Sunday, April 30, 2006

Scarpias and Iagos

Ahh, the opera. It was great taking my wife to the Met this weekend in New York, and Tosca was simply stunning. Getting away and enjoying ourselves for a little while was very needed, and at the same time it made me realize how lucky I am to have her by my side in this venture.

Note: Never start a company without spousal support and buy-in. They are business partners in such ventures, and have to believe in the risk, and be willing to support you as you pour hour upon hour into the venture. Without my wife’s support in this matter, I fear all would be lost.

Watching Tosca, I felt drawn to the question of how one deals with Scarpias and Iagos in business? Certainly it is inevitable that in life one runs across such characters, and to deny it creates a false utopia.

One of the readings that helps me stay focused is “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius was the last of the Five Good Roman Emperors (, and was featured prominently in the movie “Gladiator. He set his wisdom down in a series of meditations, which are just absolutely brilliant and timeless. Here is one that undeniably handles the Scarpia question:

“How great a rest from labor he gains who does not look to what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only to what he himself is doing, in order that exactly this may be just and holy, or accord with a good man’s conduct. ‘Do not look round at a black character,’ but run toward the goal, balanced not throwing your body about (Aurelius, IV, 18).”

I love that, and it’s true. It’s amazing that a great ruler like Aurelius was so focused on remaining intent on purposeful, worthwhile action instead of distractions. Meditation after meditation seems to be about this sort of council.

When I look at my company’s mission statement, what do unnecessary issues sparked by these Scarpias have to do with being helpful to clients and those around me in their efforts to communicate effectively? Or using principle-based activity as the foundation of success in communications? Nothing! Therefore, these issues should not be dwelled upon, instead it would be better to use my valuable time working with and helping others.

It gets back to the mission, the focus. Abandoning Scarpia, and thinking of Aurelius and the principles at play, it becomes very easy to simply do the next right thing for those that have entrusted me. In reality, moving in this positive direction only energizes me further to continue pursuing my goals. Save This Page

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Strangest Secret

It’s the middle of the day, and this is my “lunch break.” We have an exciting breaking story for client #1 with Red Herring magazine, a great publication if there ever was one. We’ve scored in the neighborhood of 16-18 interview opportunities for these folks, but we are not done yet.

If there is a client #1, then there is a client #2. And there is, kicking off next week. And so ends the first week of Livingston Communications, LLC.

I keep thinking of the audio file that I listened to yesterday in the car, Earl Nightingale’s “The Strangest Secret.” This guy’s 1950s era record launched the sales motivation industry. Anyway, the record really says that the Strangest Secret is that you can train your mind to achieve goals. He focusses on total commitment to achieving a goal, and creating a positive mindset towards this objective. Nightingale talks about visualizing success, which is defined as working towards an ideal.

Next week is a big week. Have our first major pitch, and we’re going against some very large players in the area. We are suffering from credibility issues as a start-up, so the messaging really needs to be targeted towards to overcoming this client objection.

Regardless of outcome, I think we have the best solution compared to the others. It’s about going out there and competing, learning to win, to succeed. Like Earl says, I can visualize it. I see my office, my team of 10 plus practitioners, my happy clients, my relaxed, confident demeanor as I realize that the agency is established.

After this afternoon, I will be in NYC for a writer’s conference, and then a weekend with the wife in Manhattan. I am taking her to the Metropolitan Opera to see Puccini’s Tosca as a gift for our first wedding anniversary. She’s never been to the Met, and I am sure she will be stunned by the Chagall paintings, the gold trim, the red carpet and the Austrian crystal.

It will be good to get a brief bit of R&R, it’s been non-stop for 6 weeks. Need to recharge so that Monday I am fresh. Save This Page

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Winning Attitudes: Positively Focused and Learning

It’s late and I’m still at it. If you notice the times on the blog postings, they are Pacific time. Add three hours (and a small fiddle), please.

There seems to be an amazing amount of energy required by a start-up, yet there is always enough to take me to the next activity. And I feel so positive about the business, it’s just great! I feel free.

I had coffee with someone who successfully started their own business today, and he remarked about how he had no time for storm clouds, or negative thoughts. Whenever something like that came into his mind he just pushed it right out.

