Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?
I'm Eric Berman, and when I look back on my career, I have been an entrepreneur since the beginning. After graduating from college, I was always finding myself in the middle of starting businesses and, over time, getting more enamored with taking an idea and building a business from it.
The first part of my career was building a big startup. After seven grueling years, that chapter closed. Then consulting led me to what is now our pioneer client, the famous author and thought leader, Brian Tracy. Other people liked what I was doing for Brian Tracy and wanted me to provide the same types of services. That's how I ended up backing into what's now an agency helping other successful businesses scale and monetize their brands through our company, Brandetize.
Our number one service is helping people with a proven business-to-consumer product scale and grow, and essentially we become their marketing team.
What's your backstory, and how did you come up with the idea?
I went to UC San Diego and started a company with a handful of friends right out of college. After seven years, three of us turned into 400 people, raising almost $100 million. We had built the first social media company.
The company was called CollegeClub. And this was late 90's to 2000. Our headcount grew slowly in the first few years as we were building out the concepts/raising money, etc... Then when the money started pouring in for 'dot coms' in the late 90s we consistently added 5+ people/week.
We raised close to $100M through angel investors and then venture capitalists (Series A, B, and C) plus some strategic partners.
Just imagine, we were the number one website of the entire college market, and were the 40th biggest site on the entire internet back in 2000 when the internet was just becoming mainstream. We had filed to go public, and I was almost retired by the age of 28.
We were the #1 social media company at the time. It was the first “Facebook” of all Facebook's.
And then, the first stock market crash happened. I went from thinking I was set for life to starting over again.
I just picked up and didn't feel sorry for myself and said, great, let's go on to the next idea and started consulting, sharing what I learned about growing businesses online.
I didn't want to go be an employee somewhere so I was looking for the next opportunity. Consulting was a natural fit to generate some income while I was searching for my next move.
It was my chance to separate myself from the initial founders and lead the way myself /write my chapter and start my journey.
I was able to get interest through word of mouth. LinkedIN wasn't much of a thing when I started consulting.
So I did some advising for Venture Capitalists, and it turned into a company. I came up with an idea and then consulted for Club Med and got introduced to Brian Tracy who needed help with digital marketing back in 2001. Brian Tracy would become one of my top clients.
How did you acquire your first customer?
I wasn't an agency when I first started with Brian Tracy. I was simply a guy with a lot of experience and knowledge and felt confident in my ability to perform. After understanding the needs of Brian Tracy, I was able to present to him a solution. It helped that I was a big fan of his so I understood his product/content very well.
Interestingly enough, networking and biz dev is still my biggest source of leads.
When I'm trying to make a new pitch, my philosophy is to create an irresistible offer that people can't say no to. And my request was always "hey, I'll work for free, and I will get paid once the results are there". So that's how I secured my first client that we still have 20 years later.
Once we decided to form an agency, the hard part was going from one client to many, because we had to get an agreement from our one client (Brian Tracy), that he would be okay with us having the team work on other brands too. Fortunately, he understood our vision and was good with it as long as we would always take care of him - and 20 years later, we still have! It was easier to have that talk after building many years of trust.
After we agreed on that, it was a matter of forming a partnership with my 2 partners now, coming up with a name, setting up bank accounts, agreements, etc.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I think the process of launching is to understand your customer’s needs and then figure out how you can deliver on them. Ultimately, how are you going to be able to deliver on time profitably? You have to be careful not to over-commit yourself on time and resources without having a good sense of whether something will work.
Try to identify the goal you need to reach for you to feel like you're having some level of success that you can go on and continue to invest more and more into it.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The easy answer there is just to deliver on results. To maintain clients, the results speak for themselves. One of the biggest things to learn is understanding how to manage expectations. Understanding what the client wants and then having honest conversations about what you can deliver is essential. Make sure everybody's clear on what you're going to do and then ultimately, hit the results and perform what you say you're going to do.
As far as attracting our clients, it's been my ability to be a strong networker. Always be networking, always be doing business development, and always look for opportunities to engage. Get to know as many people as you can and help them out first, and then they will start coming. Helping others out first is part of a whole different strategy in networking.
Some of our top blogs: How to Choose the Right Marketing Agency
Highest Ranking/Most Traffic: How to Get Views on Instagram Posts, Stories, and Videos
How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?
I would say there are ups and downs. There are times that you don't have a good month, and you might not be profitable, and you have other months that are very profitable. We're continuing to build a profitable company and grow over time.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Try to stay focused and not take on more than you can chew. Things will typically always take longer than you expect. At the end of the day, you have to be responsible. Nobody will come to your rescue, and you cannot underestimate the importance of building a good company culture.
You don't want to surround yourself with a bunch of “yes people.” You want people to say to you when you're off the rails and create an environment where people aren't afraid to do that.
When my first company fell through during the internet market crash, other forces out of our control were employees leaving for reasons that have nothing to do with how good a company you're operating.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
15five is a great tool for managing a team. It allows us to manage better, engages with our employees, and get honest feedback weekly.
Spark Hire is an excellent tool for vetting applicants before their initial interview. It sets up a video interview portal for the candidate to submit responses to curated questions and for us to review.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Don't be afraid to surround yourself with others that truly want to give you advice. People that genuinely care about you and they'll tell you the harsh truth. You don't want to surround yourself with a bunch of “yes people.” You want people to say to you when you're off the rails and create an environment where people aren't afraid to do that. The role of an entrepreneur is always to be out there. You can't be hiding in the shadows. You have to pitch your ideas to the team, to your networks, and strangers. And always continuously learn.
One of the things I've done successfully is get myself in a few different mastermind groups. I even created my own mastermind group, where I found some of the most innovative people to leverage my operation and marketing skills. In the group, everybody is there for each other, and it’s been invaluable.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We're always looking for people to help contribute, whether it's freelance or full-time. We invite people who want to make a positive impact and grow their marketing careers to reach out to us at [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
Learn more about me at ericberman.com and check out my agency at brandetize.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram to see more of us! Also, check out our blog and online courses to help you grow your business.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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