Fail Series: Doing Too Much – with Scott Gerber

In school, Scott Gerber ran a production company and he was the guy who could get things done, like the time he landed a plum job to shoot behind the scenes video for Lil’ Kim.

So after he graduated, it was time to go big. This is the story of how going too big too soon led to failure, and of the one thing that helped him rise back up.

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About Scott Gerber

Scott Gerber is a syndicated business columnist, and the Founder of Sizzle It! and Young Entrepreneur Council. He’s also the author of Never Get a Real Job.

Raw transcript


This audio transcript was bought from SpeechPad.

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Here’s the program.

Andrew: Hey everyone, my name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of
Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. This is part of my Failure
series, with founders who are willing to talk openly about their setbacks.

When he left school, Scott Gerber, today’s guest, had a vision for
producing entertainment properties. The business lost focus and was a
failure, and he’s here to talk about what happened.

Today, Scott is known as the most syndicated entrepreneurship columnist in
the world and the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, a non-profit
that promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and
under-employment.

Scott, welcome to Mixergy.

Scott Gerber: Thanks for having me, Andrew.

Andrew: When you left school, you were confident. You felt like I can go
and take on the challenges of launching a new business. Where’d that
confidence come from?

Scott: Here I was at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, which
is known worldwide as one of the top performing film production schools in
the United States, if not the world. I was known as “the producer,” if you
will. I was never the artsy one, but I was always the guy doing the
business side of the film industry, which for many was a no-no in my
school.

So I kind of gave myself a little test when I was around 18, 19 years old,
freshman, sophomore year. I said, you know what, here’s what I’m going to
do. I don’t want to get an internship. People keep telling me internships,
internships, internships. I’m like, “No, no, no. I want to go do something
for real.”

I didn’t talk about my age, I didn’t say I was 18 or 19, and I started
basically cold-calling all these different record labels in New York City
and commercial houses. Until I got one, Atlantic Records, which basically
at the time was producing Lil’ Kim. Here I was, 19 years old, walking in to
direct a behind the scenes music video for Lil’ Kim and produce it on site.

It went very well. So I thought to myself, “Okay. Here I am doing this at
this age. I guess I can do something else.” That then turned into me
working with folks like Blue Man Group and a lot of other folks in that
industry. Naturally, the next progression is, how can I take this the next
level?

That’s kind of when I got the bug of, okay, I guess I’m going to have to.

Andrew: Actually, that’s really impressive. I didn’t know that about you, I
didn’t realize, and I’ve known you for a long time. I didn’t realize you
were producing a video for Lil’ Kim, or with Lil’ Kim. What was the video?
What were you doing?

Scott: I think, from what I remember, La Bella Mafia was one of her CDs at
the time. We were doing behind the scenes featurettes for her DVDs and for
a variety of different appearances and such. But it was just a really,
really funny place and time to be, one of the funniest exchanges I’ve ever
had professionally in my entire life.

Andrew: That’s got to feel great. All right, and I understand then. If you
could do that and you say, “I could do this stuff professionally. With the
shackles of still being in school and still being underage and still not
having a huge track record, I could do this, then I could do anything.”

So you graduate and then you say instantly, what?

Scott: Well, I started basically continuing my path, I guess I should say,
producing all these different projects over the course of my college
career. Working for a variety of different producers, in joint partnership
with other producers, or doing my own projects. I started finding my way
into the advertising and marketing businesses and pitching various
different things there.

It all kind of worked out until graduation. This is the story where
basically I took a company that was extremely profitable, making me tens of
thousands of dollars a month before graduation, into a business that nearly
bankrupted me. The company bankrupted, and I only had $700 left to my name
after all this was said and done. Talk about a blow.

Andrew: I’ve got to go slow into this, because that’s impressive. To build
a $10,000 a month profit business.

Scott: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: All right. What was the original idea for the business? Let’s talk
about how the business evolved before we talk about what happened when it
crashed. Commercials, music videos . . .

Scott: Sure. The original concept for the business was pretty simple. It
was producing properties for the entertainment business.

Andrew: What are properties, by the way, in the entertainment business?

Scott: Properties. Basically, projects, productions. Music videos and
commercials for the most part. Things that are video or film oriented in
nature were basically the two core competencies of what I was out there
doing.

Then I started hearing about this new buzz word which now is like a joke,
but back then it was a big deal. New media. Remember that? New media. The
whole world’s going to be new media.

I said, “Well, I’m already paying Joe Schmoe to do audio mixing for these
productions I’m doing. I’m already paying this guy to go build a landing
page site to show this person’s music video. Why don’t I just take all of
this over and put it under one umbrella?”

It sounded like common sense. I’ll get the people that do this to partner
with me, and I’ll take more of the revenue and live a happy life for the
rest of my life owning the next [inudible] Media meets Gray Worldwide
Advertising. It was a brilliant idea, in that . . .

Andrew: Can you go slower into it, because I want to understand how you
even got those guys.

Scott: Sure.

Andrew: So, you had this vision. What’s the first project that you created?

Scott: Sure, sure. So this is the perfect example. I can’t name the
company, but it is a Fortune 100 company that I found us a way to get into
and sell. Doing our first, at the time it was called “multi-channel
production.” Meaning we had to produce everything from jingles to actual
video production to Flash–at the time–website animation landing pages.

This was the first time I got the real kick in the butt, because I’d never
done anything, never even supervised anything, besides video.

My partners in this were folks that I had hired throughout the various
stages of my career prior. I had someone who owned a New York City sound
production studio. Another person who owned a creative boutique agency. We
combined forces; that’s how that happened.

Andrew: Even before then, I want to understand the projects that you were
building that were successful before you get into new media.

Scott: Oh, sure, sure.

Andrew: What’s the very first thing that you create?

Scott: Well, the first thing I created. Let’s see. It sounds funny; looking
back now, I’ve done tons of commercial work over the years. Obviously not
recently, but back then. For a variety of different brands–we had Hewlett-
Packard, we had stuff again for a variety of things like Atlantic Records,
or Blue Man Group, or this theatrical Broadway company called Pride. All
kinds of things across the board.

Those were all produced to total success. That was the $10,000 a month
years.

Andrew: So you were still in school and calling these people up, saying,
“I’d like to produce a behind the scenes video for you. Or I’d like to . .
.”

Scott: My pitch was, initially it was me lying about my age or not
mentioning it. But then as word got out and my rates were simply lower
because like anything else, you have folks with 20 years tenure thinking
they’re worth five times more.

Clearly, if there’s lower budgets, there’s people to go and do those jobs.
That’s basically what I was putting myself out there . . .

Andrew: How do you even get in the door with that? I wouldn’t even know
where to begin.

First of all, frankly, between you and me I’ve got about an hour to fill
here.

Scott: Oh, no, of course.

