Maveriqs Profile: Eric Berman, CEO & Founder of Brandetize
By Larisa Owcharuk
Local San Diego entrepreneur Eric Berman is the CEO and Founder of Brandetize, a company that exemplifies the corporate culture of the future. Creating an environment where people not only love to, but want to work, Berman has built an admirable career, along with an astonishing network. Eric has found that success comes easiest when the people you work with enjoy coming to work every day, are loyal to the entity, and are excited to participate in company growth.
Upon arriving to conduct my interview, I walked into Brandetize headquarters where Eric, spic and span in his work attire, greeted me shoeless. He was casually sporting some rainbow socks and followed by his canine shadow, French bulldog Stanley. As he led me to the conference room I observed a modern, supportive work environment, with a team that displayed incredible camaraderie. This was a place where working diligently is a collective passion towards a common goal. Eric and I sat down to talk about how he got to where he is, as well as the reasons for his personal and entrepreneurial success.
When and what made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I don't think it was exactly a cognizant decision. I didn’t have the thought that I was going to become an entrepreneur prior to becoming one. I think you just sort of start, begin moving and acting and then you look back on your life and say, "Well, I guess I was an entrepreneur."
In my case, I went to UCSD (University of California San Diego), which is a pretty good school. I had a really good degree and GPA, and while most of my friends went off and got hired right when they graduated, for some reason I didn’t have that urge. I didn’t feel like I wanted to jump into a company right away, I wanted to explore a little bit. So after college I took a Europe Trip. I came up with an idea for a silly board game which had gotten me all excited, but as I got back from my trip, and wanted to start my life, I ran into some friends who were starting a business having to do with the college market. They had this big idea that they were so passionate about. One of them had experience and influence in the market so, I walked away from my idea, and said, "Great, where do I start?"
So that initially intrigued me. So much so, that I was there for another 18 months without taking a salary. It was because I was so excited about the idea of building something. That was more valuable to me than a salary. I felt like I could always go get a job with my degree and intellect, but it was building an entity from scratch that was really exciting. So I guess in hindsight that was sort of the part of my life where I bridged school and a scholastic environment, entering the real world, and figuring out what you're going to do with yourself.
What led you to becoming the Founder and CEO of Brandetize?
My first company was called College Club. I ran that for about 8 years. Then after the internet marketing crash happened, we sold those assets and I began consulting. I was a consultant for my own company Hypergrowth Strategies. I worked on a variety of projects including, being partners with Brian Tracy, who was a mentor of mine. He and Tony Robbins were the two gurus I’d be listening to when I was in my twenties, and trying to figure out life. I loved the fact that these guys really taught about life skills much more than anything that you’d learn in college.
I worked with Brian Tracy for many years, while also executing a few side projects. In time, people were coming up to me and saying, "Gosh, could you do what you’re doing for Brian Tracy, for me?" After hearing that for about the tenth time, it was like that "Aha!" moment. I thought to myself, "I should just continue to do what I do for Brian, for others." At that point it was a matter of getting Brian and the entire team that I managed to be ok with me no longer having a monogamous relationship with him - allowing me to work with other clients. So that was a really upfront honest conversation that happened over time. Sure enough, Brian was fully behind the idea and Brandetize was formed as an agency doing similar work we did for him.
Describe Brandetize and the services that the company provides.
Brandetize is a full-service performance-based digital agency. There are a lot of agencies out there that provide various services from PPC (Pay-Per-Click) to paid media to website development to graphic design to copy writing etc. We provide all services covering the online world and are one of the only companies that I’ve seen who do it on a 100% performance basis. Because of this many clients want to use our services, so we have to be very selective with the clients we take on. They have to be existing entities that are making a good deal of money, because we turn around and invest quite a bit of resources and money to take them to the next level. Our efforts allow our clients to make an even larger monetary turnaround in a fairly short order.
What do you believe is uniquely valuable about the services offered through Brandetize?
I think the fact that it’s full service performance based. What makes us unique is that we are 100% focused on performance. Our clients can be confident that we're going to succeed, because we don't make money make unless they do.
I think the one small flaw in the traditional services world, something I’ve seen a lot through people I know, is that regardless of intention, the way the business is run is to do the least amount of work possible to keep the client happy. This is due to the fact that these other companies have multiple accounts to deal with, constantly juggling, five to ten accounts at any one time, so it’s a constant act.
In our case it’s more than just keeping the client happy. That’s only a small part of it. Of course you want to keep the client happy, but at Brandetize we really go and dig in hard in order to really, really perform. So what’s unique in that sense, is the fact that the companies and brands we work with can essentially guarantee we’re going to perform for them.
How do you choose who you partner with, invest in, and consult for at Brandetize?
One of our core values is building products and programs that leave a positive impact on the world. So the brands we choose to promote and build up are those that contribute to positively impacting society. Number one, do they have a good product or service that everyone on the team could really get into and be proud of?
