I can’t put my finger on exactly when I first encountered marketing as a consumer, but my parents will confirm that it started at a very early age. The Star Wars AT-AT Walker and a bicycle were two of my favorite presents found under the Christmas tree and I lobbied hard.
I was thinking about customers at an early age. I grew up in a beach community in Maine. In the summer, collecting bottles was my primary source of income before I was old enough to mow lawns and babysit younger children and eventually park cars at the only variety store at the beach.
I studied the traffic patterns of beach goers, when they would show up, when they would consume drinks, where on the beach they would be located. I was also keenly aware of my competition in the form of other children combing the beach and trash pickers. Ah yes, the glory days. lol.
Scrolling forward in time, I learned the computer programming language called BASIC and wrote a few games in the style of “Choose your own Adventure” books, where the gamer would be presented with a choice to fight the giant spider or run away etc. In high school, I learned the programming language C and I started a sportsbook which the school shut down after it was leaked by a bad tempered loser. It taught me a valuable lesson about keeping my customers happy.
During my high school years I worked for an ice cream/restaurant in my home town. We served about 20 flavors which were made on premises and had a make-your-own sundae bar. It was great experience to witness how customers behaved when they had virtually unlimited choices. The complete opposite of the original Ford and McDonald’s business models.
I worked for Apple Computer as an educational sales and marketing rep for my university’s two campuses. I gave demonstrations, distributed flyers, met with students, faculty and staff, as well as the computing retail store on campus. I enjoyed the wide range of customers I was meeting with. One day I had students who wanted to discuss the Windows vs. Apple debate. I met with professors who were die hard Apple and Windows users. I worked with the technology staff to find solutions to common Mac issues. I uncovered complex sales opportunities for my territory manager which involved bringing in system engineers to help sell the technology and ensure requirements would be met, such as when the 8 floor library wanted to go wireless.
At the same time that I was working for Apple, I was building websites for local businesses with a college classmate and also working for my father’s business which was an industrial and medical gas distributor with welding supply retail stores throughout New England. I started in the gas production plant but by the time I was in college and working for Apple, I worked in the retail store selling welders, power tools, safety equipment and gases.
Apple offered me a chance to take over my manager’s territory. At the same time, my father’s company offered me a position to manage their new ecommerce website. I took the new position with my father’s company and over the next 10 years, the online business grew from $125,000 to $2.7 million. I learned more in those ten years than I could hope to cover here. Briefly, I learned fraud prevention, payment processing, fulfillment operations, customer service, web design, web programming basics, web software project management, P&L management, seo, sem, analytics, radio and tv ads, ad agency management, inventory control/purchasing, email campaign production and much more. I was promoted to vice president of technology and joined the executive management committee. Two years later, I had completed working on a functional specification for a b2b site for our gas customers. We bought a package that would run from our IBM AS/400 and we were underway developing the site when my father sold the business. The new company started layoffs immediately. They eliminated our marketing budget and required a code freeze for 9 months while they migrated our data to their servers. 3 months after that they announced the sale of the business (again) to a Japanese firm with more than 10,000 employees and more than 2.5 billion in sales. They new firm instituted a pay freeze and more layoffs. My team and I developed a business plan for our ecommerce site but it was met with deaf ears and within 12 months, the department was completely dismantled and I was shown the door. Ain’t politics grand?
Since then, I have consulted with businesses, started investments in commercial real estate and manage my own investment portfolio of stocks, bonds and derivatives. In an effort to continue learning about the stock market, I worked for a company that provides ratings on public companies based on financial, board and event information from SEC filings and corporate press releases. It was a rewarding experience and I became much more comfortable analyzing executive compensation, board structures and voting proposals. I love marketing, economies and coffee flavored ice cream. I have blogs for the first two… maybe someday all three. lol.