Andrew: I want to make sure to go through this story slowly. Also, the
thing is that . . . to use the boiling frog analogy, we don’t just jump
into the hot water and get boiled, as entrepreneurs. We find our way of
getting in warmer and warmer water and at some point we can’t get out of
it.

I want to understand how you go through it so when I go through it, I say,
“Wait a minute. I might feel like I can climb any mountain because I got up
until here, but I’m not realizing that if I climb any further there’s a
cliff I’m going to fall off of.” Your story’s going to help me recognize
that.

So step me into it.

Scott: When I was out there pitching, Andrew, I’ve got to be honest with
you. People ask me all this time, even when it comes to how did I pitch all
of the columns that I now have? How did I get in the door with investors
when I was 20 years old even when they told me, “kid, you have no idea what
you’re doing.”

The key is that there’s certain kinds of traits. Of course, the common
sense one is like an unwillingness to let people say no. Persistence is
key. None of this stuff is revolutionary, right?

Truly, for me, my strategy has always been two-fold. The first is being
very up to date about what’s going on in my surroundings. Whether that’s
reading Trades, whether that’s reading the insider blogs that are out
there, whatever the case is, so I know first hand, X person is doing Y
thing. Now it’s time for me to make that call and try to get in that door.

Whether it’s playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, whether it’s going out
there and trying to find people that I know that know the next person, or
whether it’s me just frankly sending an email about finding the right
contact information . . . I just found a way because I just frankly didn’t
known any better.

I will say, of course, did I pull some things that today might be
considered borderline ethical or not? Of course! Every entrepreneur does
from time to time.

Andrew: I love those. Can you give me one of those?

Scott: Exactly. This is the one that I tell everybody I used to do.

Nobody would ever pick up the phone in the [inaudible] client, I would say. If I wanted to be one the phone with the head of marketing, no way I was getting
on the phone with head of marketing. I had no reference in.

So what I would do is I’d call the sales department, because I know the
sales department would pick up the phone all the time because their job is
to pick up the phone all the time. Make a sale. All I would say is, “Hi,
I’m looking for this person.”

They’d say, “You’re in the wrong department.”

I’d say, “Oh! The receptionist must have transferred me incorrectly. Can
you transfer me to this person?”

When the transfer comes through, it’s an internal number, and I’d always
get the person on the phone. There are certain things like that, that every
entrepreneur is going to pick up their own kind of way of doing things.
It’s for them to fall asleep at night and say, am I morally sound? Did I
ethically make the right choice?

To me, I think that there is a fine line of being an entrepreneur,
everything you do. To me, as long as I got to that person and I didn’t kill
somebody or obviously step on somebody–I wasn’t the kind of person to just
roll over people or take people’s contacts and say, “go screw yourself.”
That just never was me, I was always a relationship builder by trade.

That’s how I did it. With Lil’ Kim, I saw a posting that they were looking
for folks. I called, emailed, did everything I could get in front of the
producers. That was it.

Andrew: You got in front of the producer and you opted to do it cheaper,
and you offered to . . . actually, to do it cheaper, right?

Scott: Yeah. I was . . .

Andrew: Did you have much more going for you beyond that?

Scott: At first, it was definitely cheaper. I certainly didn’t have the
reel I had later on in the career to show, again, the track record of
success and all that. I found other things.

Another example for me anyway–this doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone–
being at New York University, there was a tremendous amount of talented
folks around me. If I needed certain individuals talent-wise to sell a
client, I’d say, “Okay, XYZ student, who I think is very talented. If you
give me your reel,” which sometimes this director wannabes would spend tens
of thousands of dollars of their or their parents’ money putting together
these director reels or whatever else.

Let me sell that. Let me use this product to show our capabilities. Then
let’s push that forward.

To me, those are the kinds of ways that I try to mitigate the track record
question. Because I needed to show something. That’s how I did it.

In the case of the Lil’ Kim stuff, I think I just happened to get along
very well with their production team. They were going to hire a producer
based on a trial period anyway, and I wowed them, I guess, past the trial
period. That’s kind of the whole story.

Andrew: All right. When you’re in your early 20s, late teens, in school,
earning about $10,000 what do you do with that money?

Scott: Live the life fantastic, Andrew.

Andrew: Tell me about that.

Scott: I did everything that I think any person who doesn’t know what life
is like in the real world would do with that sort of money.

Of course, let me just say I also of course wasn’t stupid. I put money
towards college education, debts, all that sort of stuff. So it wasn’t just
like, “Ooh, let me go do this.”

Being in the New York social scene, I met a lot of great people. I now
preach against this for start-ups, of course, the whole ego, letting your
ego run wild. Or saying, “Put it on my tab,” all the time is the stupidest
way to do business or just pursue life.

Debt is the root of all evil, especially in the young market. But these are
the kinds of things I did; I would spend money going into a club and buy
bottle service for me and 10 friends. I’d go and buy dinners for everyone.
I would spend inordinate amounts of money, rather than just trying to get
people on the phone to sell them or take them to coffee, I’d have to go
above and beyond and make sure it was a $200 meal.

Point is, at the end of the day, I could point to every mistake I’ve ever
made. I’m the first one to admit it was the stupidest thing to my personal
finances at the time. I preach now the gospel against that. Obviously I’m
extremely frivolous, I follow the [inaudible] safety principles of life, if you
will.

That’s really it. I truly wish I could tell you where the stupidest
expenses were, but that kind of sums it up.

Andrew: Did you grow up in New York, or . . . actually, yeah. You went to
school in New York. So I was saying in past interviews how being in New
York, surrounded by all these people who have achived great things, you
aspire to that.

Those people aren’t going to take you to Starbucks Coffee in order to make
a big deal.

Scott: You make an excellent point.

Andrew: Right? Is that where it was? You feel like, ‘I’m going to be like
these guys; I believe that . . . ‘

Scott: Keep up with the Joneses. Got to keep up with the Joneses. I’m the
first one–now, of course, it’s a bit different. I feel like I’ve
established maybe not even close to the track record of a lot of my
contemporaries, especially folks in the Young Entrepreneur Council.

I look at people like my friend Jeremy Johnson, who’s co-founder of
tutor.com. Or folks like Erin Patzer [SP] that founded Mint. I kind of say,
“Whoa. How do you make those comparisons?”

But when you’re in a social ecosystem like New York or a major city, you’re
selling a perception if you’re trying to break into business. Of course,
could I have gone the mentor route if you will, take people out to coffee,
try to get gradual stuff. I thought that was a different path.

I did that too, for other reasons. I talked in previous interviews we’ve
done about how to break in with one call, I always talk about. Breaking
down doors with people that you shouldn’t get in doors with. I did that as
well. When it comes to trying to get clients, you can’t be like, ‘hey, I’m
this 19 year old kid’ in most instances and say I’m going to be able to
handle a half a million dollar production budget.

It doesn’t compute from a common sense perspective on their side. So you
have to give that perception of reality, you have to show that. That’s for
a lot of the reasons why I think the mentality just sticks, and then
unfortunately carries into every aspect.