I’m with that. There are always naysayers, people that don’t want to see you succeed, or are afraid of success. It reminds me of Jeffrey Gitomer’s book, “The Little Red Book of Selling” when he talks about avoiding people that only have negative thoughts. Of course, as a Philadelphian Gitomer dubbed it “stay away from pukers,” but you get the idea. Like my friend today and Jeffrey Gitomer (, I just can’t afford to pay any attention to this kind of energy. Focus, focus, focus on the next right thing and it’s all good! And it really is all good; things are going very, very well indeed.

Another thing my friend gave me today was a shared thirst for learning. Winners want to learn more, they are never satisfied. Here is a guy who has done really well for himself, at least by my standards, and he is taking notes, asking himself what he learned in our meeting. That’s great! I, too, was learning about start-ups, and what it takes to succeed. I also had a conversation about an old boss of mine that I admire greatly today. Same thing, this guy in his late forties/early fifties always wants to learn more. Humility – perhaps defined as remaining teachable – seems to be a characteristic of these folks, people that I consider winners.

On the day-to-day stuff, good meeting with the client today, plus five new business meetings set-up. Not a bad day at all. Really enjoying working with my colleague. There are time considerations at play, so hopefully we can find enough companies that we can help, and get this business going with her as a part of it. A real ace, and I think a very positive, strong PR person.

I committed to myself to post three times during the business week, and perhaps once during the weekend. Heading to NYC on Thursday evening, so I will try to get one more in before the end of the week. Save This Page

Monday, April 24, 2006


WOW! I think I saw that word pop across my email box fifteen times today, usually in caps. The launch definitely caught a lot of people by surprise. Overall, the response was tremendous; I had to upgrade my outgoing email relay three different times today, with a total volume of close to 400 emails.

I started the company with one small piece of business as a sub-contractor on a friend’s new account, but after today it looks like I have two new clients coming my way, one of which was an old customer from my days at Widmeyer. Of course it’s never done until the customer signs on, but it still feels pretty good to receive such a positive response from the marketplace.

There are some strong people around me so that when the time is right, I will be able to grow intelligently and bring folks on. Definitely need to consider a name change if it's someone senior, probably to the tune of Livingston, xxx and xxx Communications. The key here is not to move too quickly, and perhaps have my growing Board of Advisors do some interviewing.

Now that the splash has been made it’s time to do the leg work. Had a few hits on the PR front today, which is great, and a colleague who is working with me on this subcontract nailed BusinessWeek. From a PR perspective, does it get any better than that? I am really happy for the client, they needed the momentum (not to mention the coverage) and in the end this will help them achieve their objectives.

On to a new day. Save This Page

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tomorrow It Begins

Its the day before the launch, and there is great anticipation about going out into the market as Livingston Communications, LLC. The result of five feverish weeks of work, this new corporate entity represents the distillation of my 13 years in the marketing and public relations business, the past seven in agencies. And with the launch email tomorrow, it truly begins.

This NewCo is an experimental mix of marketing excellence and ethical principles, similar to those that a classically trained journalist would deploy. The foundation is honesty in marketing and public relations, a dignified approach to doing business in the modern world. Mixed with aggressive, intelligent strategies, tactical marketing works better under these conditions.

With the marketplace becoming increasingly skeptical of marketing and PR messaging, honest communications may be the one of the best ways to succeed in the future. It will at least separate many companies from the mediocre marketing that is commonly used today. I believe in this theory because in my past practices it has worked with resounding success. As a sole proprietor, I can offer this kind of strategic and successful marketing all of the time.

There are challenges ahead, and the one that I am most focused on remains the team. Will a partner(s) present him/herself? What about teammates? Who will be interested in practicing this type of marketing communications? But already I am meeting people, building my cache of potential players. They will be the most critical components of NewCos successes, the heart of the company, and the most important assets. This business really is about the team that you offer.

The other critical component is getting the word out, but this is not something that I am too concerned with... sales and marketing are comfortable for me. The key will be measured growth.

Of course, there is accounting, legal and HR, but all of this can be outsourced. These functions are best conducted by professionals who know what they are doing. Legal is already in place, and accounting is actively being recruited.

Now it is time to build. Tomorrow it starts. Save This Page