When it comes to being successful in the industry, Black Marketing’s founder Chris J Reed believes that it’s all about who you know, not what you know.
Here, Reed shares with Marketing why nothing tops being your own boss.
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When was the precise moment you knew you wanted to do something on your own?
When I was first fired in the UK, in my second real job. I was 24. I never wanted to be the victim of politics and other people’s whims again. It also runs in my family: my grandfather, father and uncle were all entrepreneurs.
Which year did you first start up? Who was the first client you had on board?
It took a while longer as I realised that I didn’t know enough people to make it work so I started my first company when I was 31 in London. I started Black Marketing in January of 2014 in Singapore.
First client in the UK was all of my previous employers as I had left on good terms and even the one that fired me I ended getting as a client!
In Singapore my first client for Black was the CEO of Scandinavian Business Seating.
How did you put your first team together?
In Singapore it’s all been through LinkedIn! We’ve gone from one person in one country to over 35 in seven countries, 15 of which are based at our HQ in Singapore.
What was one of the toughest moments in running your agency? How did you overcome it?
In the UK it was undoubtedly selling a niche marketing service, partnership marketing, where I had to educate people about what partnership marketing actually was – on top of why my company, Cocktail Marketing, was the best at doing it and why we wanted to charge a premium for it.
In Singapore – it’s the issue most SMEs: talent. We have some wonderful employees but we’ve had a few experiences where people (no longer with us) have let our clients down and that’s unforgivable. Clients are everything in a business just like consumers are for any B2C business. You can be the best at everything else in the world but if you have no clients you’re screwed, especially in a premium, personalised LinkedIn marketing business such as ours. We have overcome that with better training and recruiting more experienced people.
Were you afraid of failing? How did you handle it?
Never. Not now, not in the UK. Ask yourself the question, what’s the worst that can happen? You fail and you start again. I am Mr Optimist and Mr Enthusiastic so I never think I’m going to fail at anything. I am single-mindedly driven to succeed and focus on the business to ensure that it does. I’m also a very happy front man for a business and have always loved leading from the front, selling, and ultimately that’s what marketing is and leading a business is all about, selling.
How does it feel like to be your own boss? Could you ever work for someone else again?
Love it, love it, love it! I hate working for other people. One of the spurs for creating Black Marketing was not being paid by two previous employers due to cashflow problems and I vowed never to be in the situation ever again where I had no control of my own income. I could never work for anyone directly ever again. Plus no one could afford me these days and I’m probably totally unemployable!
Pluses and Minuses of being independent
Pluses are that you have total freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want and that you can make as much money as you want or just run it as a lifestyle business. Minuses are the business being too reliant on you but with a great team in place that minus goes away leaving only a million pluses!
When you first started out, how did you market your agency? How did you get clients on board?
Networking, networking, networking.
In real life at a million events from Marketing ones to Brit Cham, from entrepreneur events to AmCham. I love networking and I network everywhere. Having a purple tipped mohawk helps with this as people want to talk to you if about nothing else then about your hair!
Speaking at events, I love to get up on stage and evangelise about LinkedIn and all its many benefits. I have had people from LinkedIn say that they have learnt new things as a result of seeing me speak. Every time I speak I never fail to generate leads.
And of course the place that still generates most of my leads is LinkedIn.
What was your first experience in the ad world? How do you think that shaped you?
My first experience in the ad world was actually being marketing manager of the legendary concert venue, Hammersmith Odeon in London (now Apollo). It shaped me because I had no budget but I had content; 200 fantastic concerts and comedy events a year to play with plus millions of people going past my venue and going through it.
So I learnt about using my content, from tickets/VIP experiences with the stars to exposure at the venue to create marketing partnerships to gain exposure with brands and media that were targeting my specific concert going audience who ere different at every event. We had everyone from Take That to Billy Connolly, R Kelly to Metallica playing. Every audience had to have a completely different and focused partnership marketing strategy.
I also learnt about it’s who you know not what you know as the contacts that I made then helped me create partnerships with no budget and I used those contacts in all my future roles as I did with every job in my entire career.
What have you taken away from your years in the ad world and implemented in your current business?
Contacts and networking. It’s all about who you know and who they know. Then your personal branding, reputation and unique proposition come into play.
What is the one thing start-ups need to remember in this market?
Having a USP. If I get approached by another person with a supposedly unique app that is just like a million others for investment… No USP. No business.
What is one piece of advice you’d give anyone wanting to make it out on their own?
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. My grandfather told me that when I was nine years old and LinkedIn has proven him right.
Would you be open to buyout?
Yes of course. Never say never.
Five year plan for the agency
To IPO (coming soon) and have global domination by being in every possible market that has a reasonable LinkedIn presence with our unique Black Marketing service.
Founded by: Chris J Reed
First client: SBS
Founding year: 2014
Founded by: Chris J Reed
Claim to fame: Not really applicable in what we do!