Andrew: OK. One of the reasons that I’m asking about this is because I
don’t want to give the perception that when you have a failure, it’s
because you make stupid mistakes. We’re not taking money out of our pockets
and throwing it out the window.

We’re not necessarily spending it . . . bottle service, to me in my mind,
doesn’t seem like an extravagant expense. Yeah, it’s a little bit over the
top. Yeah, if you do it every night, then you’ve got a problem.

Scott: Yeah, other problems!

Andrew: What often gets us, it seems, isn’t those crazy spendings that
anyone can point to and say of course. It seems like it’s a gradual
process.

Scott: It totally is. Just to make the final point on the previous stuff we
talked about, you go to one meeting, you get on a high. You sell somebody
based on a certain series of protocols you’ve done, so now you think that’s
the way it’s got to be done.

You don’t think that you’re building track record. You think, this is the
way that you sell, just as one example of what you’re trying to say.

The problem with breaking that mold is you say to yourself, well, this is
working. Why am I going to change? Then you say to yourself, okay, well, what
were the steps that led up to that expensive meal? Like you said.

It might have been bottle service three weeks ago with that guy who
happened to be in the room. All right, well, every time I want to try and
get a gathering of people who are going to be my connectors, do I need to
do this thing? Do I need to be the showman? I need to be the person in the
center of the room, center of attention, who they say, “Let’s go do it with
that guy. Let’s hang out with that guy.”

In the end, I think I am where I am today because of those failures, no
question. I always say failure is extremely important for entrepreneurship.
It’s extremely for entrepreneurs to succeed. The key is to learn from
previous failures of both yourself and others around you, so you can then
create a new game plan without trying to fall off the cliff every time.
That’s really the key.

Andrew: Okay. I want to help everyone get there.

You’re saying then the next step in this evolution in the business was, was
it you said, “I’ve got all these resources, we’re already video, we can
bring those resources together and create new media properties.”

Scott: Yes. It was . . .

Andrew: The first thing was this Fortune 100 project?

Scott: I can’t disclose the name of the brand . . .

Andrew: Right, but it was the first step in that direction.

Scott: Correct. Yes. Basically . . .

Andrew: What did you do there?

Scott: Basically, I had sold the account representative on doing again,
this multi-channel project for one of their . . . it was a big conference
they were doing with every reseller in the country. We put together a
package; this was the first time I’d even put together a proposal outside
the video. So I just basically took whatever the other guys were saying as
well, this is the way it’s done, so this is what we charge.

Again, I didn’t realize that, just as a case in point, one mistake about
the partnership which I’ll then kind of jump back to, the failure of this
was based on the partnership itself.

A lot of the issue started just if I had examined that proposal. First
proposal we ever did. These guys were charging based on if they were
personally doing the work, not agency. There was no contingencies. There
were no things like well, what happens if something goes wrong? What
happens if scope creep happens? It’s not, “Oh, some freelancer in a back
room is just going to go fix it.”

We’re a company. We have to move this project forward and prepare for those
inevitabilities.

On this first project, the first mistake I made was I said, “Let’s be
partners without testing the waters.” Here we are signing the contracts,
putting our names in blood, before we even tested anything together as a
unit. A single project. We all bought it based on the hype and each other’s
reputations in our respective fields.

Problem one, never do that.

Andrew: By partnership, you mean a legal entity instead of a corporation?
It was a partnership?

Scott: No, no, no. We signed the operating agreement inside of a new
company that I now refer to as the Company That Shall Not Be Named in that
book. The whole concept basically was, let’s make it a third and a third
and a third.

Three partners, we each do our respective things. Didn’t even think, is it
really going to be a third, third, and third? Who’s going to do more, who’s
going to do less? All those conversations we never had. Problem one, the
partnership was set up to fail. Then . . .

Andrew: This was supposed to be a long term partnership?

Scott: Oh, absolutely. This was going to be . . .

Andrew: Like a business that would go on for years together?

Scott: Absolutely. This was going to be an agency that now took me beyond
the video world. The whole business reason I joined into this thought
process was, OK. I do video, I hire these other things. Why take five
percent when I can take 25 to 40% by having partners instead of paid
vendors?

That was really the whole concept. Let’s bring it all in-house. Let’s be
the one stop shop that does everything instead of having any focus, because
then we can keep up with the big dogs. Our big core competency difference
is that we’re cheap. Right?

So we thought, who in New York City that’s paying tens of thousands of
dollars more than they should be, in most cases for media services, isn’t
going to want to go with the little guy?

The problem is, we looked at the cost, but the cost isn’t 90% of the time
what these guys hire. They hire on track record, and they of course hire,
most importantly, on reliability. You’re being entrusted with the major
corporate brand; the last thing they want to do is give you this money and
you don’t deliver. Or you deliver a crappy product.

But we weren’t thinking that. We were thinking, let’s just go in and say
we’re cheap. Boom, done, end of story, call it a day. Let’s call it a done
deal.

So here’s this first project, and all the little bugs started coming out.
First, we branded . . .

I should even back up. First thing was, we had a company that we couldn’t
pronounce the name of. Nobody could pronounce the name of this company. It
had way, way too many consonants and not enough vowels. We got business
cards that were the most expensive business cards because my design partner
said, this is what agencies do. You need to have this cool funky card.

The cards cost us $1,500. Okay? You couldn’t read either side because the
printing was colored on both sides with gray text and yellow print. Every
person I gave this card to said, ‘can you just write something down?’

Normally, where people want to write down on the card itself, oh, I met you
at this place–you couldn’t write on these cards. A, they were too dark,
and B, the texture of the card didn’t allow the pen to be written on it. So
right there, problem number two.

Third thing was the partnership. Then comes now into this first project.
Here we are, starting this thing, and I realize okay. I thought I was going
to be doing the video projects and we would collectively sell.

It turned into me being the customer sales representatives, the sales
representative, and in a lot of instances the operations guy. These two
guys, for the first project, were the primary resource to drive the
business. We didn’t have money to go hire 50 people for the project.

Basically, these partners became the actual resources themselves. Which is
never a good way to go. You want to grow the business, that’s the whole
point. You don’t want to be stuck in the trenches. You get stuck in the
client work, not only is that prohibiting you from getting more client work
because you can’t take on, because you’re over-extended, but it also
prohibits you from having any sort of help in growing the business.

Those were the biggest, from the get-go, issues. At this time, mind you, we
had spent money on office space. We had spent money on frivolous things
like those business cards. This was still in the age of let’s spend to get
clients like no man’s land, rather than having some sort of marketing plan
in place where it was constant advertising or a systematic approach to
business.

This was, in all intents and purposes, the reason I call it the Company
That Shall Not Be Named, for one reason at the time it was the most tragic
thing. I felt like I was strapped into a flaming jet most days, waking up,
into a mountain. There was no way out. I was in. At that age, I had put all
of my eggs into this basket, it wasn’t that easy to think about other
alternatives.

