Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday Morning Train Ride

The view from the train window.
Every Monday morning, I get up at 4:30 AM, although I should probably get up earlier since I keep almost missing my train. I get up at 4:30 so I can catch a 5:50 train from New London to New York. This train gets me to Grand Central a little after 9 AM, then the subway gets me to my office downtown closer to 9:40. It's about 3.5 hours to get there, and depending on the connections, 3.5-4.5 hours to get back. Don't cry for me. I love every minute of it.

I take this journey to get to the offices of EZBZ, inc, the creators of, a digital concierge service that connects consumers to businesses in the most direct and intuitive manner ever devised on the Internet. My job is that of Marketing Manager. That is, to create the programs and strategies that get people to go to the site to use the service. My job is to get people to use a free service that will save them money and get organizations to join into partnerships that cost nothing but will earn them revenues. It is more difficult than it sounds.

Quote a far step from selling $30/month insurance policies at kitchen tables around Western Massachusetts. So, how did I get here?

For the previous year, I was selling printing along the shoreline of Eastern Connecticut. Unfortunately for me, as well as the company I was working for, the sales strategy I was made to use was flawed. Whether it was flawed in design or execution, I do not know because this strategy was not written down anywhere, but I can tell you it did not work. In August, I was given the option to either stick more closely to the ineffective plan or go onto straight commission and do it my way. I took the commission and the freedom.
I couldn't help but think that the leader of Earth Class Mail is
Chris Dipaola's long lost brother.

Since I would rather devise ways to make a living rather than quietly starve, I devised a number of creative strategies to sell more. My boss referred to these ideas as "crazy ideas." Eventually, my frustration grew at not being respected for my abilities and at being blamed for the failure of a clearly faulty system. I happened to find a show on Hulu called Startup Junkies, which follows the adventures of Earth Class Mail as they went through a portion of their startup process. It was all about how challenging, stressful, and grueling working for a startup is.

It looked like a lot of fun, and I wanted to get in.

I Googled "Startup Jobs" and I found a site called Angel List. The site is a tool to find jobs at startups, but they understand that not all startup jobs fit into a simple job description, so there is also an element of the site that seems inspired by a dating site. In addition to applying (which you can do by pulling your resume from LinkedIn or Facebook), you can also simply mark that you are interested in a company. If the company does likewise, you may communicate directly.

I made such a connection with Shana Schlossberg, founder and leader of EZBZ as well as Innovate Hartford, a tech incubator in downtown Hartford. We scheduled a phone call and she told me at length about EZBZ. It was amazing. I was hooked. I wanted to get in.

Then we scheduled the interview... to talk about the project manager position at a spinoff company. The spinoff was also exciting, but not as exciting as EZBZ. So, leading up the the interview, I started poking around my network to see who might be a good EZBZ partner, not because I was angling for a job, but just because networking and connecting people is what I do.

I went on that interview and we talked about the other company and the job and my salesman sense was telling me that I had not closed a deal, but I figured I'd at least make a connection. So I casually mentioned that I happened to know the person who ran the largest Steampunk event in North America who had over 100,000 followers on Facebook and perhaps he might make a good EZBZ marketplace partner if she would like me to introduce her. She said that she was interested. The interview was on a Thursday. The conference call to set it up was the following Tuesday.
Innovate Hartford

I then continued in that vein. I introduced her to a large local non-profit. I emailed a few other ideas. Finally, with one of my ideas, I included the post script that I hoped I was not overstepping my bounds by sending over all these ideas. She said that, quite to the contrary, she and Rachel, her right-hand person, were impressed and how did I feel about the title Marketing Manager.

This is the amazing thing about startups and dynamic entrepreneurs. They were not hiring for a Marketing Manager. They certainly were not looking for someone who lived in Eastern Connecticut. But they found found that I brought something to the table that would benefit the team, they figured out what title that might be, and everyone was better off.

My job is basically to continue doing what I started doing at that interview. Find great partners and come up with "crazy ideas" which might earn the company "crazy money". I was not hired because I most closely fit the box they were trying to fill. I was hired because they felt that I was a good bet to build a box for.

Perhaps you are wondering a bit about what I mean by partnership because you think that you might know of a potential partner? We find that the most effective way to get people to use the site is to partner with others who can influence them to use it. Our service is great, but that's what every service says about themselves. A great partner is anyone who can help us connect with people who need products and services: anything from contractors to professionals to entertainers. The partner could be a non-profit, an online interest group, a media outlet, a business, or even just a well connected or motivated individual. In exchange for their help in connecting us with consumers, we share the revenues from their efforts with them. There is no upfront cost for a partner. They don't give us their mailing list. We set up a marketplace with a unique link, and they promote it. It's as simple as that. For more info, email me or give me a call at 203-707-1245.

Note: I go to NYC one day a week because that's where the rest of the team is. My office is actually in the Innovate Hartford space in Hartford, and the actual location of my work is wherever the work is to be done.

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