Most agencies and companies have sales teams out there, to bring in new clients, but our model is exactly the opposite. We have clients knocking at our door asking when they can get in. With this model, however, we can only add on or to two big clients a year, so we have to be very careful. We'll take anywhere between 60 to 90 days just to get to know a potential client. We have a whole checklist we'll consider, with questions ranging from, "Do we like the person?" to, "Is this someone we want to go to dinner with, and enjoy hanging out with?" or, "Do we like their family?" We consider how passionate they are, what they stand for, what their values are, and whether those values go along with our values. There is a role we need them to the play within our overall partnership. We have to establish if the potential client will be willing to step aside when we need them to be on the sidelines, but be there for us when we need them. We have to know if they'll be available to do what we need them to, or if they'll be too busy. Sometimes we dismiss the partners that are too stuck in the details and want to micromanage, even though they say they don’t. These are all things we look into when considering who to work with.
Why do you think a solid corporate culture is important in business, and how do you build a strong team culture?
I'm passionate about corporate culture. I think it's one of the most important things in business, if not the most important. If you don't have the best people and top “A” players on your team, you're going to have problems along the way. Getting “A” players is not just about finding and recruiting them, but maintaining and keeping them. The way you keep “A” players is by having an amazing corporate culture.
Not just a culture that you, yourself believe in, but one that the people you are hiring can believe in, and that they are a cultural fit for. You hear that all the time, but it's so important. People in my company rarely leave, especially in comparison to other companies, and it has a lot do to with the culture. Everybody says that they love working here, and time and time again people are saying, "What you guys have built here is so much different than any other company." They love the things we do for the team and for the employees. It’s the little things like investing in your team that make up a positive environment, and a culture where employees love to work.
How important do you consider continuing self-education as a successful entrepreneur, and how do you maintain your own?
One of our core values is ongoing education and we do a lot of things to encourage and foster that. First of all, I consider continued education to be extremely important not only for my own selfish needs, but for the benefits of my team as well. I read a lot about how employees want to have a place where they can continually grow. Everybody wants to feel like they’re worth more, they have more value, and they’re learning more skills, so if we provide a place for them to do that, they’ll love working with us. We have all sorts of processes in place. For one, every Monday we have what’s called a "Hot Seat," where people get to teach a subject to others within the company, a mechanism where the real educators are the employees themselves. This forces them to learn something and deliver something they can teach to others, which makes them even more of an expert at it. Everybody gets to claim an area that they’re an expert at and they go off and learn as much as they can about that area so they can sort of own a spot in the digital marketing world.
When it comes to my personal continued education it's networking, as well as listening to audio books. Those would be the two biggest things I do. I’m constantly listening to audio books in my car. I'm also in a couple of mastermind groups. One of the neatest things I've done, is rounding up some of the smartest guys I know, currently 13 individuals, that are either running companies in the internet marketing world or similar industries. I then formulated a mastermind dinner meeting where everybody shows up religiously once a week. It’s become a good community where we’re engaging actively throughout the month, pushing each other to learn more. I surround myself with people that I feel are constantly teaching me and that I can learn from. I definitely get my best ideas from my networking and mastermind groups.
I surround myself with people that I feel are constantly teaching me something and that I can learn from."
What has been your driving force as an entrepreneur, your why?
I think it's fun to take an idea and watch end consumers consume something that you created. You helped this idea get out to the marketplace, and you get see everybody happy along the way. When you do that, the money will also come. In Brandetize’s case, we have clients with amazing content that changes lives. By helping them deliver their message to marketplace and into the world, I benefit, and see my staff benefit, it’s a good full cycle.
How do you manage being a successful business owner, partner and CEO simultaneously?
I always know I'm going to be busy with random things every day. One of the things I’ve learned from people I’ve worked with in the past, and part of what I now teach and do myself is, rarely take on tasks that don’t involve me teaching something to somebody along the way. Whether you want to call it delegation or teaching, either way, something new comes up every day so I can’t be stuck in the weeds working on some project. I’ve heard it said that executives need to learn to work on the business, not in the business, and it's really true because I need to be constantly ready to take on whatever comes my way from all sorts of levels. If I become too deeply embedded, it's just too hard to get everything done, see the numbers, and manage the business. Forecasting what you may need to change, or whether the entities are in trouble or possibly excelling becomes very difficult. So it really comes down to people. Not only hiring them, but training them and further delegating some key tasks to them. That frees me up to become successful. My number one focus is people and processes. If I can focus on that, then my job becomes easier.
Where are you currently focusing your passion and energy?
Right now I’m building Brandetize. We’re trying to continue to keep tweaking and tweaking our models, I talked about the broad sense of the model, but there’s a lot of variations within that model. From finding the right clients, to how quickly we can go to the next client, these are all questions that we keep facing. Sometimes we’ve added them (clients) too fast and that’s caused problems, so considering what the right time is to add a new client, who the right client is, what the right team size is for that client, and when we should hire people are all incredibly important. We're constantly reviewing questions on how to keep successfully building out the company.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Everyone always says follow your passions and that’s pretty status quo, I mean I always say follow your passion. However, I think a lot of it is “Go, start and just move." Try to find people that believe in what you're doing and are inspired to go along with you on the ride - and don't give up. You're going to run into obstacles all the time. That's part of it, failing and finding mistakes. There are really no failures they’re all just learning experiences. Just continue learning, stay confident, and eventually through hard work, energy and persistence you will get to the finish line. It’s just a matter of when!
Learn more about Eric Berman’s incredible company and meet the Brandetize team on their website www.brandetize.com, or follow them on Facebook for opportunities to learn from the guru himself!