Andrew: Going into a partnership where you as a founder have to give up two-
thirds of the business can’t be easy. How did you make that decision? We’ve
always wrestled with that. We don’t want to give up a percent even.

Scott: I think, Andrew, what you’re seeing now is a humble person who
realizes just how stupid I was.

Andrew: I don’t think you were stupid. I think you were . . .

Scott: I think, no, I was in the moment.

Andrew: Yes. That’s the word.

Scott: I was inexperienced. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know what it
was like to do a partnered negotiation. I had always been a one man band.
There was never really any reason to, you know what I mean? So for me, it
was really just how do I not get a real job?

And I don’t mean that as a cheap book plug. I mean that realistically. How
do I, basically, go out there and not work for somebody else, because it
wasn’t in me. How do I make that sustainable?

This is, I think, the point you bring up most intelligently in the
beginning of this conversation. Which is, we go into this for a purpose.
For a reason.

My rational reasoning was, A, I wanted to be my own boss. B, I know I
didn’t know it all. C, I needed a collective of people that could provide
me those two things. The problem was, I didn’t pick the right people. I
didn’t have the financial background that I should have to get into this,
the financial education I should have, I didn’t have really have experience
negotiating contracts.

Ironically, two years later, I’d be negotiating for $2 million in venture
capital money, but that’s just how life goes. You learn from mistakes.

But really, going back to the two-thirds concept, I just figured let’s make
it fair. I thought it was going to be a fair exchange, I do this, you do
that, you do this. I didn’t even think about operating agreements, because
let’s be honest, I was 20, 21 years old . . .

Andrew: What was their experience? Were you going to them because you were
thinking, these guys are more experienced, they can handle things . . .

Scott: Each of them had 10 or 15 years.

Andrew: So how much of a role did that play, that you said, ‘I need, I’m
going to them to help me out.’

Scott: It was almost in some capacities a mentorship role.

Andrew: That’s what I was thinking.

Scott: I thought, again, another principle. I want your viewers to
understand one key thing here. Even today, entrepreneurship especially like
the tech space, let’s say, there’s just so much information out there about
a partner deal.

A standard concept like that, you’ll type into Google and you’ll have
50,000 results. When this was all happening 10 years ago, there wasn’t this
sort of resource en masse that it was so easy. “Oh, let me just type this
in. I got this.” Or, “Let me go find this resource,” which is why I ended
up doing what I do now.

To me, it was more just, I need to get it done. I’m moving at 900 miles an
hour, graduation is upon me, I need to do something. So I rushed into a
situation that was obviously not a premier situation, a great situation, it
was terrible, and I learned from it as a result.

But I went to these guys for two reasons, and I still love these two
particular individuals today. Yes, we’re not business partners, we’re still
good friends. I think we all had a big slap in the back of the head for
this one. The bottom line is, and I think they would say it at the time,
these guys were hardcore creatives.

One of the guys was a big deal at Digitas back in the day. These were
creative people, but that’s the key. They were creative people. I didn’t
have the business acumen at that time to run a business. I thought we were
going into a collective to run it collectively.

So when that fell on me, I take full responsibility for it because frankly,
I just didn’t have the experience. I could have taken 1,000 to lunch for
mentorship, but the reality is that to run a business, you can’t be
learning every single second of what your next move is. You have to have
some level of competency to move the business forward.

I didn’t have that.

Andrew: All right. You get office space . . .

Scott: $4,000 a month.

Andrew: How much?

Scott: $4,000 a month.

Andrew: $4,000 a month. Before there’s any revenue.

Scott: Exactly, pre-revenue. Again, perception. Right? The whole thing . .
.

Andrew: You were imagining what, how would people get a chance to see the
office and perceive you?

Scott: Ironically today, even if you walk into these major agencies like
Gray, Oglivie, if you have a single meeting there as a client, other
than the pitch itself it’s mind-blowing, right? Most times, it’s cubicle
farms to get the stuff done. It’s not, oh, let’s go take the clients out,
have constant client meetings.

A lot of these bigger agencies simply don’t need to, because there’s so
many digital resources. At the time though, this was when Skype wasn’t
necessarily even around yet. This was the pre . . . I won’t say it wasn’t
around. It was more like, all these new technologies were just that. They
were so new, that nobody really had adopted them en masse.

So you had to impress clients. Like when I had this first client I referred
to earlier, for this first proposal pitch, we invited him to our New York
City offices. That’s a big deal. Going back to the fact that we didn’t
really have a track record other than our collective, individual work
products that we’ve created, but as an agency didn’t have anything.

When people walk into this nice, shared office space that we don’t know
we’re actually splitting that office, but we paid that part of the share,
it adds a level of credibility when you’re pitching for a six figure job.
We just assumed, my thing in that, which today I don’t think is necessarily
wrong for some businesses, we had put that as a marketing expense almost.

The problem was, we could have had that as a marketing expense for far
cheaper, not in the key area where it was. I think a New York address, as
long as it isn’t in Bum Screw, in some area of the city you don’t want to
be anywhere near, would have sufficed.

The problem is we thought, well, the money’s just going to roll in.

We have all these collective clients already. We already have all these
individual contacts. Now they’re going to be so impressed and amazed,
because we’ve joined together, we can do everything for them.

What’s the phrase, when we became nothing to anyone rather than something
to someone, all of a sudden we lost everything.

Andrew: I see. All right, so you do though end up getting a client. You
convince him that you’ve got the right price, that you’ve got the right
experience, and that you should be the company they hire. They hire you.
What goes wrong after that?

Just describe the story.

Scott: Sure. So again, step one, we got caught up in the client work. I was
so back and forth, I have never been to the level of customer service.

You’ve got to remember, my previous background and history to that point
was dealing one on one with a producer of a record label. Or dealing with
one executive who is in charge of a project. When you go into the brand
world, it’s another ball game.

You’ve got to go through legal, you’ve got to go through their agency of
records. You have to go through all these different intermediaries that all
have to approve, individually, 100%. If any of them in the chain don’t,
that sends everything back through the wringer again.

So here I was for the first time experiencing this, trying to act like I’ve
been through this a million times before. Trying to, basically, hold on for
dear life. I’ll never forget the first meeting we had.

I’ve done rough cuts of video before, something that’s clearly not what the
final products will look like, but I had no idea that in the agency world
at least at the time, there just wasn’t that sense of how process worked.
When you send something to the client, it is review ready.

Here we were, sending a rough draft of everything–and now I would never do
that, just in the world I work with [??] with my daily business, I would
never send the agency anything but something I’m proud to send out of shop.
At the time, it was ‘we just want your approval, make sure we’re doing a
good job.’ Which was all kinds of problems with it as well.

