coming Internet provider in the Delaware market. It was a local company. It made my day. But before I arrived at my interview, I had a plan. I saw everything in my mind.
The company was called, The Magnetic Page, or MagPage for short. I wasn’t excited by the name, but the name did separate them from the rest of the landscape where everything had, Earth, Globe, Net, or Fast in it.
For me what mattered most was the company was in a nascent industry and they too were babes in the woods. I arrived in a suit and tie. My interviewer and would be boss, had on tattered clothes and no shoes. He even propped them up on his desk from time-to-time.
Pleasantries quickly resulted in the question. “How would you manage your position as Vice President of Marketing to grow our company?”
I was ready and waiting. I pounced. The following is not far from my real words.
The goal is to dominate the market. In our case, the Delaware market. I’ve identified all the competitors and more.
To do so, I would bifurcate Internet and web hosting channels into a two-pronged dealer network.
I will do this all on a shoestring budget. Your only cost is my salary and eventually anything the company invests will be well justified by ample return on the investment.
You see, I believe in systems thinking. Once in place a system is almost self-sustaining but more important, a system generates more energy.
Of course this drew the obvious question. “How do you intend to do all this?”
I answered, “The first side of the network requires the least effort. We bring every retail store and mom-and-pop computer shop into an exclusive dealership arrangement by offering them a larger perk than any other provider. Even more important we stand on our customer service as a means of taking any burden off of them and by tying both of us together we gain stronger brand recognition while they claim prestige for being associated with the best.”
“Tell me more.” I had him. I continued.
“Next, we approach one of the local radio stations. They all have a horrible web presence. We negotiate an astronomical trade in which we use to advertise.”
“But the work will cost money to build the site. Where do we get the money?” He asked.
“Ted, this is why it’s called marketing. If I do my job right, this comes together flawlessly. I will approach all the web design firms and put the cart before the horse. I’ll make it clear that the one shop that designs this site will get an initial disproportionate amount of leads, but perhaps even more important is that they will be able to have claimed to build that radio stations website.”
“That’s it?” He asked.
“No. You see what is happening here is we will suck up the air from the room. Your competing ISP’s will lose their sources in an instant. This would all happen so fast they won’t be able to combat what happened. With signed exclusives in hand, we lock down everyone and rise to the top fast. “
“Once this is accomplished what will you do?” was his next question. Again total preparation was the key.
“I would manage the networks. To keep everyone from considering each other competitors we create a colleague oriented atmosphere. We have monthly dealer meetings. Here is where the company spends money. We offer up an award to the top producers of each network. We call the web designers the Creators Alliance and the computer shops the Dealer Alliance. In addition, we bring in companies like Microsoft, Netscape, Adobe and others to give a promotional speech to further increase the moral.”
That one conversation lead to me being hired on the spot. He asked my salary expectations which included that IF I achieved my goals for the company I would also be rewarded with a small part ownership, a mere 3 to 5 percent. He agreed. I secured my first dealers day one and the rest is history.
Dear reader, this story unfolded exactly as I stated.
This achievement in life is one of my most prized. I was empowered to make critical decisions. I was supported along the way.
The Magnetic Page moved from a row home in downtown Wilmington to the stunning bucolic Yorklyn Delaware. There Magpage took up residence in a converted snuff mill near a brook. A slow countryside setting for a fast paced industry and company. Inside one year, my achievements led to Magpage’s growth to over 1,000,000 a year in revenue.
It was just over a year that I pressed Ted and his wife to keep their promise. They had claimed earlier that money was tight as they hired a lot of people behind me and their sacrifice was my current salary. I understood and waited. When it became clear the company was earning much more, I stated it was time for us to do it. They scheduled a meeting with me at a restaurant. Just as we were about to leave the office a fax came across to me from our attorney. I needed to sign not only an NDA but a non-compete. I looked it over. I concluded that if I left the company and I owned a piece, why hurt myself? I signed it.
At dinner they balked. I’ll remember this part of the conversation until my dying day. “Now is just not the time, Lars.” Said Ted.
I replied, “Ted, it only gets harder from here.”
One month later on the way into an event I produced with our radio partner at the local technical college, Ted and his wife ambushed me in the parking lot. “Lars. We are letting you go.”
Reader, you may think I’ve ruined a great story. That is not true. The next chapter in my life was even better. Because it was then I stopped making other people rich and decided it was my turn. I even appeared on radio, tv and print. That is an article for another time. Would you like me to tell it?
Until that time, this story should serve as both a great template for your own marketing success and as a cautionary tale. Above all things, life is what you make it. Go out and make it happen.