“that side of your brain is rotting…”
Those 7 words would change my life.
Those were the 7 words my brother used to trick me into starting a company with him.
In 2012, I was on the road playing one of the leads in RENT. Oh yeah, I used to be an actor. It’s the reason I moved to NYC. I was a song and dance man and I was playing one of my favorite characters of all time. I had scraped by on $1 pizza slices and cheap booze in order to achieve even the modest successes I had. I had paid my dues and I was finally earning enough to cover my bills through acting. Nothing more. But, nothing less. I was ‘up and to the right’. I had an agent. Casting directors called me in consistently. I was working. And, I knew I’d be doing this until I died.
That is, until my brother asked me to start a company with him. I was playing my dream role and he had the nerve to ask me to help him “get it off the ground”.
Yeah right, Pete, you’re the brother who nearly drowned, was hit by a car, and had an actual tombstone fall on him (the 80s & 90s were wild!). Then he starts pitching…
“you can do the show at night and this during the day”… I’m listening.
“it’s in the YouTube space, so it’s applicable to your career”… go on.
“I need your help”… duh.
“that side of your brain is rotting”… hold on. What???
This was the one. He knew that I loved solving problems. Loved feeling smart. Loved challenging myself.
And now he was challenging me. Was I going to be someone who “just” performed on stage? (my thoughts, not his).
Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. More than anything. But, the timing was perfect because I was simultaneously going through this self-realization that the longer you’re in a show and the more you figure out the mechanics to the auditioning game, the more you slowly start to drift into a state of complacency with the day to day. You start punching the time clock at what had once been the only career that gave you life.
And, the more that happens, the more you become trapped in the cycle. You’re dependent upon it, while simultaneously wanting something more. And, the fear of that dependency while I was slowly eroding the part of my brain that I had spent years cultivating through my business degree and various sales positions years earlier sank in a little bit deeper at this moment in time.
So, I took him up on the offer. I was tricked into believing that it was possible to start a tech company during the day and be an actor at night. I co-founded an influencer marketing company. At the very least, I was going to learn a ton. I was going to stop the pinkish pile of jello in my skull from becoming even mushier… and that was exciting.
I ended up heading up our sales and marketing and taking us from $0 to 8-figures in annual sales. Some early wins led to some early investments led to some early hires and, the next thing you know, I had slowly transitioned out of acting and into a series of ups and downs that would make even the most seasoned of roller coaster enthusiasts nauseous. Having come from one of the most unpredictable careers imaginable, I now understood, intimately, the meaning of “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
Each day was a new bout with imposter syndrome. Despite the wins. Despite the client successes. Despite the years. I constantly battled with the idea that I was “just an actor” playing the part of “successful businessman”… that the entire thing would come crashing down. But, while it came close, it never did.
I went from performing on stage to quickly opening doors with heads of marketing for Fortune 100 Companies. I was building marketing plans for the the likes of D2C giants like Warby Parker, thredUP, and Squarespace. I was working with some of the most influential online creators on the planet. And, I was trying to navigate the ups and downs of growth plans, hiring and firing, fundraising, missed targets, near bankruptcy, client wins (and rare losses) and, ultimately, an acquisition.
Acquisitions are interesting. Nearly 90% of them fail. Ours began with unrealistic forecasting expectations (double revenue during a transitionary period?) and a desire to change all of the processes that made us desirable as an acquisition. Ultimately, it ended with the rolling of our highest tier clients into ‘more lucrative’ product lines, while the product and SOPs we had spent the last 6 years building ended up like an Oldsmobile stolen by Anthony Ferranti in the 80s. We were parts, baby.
But, I don’t regret it for a second. Not one. I had given up my career as an actor, but I was right, I learned a ton. My life changed. My eyes were open to the obscene amount of opportunity for anyone who wants to create it.
So, I did what any recently jobless founder of an acquired company does… traveled. I decided I was going to learn Spanish (I had ZERO words in my bag). I applied the same level of determination I had to working as an actor and then starting a company. I went to live in Colombia for a bit and traveled to Spain… I was fully conversational within a 9-month span.
Well… I had been helping a colleague with some ad hoc freelance work. We used that to launch an agency that had both a brand and social talent division. Within the first 6-months we had generated more than 7-figures in sales.
Then COVID hit my business like Mike Tyson. Uppercut.
It forced me to think about what I want.
Did I really want to scale an agency, fighting during a global pandemic to help others to grow their revenue while my outcome was tied to whether or not they let the fears of the unknown have them scale back their marketing budgets? I was working overtime again. I was putting in startup hours for something that I didn’t have any passion for. I was working myself to the bone for companies that saw me as “hired help”. As expendable.
No thank you!
I was looking back at my life and thinking about what I truly wanted. It wasn’t to build an agency. It wasn’t to be doing the mundane.
It was freedom. The freedom to learn. The freedom to educate. The freedom to make choices.
This had me thinking about the areas that I got the most fulfillment. I truly enjoyed learning and educating and then continuing the loop. This was why I was successful at my startup. It’s why I was able to scale my agency so quickly. It led me to advising multiple companies helping them to scale their businesses into the high 6- and 7-figures.
Now I want to help you. No one gave me the blueprint. To be honest, I’m not sure there is one. But, there’s a lot to learn and a lot to teach. If you have the grit and determination and want to learn along with me, then I promise to do my best to help you to achieve your goals faster.
I truly appreciate you reading this far. Buckle up. We have a lot of work to do.