We do that, and the client sent us back 14 pages of change order notes.
With some hostility included, almost to say, ‘this is what you hand us?
This is what we’re paying you for?’ Whether that’s because the executive we
got just was a tight-ass, doesn’t matter.

The point is, that was the perception of all this, this big build we’ve
done, we’re this big agency, we’re brand new, multi-channel, we’re doing
wheels and deals and all this stuff, boom! We fucked up.

That’s what happened. That was problem two, not communicating and knowing
the process in which we should be communicating with our client. And how
their process worked, so we know what to expect from within our internal
process.

That’s something that most companies today fail at nine times out of 10 if
they’re failing at customer service. They want to do business their way,
not the client’s way.

Andrew: Why do you feel that your two partners, with 10 years experience
each, didn’t know that that’s not what you guys should have sent?

Scott: Again, we’d all come from individual creative worlds where . . . in
the previous workflow, right? You have agency Z hires production company X
to get these different prongs of the campaign done. They hire us
individually for those prongs. So we’re only ever dealing with the person
that we’re producing that particular individual media project for.

Now we’re cutting out the intermediary, we’re going straight to the brand.
The decision makers. The people. That we were previously, at least in some
ways, protected from. If anything, we would get one document or one change
order from one person. We never knew about these other people. We didn’t
care, it wasn’t our job.

So here we are now, doing that for the first time where one guy might have
owned a studio in New York City for music, but again. He would work for a
label, a person within a label. His job is to produce that artist or that
commercial track or that jingle. Not, OK, how are we going to market the
jingle and is this going to play to our end consumer? It’s here’s the
scope, here’s the RFP, it’s exactly like this, ABCD, done, out. Right?

Same thing with the other guy. He was a creative agency guy that worked in
the Flash and web design trenches. Very, very talented. Built massive
campaigns, like part of Delta’s campaigns, things like this, but never on
the business side. So we just no idea. And we got a tough kick in the ass.

Andrew: So how do you respond to that? What’s the next thing you do?

Scott: The next thing we did was basically go back, and this is where we
got the first getting stuck in terrible sales cycle mantra. Here we were
now, so busy on this one project that was paying us, and don’t even get me
started on the payment. I don’t remember the exact details, but I believe
it was something like we said 50% upfront and 50% on the back end, and
nothing in the middle.

This project lasted two and a half months. You want to talk about cash flow
crunch, forget it.

Now with any business I ever do, I usually say I want to do 50, 25, 25 on
larger projects. Or milestone pay where it’s 50, 10, 10, whatever. But at
the time, again, based on our previous limited experience we’d do a project
and we’d go for this amount of time, and at the end of this amount of time
we’d get paid. Even if it was a 30 day.

We ended up getting paid within five months of the original taking of the
job. It killed us.

I couldn’t go out and sell because I was too busy now handling this
client’s relationship. Or handling the internal project management of our
limited capabilities team. The individual guys couldn’t call and hobnob
with their previous clients or whatever, they’re too busy. If we missed a
deadline, we didn’t eat.

That’s the reality of what was going on behind the scenes of this
perception bubble nonsense.

So we got stuck. What this inevitably led to was, we finished this job.
Client did not renew us. We then finally, because we got lucky at first, we
thought, “Oh, we just got this [inaudible] client. Look how good we’re doing.” So we didn’t think about longevity, because we’re just thinking let’s kick
this out of the park so we have a case study to show all our other clients.

Here we are now at the end of this project. No new prospects. No new
business strategy in place. No marketing campaign, nothing. We are
basically starting from scratch.

We start calling our contacts and boom, here’s the next problem. They now
said, “Well, we don’t want you to do that for us.” So now I have to
backtrack from saying we’re the one stop shop that can do everything to
“Ooh, we’ll just do that for you.”

That all of a sudden mixes the message. Are you the expert in what you do,
or are you trying to give me a holistic campaign? That’s very different.
Businesses don’t want to do business with non-experts. If they want a one
stop shop, they’ll go to an expert in a one stop shop. If they want a video
person whose track record’s a video, they don’t give a shit about the other
things.

This is what ended up happening. We got stuck once again because we
basically lost our entire client rosters because we were no longer
specialists. We had no brand recognition. Our individual names were great,
but let’s be honest again, with that one stop shop thing looming over us,
we had to change our pitch constantly.

Then we started taking work, and this is where the downfall begins,
individually. Once we start saying, “Okay, well I can’t let my partner
starve, but can I really take a third of a day-rate job this guy’s doing?”
The answer’s no.

Now we’re losing focus. We begin all of a sudden to spread our separate
ways. Then we start taking on jobs just to pay bills that really are of non-
consequence, and the spiral just continues downward until eventually we
forfeit the partnership and move our separate ways.

Of course, it was this entire disaster, I could tell you stories like how
we tried to pitch venture capitalists thinking that money was the answer.
Money was certainly not the answer; no individual investor would even give
us the time of day because we had nothing that was viable at any level.

Again, total naivete. I had no idea.

Andrew: Why did you lose your other customers? I could understand that you
couldn’t get new customers because you were saying you could do everything
and they just wanted a focus company, then you said we could focus, and
they said wait a minute, I thought you do everything.

What about the customers you had before? Why not . . .

Scott: Again, it’s the same concept Andrew. It’s like, okay, so, you used to
produce these video projects for me. I want to hire you. But now I have to
be conscious of overhead for a theoretical company, so I can’t just charge
for me. I have to charge for me plus.

If I don’t, why are they going to pay me 20 to 30% more than what they
previously did when OK, maybe I’ve gotten a five percent increase or 10%
increase. But you’re talking about putting an entire operating budget that
really is just dead weight. I don’t want to deal with that.

Then all of a sudden it’s try to explain to your partners, again, how we
ended up going our separate ways, explain to them, “Ooh, I need to do this.
So we’re not going to split anything and I’m not going to contribute to the
rent this month.”

It’s not a good conversation. This is the foundation, it’s the entire
process, the foundation for how I started my several business that are all
in the black within three months of when I started them and still, to this
day, existing.

You have to learn from these deep dives off a cliff. I don’t think anybody
knows what it’s like to fail to the point of having all this money and
success at that age, again, this is not ‘FU’ money, but it was good money
for my age, 18 to 19 years old.

Andrew: Yeah.

Scott: But then to all of a sudden to have $700 left and have your parents
saying, “All right. It’s time to get a real job now.” Almost say give up
everything you believe in. It’s not working, sorry, we don’t believe in you
anymore. Say to yourself well, rather than going the safe, easy road, I’m
going to go figure it out again.

Andrew: In a moment I want to ask about, now that you’ve had some distance
from this, what you learned, what you’ve taken to future projects. Then I
want to find out what you’ve been up to since then, because I know that
you’ve gone on to do much bigger, much better things than this.

But I want to continue with the narrative for just a little bit longer. The
venture capital, that’s interesting to me. That you decided you’re going to
go out and pitch venture capitalists and raise money. Tell me about that.

