by Afek Shusterman
Jeffrey Friedland is a marketing wizard who took close to 100 companies to the NASDAQ in his youth and today runs several successful media outlets.
Today we had the incredible pleasure to speak with him and to learn from His wisdom. Jeffrey spoke about several subjects regarding his career and what he learned through its course:
I would like to hear more about your experience and what you do today…
Today our primary business is in working with companies in targeted industries and sectors, for example we have the website and marketing strategy, medical and pharma insider (https://www.medicalandpharmainsider.com/) we have emerging technology insider (https://www.meettheceovideos.com/) we have one for crowd-funding (https://www.crowdfundinginsider.finance/) and we have one cannabis and hemp insider (https://www.cannabisandhempinsider.com/) that we've been involved with for quite a few years.
Actually, I spoke twice at two conferences in Tel Aviv on that so we have those, and there are marketing programs that sort of marry the power of a video interview format where people can kick the tires of management. The companies that have business objectives or their financial objectives for example: launching a product and wanting exposure, wanting to start research and development and wanting a strategic partner or financial partner, being an early-stage company and wanting to access private equity, venture capital, family office, high net worth investors, using the platform to basically explain a recent news release.
A lot of times with news releases by the time the lawyers get done with it and the PR people, nobody can understand what it's really about, or what the implications are, so that's what we do and the video itself we do a good job on production and post-production and we try to keep the cost down.
We really shine is targeting the distribution, based on the company its sector and its business or financial objectives and we do the distribution program. Over a three-week period, we repeat it every week because not everybody looks at their emails or social media every day.
Prior to that I’ve been very involved in the corporate finance investment banking side, I had an office in Beijing for 10 years, took over 100 companies public, going back quite few decades, I did my first one in 1979. These days I’m really focused on marketing strategies, I’ve done video for three or four decades before CNBC existed here in the United States, it was called “financial news network” and it was based out of Santa Monica California, Ultimately NBC bought it and changed the name to CNBC. I had the Friday 9 a.m. eastern time slot. In those days with these real studios and lights camera action people, people for hair and makeup, a lot different than capturing something online today. I used to have to fly every Thursday night to Philadelphia where we recorded and I would interview CEOs of Nasdaq companies. That's basically what I did and we used video; I mean a long time ago.
I also had a joint venture with a UK company called: “Saatchi and Saatchi” they're the largest ad agency in the world, and they were at the time as well. They had bought out of Rochester New York a small direct response ad agency, that was mostly in those days print, we brought it to video and produced infomercials. I got funding out of Vancouver Canada, built a studio here in Denver Colorado. Online if anybody wanted to search for videos I probably have at least 300 videos
What was one of your most difficult to achieve but gratifying milestones in your career?
Well on a fluke I opened an office in Beijing. I was first in China in 1987, really early in the China scene. We had the large financial community in investor & business live events. At one of those events in the late 1990s in New York, I met a woman who was originally from Beijing. She came to New York to go to law school, ended up working for Citi bank, doing work on foreign debt. Because she was an only child and wanting to get back to Beijing, we committed to open an office in Beijing which we had for about 10 years.
At that point in China’s development, to a large extent, was really about enabling Chinese companies to access foreign connections. That led to doing some conferences in Hong Kong and in Singapore. So, I think the most challenging thing was: once that office was established, was working with the Chinese companies because I didn't speak Chinese, and there are a lot of cultural differences. it's not the western culture, that we're used to. Got a lot of deals done but a lot of challenges.
What would you do differently, looking back on your experience today?
In retrospect, I probably wouldn't have done it if I knew how much of a challenge it was going to be. For example, if I come to Israel pretty much everybody in the business community speaks English, it's just that's the way it is. When you go to Europe, for the most part dealing with business people, you can get by with English. The senior people, the older people that ran these companies, I got a steel company did pharmaceutical, retail they didn't speak English. Their kids and grandkids in the business did. In retrospect, it was really difficult to achieve results for a company, if you can't talk directly to the principal.
It reminded me of when you see these negotiations between countries. You know, between Israel and UAE or Israel and Saudi. When you go through translators it's not the same, you wonder if that's really an accurate translation because whoever's doing the translation may be putting their own spin on things. That's what I would have done differently even though my partner spoke mandarin.
