To Be an Entrepreneur …
The bad news: As many readers know, my early career was a disaster—nine jobs in my first 12 years and fired from five of them.
The good news: I learned lots.
And after 12 years of dealing with corporate hierarchaeology, egos and politics, I was ready to do my own thing.
In the early 80s, I heard US News & World Report circulation director Dorothy Kerr speak at a Direct Mail Creative Guild luncheon. She changed my life.
"The way to be successful in this business," she said, "is to see who's mailing what. Track the mailings that keep coming in over and over again, because they are successful controls and making pots of money. And then steal smart."
I immediately started collecting and cataloging junk mail. By 1984 I had six filing cabinets full of the stuff.
Peggy and I gambled $10,000 to create the dry test for a monthly newsletter that did not exist. The title: WHO'S MAILING WHAT!
The test brought in enough money for a continuation. The rollout put us in business.
Within a couple of years I was the country's foremost authority on junk mail. I wasn't a wizard or particularly smart. I happened to the only guy collecting, analyzing and archiving the stuff.
The Market Spoke to Us
One feature of the business was the monthly listing of roughly 1,200 new mailings that came into the archive from correspondents around the country. For a fee, subscribers could call and request of folding dummy of a mailing to steal from.
We started getting calls from suppliers—printers, envelope salesmen, list brokers and managers, fulfillment houses, lettershops, etc. This was the entire gamut of direct mail suppliers who wanted to know who these mailers were so they could pitch their services.