Scott: It’s funny, Andrew, again. There’s a great article that I suggest your readers take a look at on Entrepreneur. It’s called “Six Steps to the Perfect Pitch.” It’s an article I wrote about this very experience.

I basically went in to this pitch meeting . . . let me actually back up for
a second. So, the reason I went to go get the money. It wasn’t just like
oh, we’re going to go do service based business and I want $20 million to
go do that.

Nobody in their right mind, I’m not even an idiot to think that that’s why
you would get money.

What we started doing when we weren’t getting the clients that would pay
us, we thought it was a brilliant idea to start bringing on clients with no
money, but take equity positions in their company in the amount of service
work we provided and strategy we provided.

Andrew: Interesting.

Scott: So we thought oh, well, this isn’t working. Today I guess you refer to it as the ever common phrase pivot. We pivoted.

Brilliant minds of course that we are, we said, “Oh, well this makes total
sense!” I can see now in hindsight how stupid this is. We’re going to go
from a scenario where we can’t get clients to pay us to clients that have
no money. This is a brilliant maneuver.

Obviously it didn’t work out, but we had one particular deal that I had
found with the partners. It had some potential, it had track record and
history. It was an IP property with a lot of creative media behind it.
Proven track record, proven revenues, whole nine.

We had the ability to license this exclusively if we could find the
funding, then basically we would bring in the executive team and we would
do all the creative work on it. It could have been grand slam home run.

That is a whole other story unto itself of what happened, but basically
we went to write a 94 page business plan. Spent three and a half months of
our time doing it, so talk about taking the focus away from the revenues
before, now we’re taking a document on top of everything else, adding it to
that, which produces nothing. In the hopes that we’re going to raise this
money to save the day.

Again, common misconception. Investment money is the saving grace of
everything, it’s never the saving grace. It only adds more mouths to feed,
and they want to be fed before you. But we went out, pitching all this
stuff, and the investors basically looked at me like I had three heads.

Here’s three guys with no track record in the space we wanted to go into
within this product. It was in the publishing industry, none of us had
publishing industry experience. They said, ‘well, why are you the people to
do this? Why am I giving you $150,000 each in salary? Why are you raising
$19 million instead angel round for $50,000 for $100,000 just to get the
next three months, get your product out there into market?’

Basically, again. Hit over the head, Spanish Inquisition style, typical
first time newbie in the investor space. I learned more in that 25 minute
room about investment than I think any textbook or mentor conversation
could have ever told me.

It’s ironic, because several years later I went back to those investors and
they got a good laugh, we’re good friends. They pretty much told me, “Yeah,
let me know when you have your next project.” They see there’s clearly been
a transition of intelligence and business acumen.

At the time, I thought that was the only way forward. We couldn’t [inaudible] the work, so let’s try to make us bigger. Right? Too big to fail! All we did
was basically prolong the end.

Andrew: I see. So the idea was, we’re going to go and buy the rights to
this publishing brand, to this product . . .

Scott: Buy the service [inaudible].

Andrew: Sorry?

Scott: We’re going to almost buy our work. We’re going to buy a revenue
stream . . .

Andrew: Gotcha.

Scott: . . . because in many cases, it’s not a bad idea. Buying a revenue
stream, if you can do the deal, businesses do that all the time. It’s the
reason you merge or acquire a business, right? You either want the talent
or you want the revenue stream because you can grow it exponentially
through your various channels.

In this particular case, we just said this deal is too good to be true. It
landed in our laps for one reason or another. We finally found a way to
sign the deal, which came with a whole bag of skeletons and everything else
that we won’t get into, which was another disaster.

We’re going to go find somebody to pay us to do this and see some upside.
At the time it sounded like a great idea. I would never, never in a million
years tell a start-up, try to go into the licensing business ever again. It
is not a revenue stream for the faint of heart, nor should it be for the
faint of capital.

Andrew: Why not? I don’t want to get too distracted from the narrative
here, but you said that I’m curious. Why?

Scott: Basically, in the licensing world you’re going against the Disneys
and the Pixars and all these brands that have IP and they base their entire
worlds off IP. They don’t want new characters unless they own them. They
don’t want new streams of revenue unless they’ve created them.

They don’t want to pay people. To them, creative talent in many ways is a
line item they wish they could write off. They don’t want to pay royalties,
they want to keep it all for themselves.

Case in point, if you look at any Hollywood movie, when you talk about the
back-end, unless you’re Stephen Spielberg, yeah you can talk about points
and all this. But you’re lucky as a producer or director if you’re ever
going to see a dime of that money. They’ll find ways to write it off on
various different line item expenses.

The point is, it’s not a business model because it’s out of your control.
You can’t license a no name product and built it from scratch and hope
that’s going to be a saving grace. You can take on an existing one that’s
current; we were taking something that was 20 years old and trying to make
it current again.

It was a totally different mindset, totally different branding thing, with
[inaudible] beyond our scope. Again, I just learned that especially for a first
time venture, we want a proven business model, proven revenue model, some
level of track record yourself or you can bring on talents around you. Make
sure you control as much of the situation as possible.

Licensing doesn’t offer that.

Andrew: I see. Did you ever get another paying client? Another client like
that?

Scott: Not to that extent. We definitely got onesie, twosie, little things
here and there. Then we started doing individual projects which eventually
obviously led to dissolution just because we were all in it at that point
to survive, and had all taken a pretty big hit. I was paying off my credit
card bills for quite some time.

Again, what’s ironic too, to transition into success maybe for later in the
conversation, by failing in this I had learned so much about what worked
and didn’t from my previous experience, before I jumped into this hellhole.

The business today that generates my primary income and was the reason I
got to do things like angel investing and all this other cool stuff in the
entrepreneur space is because of going back to my roots. Realizing what
worked and finding a way to niche privatize what I did.

That’s what we do with Sizzle.

Andrew: What’s the name of the company?

Scott: Sizzleit.com. We produce sizzle reels, which are three to five
minute videos for PR and marketing professionals that combine their media
assets, their campaigns, variety of other media that they might have
created internally. It’s a very customized presentation for both internal
use amongst all the divisions to show success, a track record of a
campaign, or it’s for outside consumption with consumers, resellers, stuff
like that.

Very easy. All the assets are sent to us, we put the creative spin on it,
send them back out. We create nothing new, we do exactly what we’re told,
and we’re experts at what we do.

That was all based on the fact that I realized the biggest failure, all the
things I’ve talked about today, the biggest failure of this whole process
was a lack of focus and trying to do everything. When I realized that you
could do one thing extremely well and extremely profitably, I realized that
I had a real business on my hands.

Andrew: The one thing, being sizzle reels. I had your book right next to me
here. Before we started the interview, you said, “Andrew, flip over to page
116 where you can see what our company was going to do. Then a couple of
paragraphs down, where I described what the company does do.”