What is the most satisfying thing about being a leader?
The biggest passion for me over the years has always been, helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.
I believe in entrepreneurship, I believe in the private sector, I don't believe in big government. When you can see an entrepreneur maybe as a technology or an idea or a product and they just need to get to the next level. So that I think is the most satisfying.
What is the most fascinating thing you're doing as a marketing leader?
Well, I think it's really simple, Covid has impacted every business on this planet. It's impacted how business is done and anybody that can predict what the post Covid world will be like or when it happens because we really don't know. Just a half hour ago I was talking to a guy who's doing a live event in New York, I talked to somebody last week they're going to try a live event in Orlando Florida, I don't know if people are going to show up.
The fun thing for me, in this Covid period, was to take what we had been doing forever with hundreds of videos and marry those with the power of a video interview. There's an expression in the US: “before you buy a car you want to kick the tires” it’s a cliche for checking the car out.
When you're dealing with early-stage companies or start-ups it's all about management's ability to implement. They need a good business plan or model; they obviously need money, but it's about that entrepreneur. So, by using video interview format, then we're all stuck at home watching video interviews on CNN or BBC. Marrying the interview to a really very targeted distribution and because our videos are worthless without distribution, that's where we really shine.
We do this from people that register on our website, on our proprietary email list, depending on the sector industry of tens of thousands and then posting selectively, online. So that's what I’m excited about.
You’ve met 1000’s of CEOs, what are the specific characteristics that a CEO and leader needs in in order succeed?
Well, I think it's really changed and it's gotten more sophisticated over the years. I think using great English “the more real a company is the lot easier is it to do” so and an idea on the back of an envelope isn't going to cut it. A company that has the ability to get a patent: in this day and age won't works.
So, you want something that people can really see that there's a market for. That the cash register can ring and it becomes economic. Ultimately the company has to succeed by generating revenue. So, I think a lot of the companies that I got involved with over the years, it was a different day and age for a lot of them, but they went public too early too soon. They probably should have stayed private longer. Did some more rounds, privately validated their business model, validated their revenue model. Not only do you get a higher valuation, but I think it becomes a lot stronger deal.
What do you suggest to a beginning CEO or a current CEO in order to make him better?
I think it takes a certain mindset; it takes a certain amount of innovation. It takes a drive; you can't be passive. I used to do seminars live events on business plans and structuring for financing and all that. I always used to say that when you're the CEO of an early-stage company or a startup you get to wear a lot of hats. You're your own chief financial officer, your own technology officer, you’re your own marketing officer and you get to empty the waste baskets. It reminded me we had a president here in the US; Harry Truman, at the end of World War II. He had a sign on his desk and said the buck stops here. And when you're an entrepreneur everything that everybody else that works for you doesn't want to do you get stuck with doing. So, you need to have that drive, and you have to have the desire you really have to want this. Otherwise, you should go get a job with a big company.
Sometimes that desire might stop for a couple of days weeks what is your suggestion to keep it going?
I think it's really simple, believe it or not, surround yourself with people, friends, relatives, colleagues, investors who are smarter than you are and who have been there and done it. because then what you have is you've got a sounding board. I call it: “problem du jour” the problem of the day. I’m not trying to suggest that early-stage companies need a formal board of directors that's going to meet every three weeks, but the purpose of the board of directors on a company is really to back up management of being a sounding board. So, I think the more people you have, it doesn't have to be a lot, but if there's four or five people that have been successful, it will help.
We've seen in Israel all these billion-dollar valuations, early-stage deals; I saw an article over the weekend there had been 18 of them or something there. Surround yourself with people who've been there and done it, and use them to bounce off ideas and be a sounding board.
How would you build that the kind of inner circle?
Very simply, I think that it has to be people you're connected with, and people connected with the business. If you look generationally as older people, if you've got somebody who wants to be an entrepreneur in their 20s or 30s and you've got people that have been there and done it, and have hopefully been successful, they’d love the opportunity of mentoring younger people or younger companies. You get to them because anybody that starts out as an entrepreneur has an idea or a technology, they obviously know people in whatever industry they're in, and that's a great starting point. I mean, they could come to me, I could come to somebody else I know, and I think that's basically how it needs to happen.