I’m not going to read the whole paragraph, but I’ll give people just a
sense of it. Here’s what it is.

The company acts as the premier one stop shop, venture management company,
with a premier concentration on media based start up enterprises. Our
mission is to combine multi-channel marketing, creative media, and
innovative technology to offer solutions, etc. etc.

How did you go from that short description like the one that I introduced
the session with to something this long? Was it that every time you talked
to a customer they said, “Well, if you did this, then maybe we’d hire you,
and if you do that,” and you just kept slapping it in?

Scott: It was a combination of that, it was a combination of mentors around
us saying, ‘oh, well you want to sound more professional; you should do
this.’ It was us taking on a new thing, trying to spin it into now a, I
guess in theory, division of our current company which really wasn’t a
company. So let’s add that.

This is how, again, eventually we went from this small concept that could
have fit on two paragraphs of a page, if that, as a full business plan if
we were actually going to write one, to this 94 page behemoth that
basically became what our company was.

We listened to too many of the wrong people. We didn’t have ideas of our
own. We thought that somebody would be our saving grace because they were
going to take us under their wing, but they had other reasons behind that.

There’s a great story that I can tell in about a minute and a half, which
is one of the primary examples of why you just read that and I’m laughing
hysterically, thinking about how two of those lines even came into
existence. The fact was that before, we were going to look for a bridge
loan.

Andrew: Tell me the story.

Scott: We were going to look for a bridge loan that was going to help us.
This was before taking on that whole new start-up concept. This was just
literally wanting to be a venture company that took on start-ups. This was
pre taking on the one that actually had potential to be funded.

We were going to go do this bridge loan and this guy, nice guy, proven
track record, executive for 40 years, retired, was going to have us, he
liked us, introduce us to all his people. So he had us add this, add that,
add this, to the plan, to the one page to everything.

At the end, and this is a true story documented in the book–I don’t
mention the name for obvious reasons–the day before we were going to begin
this marathon week-long meetings that he had set up . . . Mind you, at this
point the business is nothing like we started. This is the business that
was almost manufactured for us so that we could fit into the mold of
someone else.

Didn’t even know how to sell this because basically if I even spoke about
it, it would be total BS because I didn’t even know how to back it up. I
didn’t even know what I was talking about. Thankfully because I have the
gift of gab on a lot of levels, I can sell a ketchup Popsicle to an Eskimo
in white gloves, and that’s kind of what the whole concept was.

That day, the guy died. Heart attack on the tennis courts. All of a sudden
all these meetings went away, all this potential went away, three months of
work where we didn’t even know what we were doing, where we lost focus
because we were so concentrating on what this opportunity could be, and
we’re back at square one again.

At the core, we didn’t go with our vision. We went with whatever we thought
was going to be the thing that could get us to what I said earlier, not get
a real job and be our own boss. But that’s not the right way to go about
those two things.

If you don’t have core conviction, core competency, and ability, and you
don’t believe with everything in your being, you’re just chasing the dream
of the money. Or somebody else wanting to manufacture you into the mini-
them or whatever it is, then you have nothing. You believe in nothing, you
do nothing, you offer nothing.

That’s what happened here, and that was a massive setback at the time. OK,
we can’t do this business now, because this business was built from this
guy and his people. We can’t do this. It’s impossible. Talk about a story.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go into what you learned, but you know what, angle
your camera a little bit so you can get your book in behind you. I love it
when authors do that, when they have a nice backdrop with their book behind
them.

Scott: Do you also like when they, boom, there you go.

Andrew: So we’re showing you ‘Never Get a Real Job.’ There it is; he’s got
it in his hand, too.

What do you take away from this? You’ve had some time to think about this.
You’ve had some time to make yourself better, stronger based on what you’ve
learned. What have you learned?

Scott: I think humility was definitely number one. I have the fortune of
today being, and we’ve talked about this many times, in the media a lot
talking about entrepreneurship and youth entrepreneurship especially.

I’m honored in the fact that people now see me, on some level I guess, as
an expert because of those failures, because I can now articulate like
we’re doing back and forth in discussion. Not just, “Oh man, this sucked. It was awful,” but rather knowing where I went wrong and knowing where
others now typically go wrong, because I’m one of their peers and I can
explain it to them in a way that’s for them because I’m one of them.

I definitely learned focus is key. I know it’s overused, I know there’s
nothing that is revolutionary or new about that concept, but it’s
absolutely true. Do one thing great rather than ten things poorly is, I
think, a motto to live by.

I think entrepreneurs are doers, not dreamers. I think that that’s
something where we got so caught up in the ego side of things, in the hopes
of what happened and all these different things that in the long run really
mean nothing. They’re not based or founded in reality. They don’t have any
sense of cash flow associated with it. They don’t really offer you
stability, they offer you nothing.

They’re all just hanging on by hopes and dreams but no foundation. So
there’s that.

I think really, at the end of the day, what now has made me want to do what
I’ve done now at this stage in my life with the entrepreneur council, is
realize that I think peer to peer education especially in these economic
times where you’re talking about recent college graduates en masse
graduating, 75% of them, without jobs. Where entrepreneurship can be
considered a viable career path.

But I think there’s a difference in perspective of what’s offered from the
older generations about what that means. A lot of them will say get
traditional job experience first, because they’re not tuned necessarily
with what’s going on right now for our generation.

While their experiences and mentorship capabilities in business are
unparalleled, just because of the amount of years of experience and trials
and tribulations tenfold of what even somebody like myself has been
through, it really comes down to having a peer.

Having someone that you can have a conversation with who’s three years
older than you rather than 30. Say, what am I really going to go through?
And how can I overcome that in our language, in our way of thinking?

That’s the whole reason I founded YEC, Young Entrepreneur Council, because
I wanted to create something that took all these amazing, dynamic, creative
businessfolks from all across the United States and now internationally and
help our generation from within. Learn how they too can learn from our
failures, learn how to overcome ones they’re inevitably going to
experience, come back from worst case scenarios and rock bottom.

At the same time, succeed and want to do it again but without the failure.

Andrew: Who’s in the Young Entrepreneur Council?

Scott: We’ve got tons of great folks. Folks like Erin Patzer from
Mint.com, David Hauser from Grasshopper, [inaudible] marketing [inaudible], Tim O’Shaughnessy from LivingSocial. Really, the cream of the crop, who’s who of young entrepreneurs. We’ve got about 275 members. It’s a closed network, closed community, that’s referral based for new membership only.

Andrew: What do you guys do?

Scott: It’s a combination of things. We have media partnerships where we
answer questions for a variety of different publications from young people
about business. We today actually just launched our partnership with Time
Magazine. We’re finalizing CNN, we write for Huffington Post and a lot of
others. Wall Street Journal.

So that’s one. Two is on the ground mentorship, where we’ll go to colleges
and universities. Do Skype sessions with individuals. Again, give them that
one on one mentorship. We actually just finished our partnership that’s
going to launch in the fall with Global Entrepreneurship week with the
Capsim Foundation.

We’re going to be getting a bunch of these folks together for a live chat
for college graduates interested in entrepreneurship post-graduation. We’re
going to Egypt in a few weeks to teach Egyptians entrepreneurship.

So it’s really not just talking about entrepreneurship, but actually on the
ground, peer to peer mentorship. One to one dialogue. Not just talking
about how wonderful it is, but really the nitty gritty action steps from
our perspective to help our generation from within. That is really at the
core.

Moving forward, YEC is going to hopefully become a top tier member
organization that is externally focused on creating and expanding
entrepreneurship as a viable career path. Internally looking to foster
relationship building, networking, and business from within. That’s kind of
the scaling model that we’re going to be working with.

Andrew: When you hit that low, when you got down to your last $700 when you
spent so much money before then, and business was failing, how did you
recover? How do you go from that to taking your next step?

Scott: The first thing was moving back in with the parents, and that was a
disaster. I am the first one to say I moved in for three or four weeks and
I said, I can’t do it, and I had to find a way forward. Shared rent to try
and get back on my feet with other folks, just to have a basic apartment
that can allow me to sustain myself and have somewhat of a life.

Realizing the failures and analyzing the failures was crucial.

For me, I think the reason I now think very analytically about every move
but at the same time don’t necessarily wait two years to make a decision. I
make decisions rather quickly, but I have created a thought process. I
speak about it in the book, “Never Get a Real Job,” about planning for the
worst case scenario in every major decision you make.

Before you make a decision, you have alternatives in case it goes sour. Or
you can make a different decision based on weighing pros and cons at
various times.

Because of that now, I think having somewhat of a more analytical thought
process and streamlining that process allows me to move forward either from
a failure or think through something before it happens. Then at the time it
was really reassessing what those processes would be. How can I get past
this credit card debt? One step at a time.

Andrew: How did you? I mean, you didn’t get a job, right?

Scott: No, I did not get a job.

Andrew: What did you bring in revenue?

Scott: I still haven’t worked for anyone else.

I went back to what I knew. It was very hard. I had heard the buzz word,
sizzle reels, back when this whole thing was starting to collapse. I just
started exploring it more and more and I found that these were very high
paid video jobs because they were such a high level of customer service.

You’re dealing with, for example, one of our clients today is Old Spice. We
take their finished product of ‘smell like a man man’ campaign for every
single person in the entire Proctor & Gamble person to watch. There’s a lot
of responsibility with that sort of product, but they pay for that
responsibility.

Andrew: I see. So instead of creating any kind of project, instead of
creating any kind of video project, you said we’re creating just this one
little kind.

Scott: One product. That’s it.

Andrew: Sizzle reels, that’s what we do.

Scott: I wanted to have something, you know . . . SEO was just starting to
come about with what that meant. All these different tricks for online
marketing. I said, all right. I know that I’m a service based business. I’m
not a software as a service, even though that was not really around yet.

It’s not something that you can just go and by online. There is
negotiation, there is a quote process, but I want people. I don’t care
about 50,000 people coming to my website to search video production and
maybe have a one in a billion shot of getting those people.

I don’t want to be a local vendor, either. But I want to find some niche
that I can own that space entirely. I can put all of my resources in owning
that. Today we do. You can’t type in any of our keywords without us being
one or two on an organic search. It is impossible; try it.

I wanted it to be an experience. I wanted people to go specifically for the
product they were looking for, not because they were looking to figure out
how to get it done. They say, “Okay, this is what I need, where do I get this
done? Oh, there it is.” Not, “We do wedding videos, sizzle reels, and DVD
duplication.” What 90% of our competitors do, local guys who just kind of
throw it in there.

Andrew: I see.

Scott: We exploited the niche project by project, and I did what I do best.
I sell. I went out, I pounded every door, I contacted every person I ever
worked for, and the first job gave me $5,000. Three months later, I found
ways to ration that, that client hired me again and I got second one.

That’s really the story. There was no secret. It was . . .

Andrew: So going from this big thing down to just this one little focus
that brought in $5,000 for a project. It’s not a tiny focus, it’s a great
niche to focus on.

OK. Anything else in my notes here that I didn’t get to? No, I think we’ve
got pretty much everything.

Where can people go and see you? What’s your website?

Scott: Sure. So there’s two definitely to check out. You can go to
youngentrepreneurcouncil.com, to find out who’s on the council.

Andrew: Youngentrepreneurcouncil.com.

Scott: You can apply for membership, but you have to know somebody within
the organization to be considered.

The second is sizzleit.com, the place for all your PR, marketing sizzle
reel needs. We work with everybody from large scale companies like Procter
& Gamble to PR, marketing professionals and Mom and Pop shops. Definitely
check out that site, and hopefully we can work with you.

Andrew: If they want to read your column?

Scott: It’s all over. I mean, I write different columns for different
folks. I try to keep it up on Facebook and Twitter. I’m at @askgerber. Facebook, you can friend me. I try to friend everyone and just keep my preferences in order so I know who’s getting what.

In terms of columns, you can search my name on Google, but I write for the
Journal, National Poll, Huffington Post, CNN, Time Magazine, a bunch of
others. Definitely check us out, check out the council. Really, the only
message I can tell you . . . yeah, of course. “Never Get a Real Job,” yes,
let’s have them look at each other. Isn’t it beautiful?

Andrew: There’s the book.

Scott: Definitely check it out, nevergetarealjob.com as well.

Andrew: Thanks for doing the interview.

Scott: Always a pleasure, buddy.

Andrew: Cool. Thank you all for watching.

Sponsors I mentioned

Olark – The real-time chat that allows you to solve the problems of frustrated or confused customers while also giving you insight into what they’re going through when they visit your site. All in real time.

Grasshopper – Don’t make the mistake of comparing Grasshopper with other phone services. Check out their features and you’ll see why Grasshopper isn’t just a phone number, it’s the virtual phone system that entrepreneurs (like me) love.

Walker Corporate Law – Scott Edward Walker is the lawyer entrepreneurs turn to when they want to raise money or sell their companies, but if you’re just getting started, his firm will help you launch properly. Watch this video to learn about him.

  • Michael Alexis

    Everybody watch this interview. A few minutes in you’ll realize Scott and Andrew are actually talking about success. Want to know how to bounce back from zero? Scott covers it. Want to know how to find your focus and get paid for what you do? Scott covers that to.

    Thanks Scott (and Andrew) for doing this interview – it resonated really well with me.

  • Tarymedia

    Scott talks really fast…like hes a shamwow salesman..I had to stop the interview short I’m on my iPhone I’ll tune the full on my pc it seems cool!!

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks Michael.

    And thanks for posting it on Hacker News too!

  • http://www.writerviews.com Michael Alexis

    My pleasure. Thanks for showing me how to start small and get results – I finally get it.

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