Barry Cohen is the Managing Member of AdLab Meida Communications, LLC.
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
I began my career in 1979 by selling radio advertising, first at smaller stations, then at major metropolitan stations. Eventually, I made the switch to the advertising agency/PR firm side. In 1998, I joined one of my former radio colleagues to launch AdLab Media. We initially set up shop as an audio-video production house, adding media buying, focus groups and PR services. Along the way, I succeeded in becoming an author. Once I promoted my own published books, people began to ask for help with their book projects. Today, AdLab primarily functions as a specialty PR firm helping entrepreneurs and professionals to create and promote their intellectual property to become recognized as thought leaders, rasiing their profile and credibility.
Was any one person who was instrumental in helping you get from where you started out, to where you are now?
Each of my radio station sales managers imbued me with the business sense I needed to succeed. I did not study business in college so it proved very valuable.
Is there a particular piece of advice you were given in the early days of your business journey that you still benefit from today?
One of the most valuable pieces of advice anyone gave me came from my very first sales manager, Arnie Schwartz. He told me, "A sales is not a sale until the money is in the bank." The importance of collections and the discipline of keeping a tight rein on your receivables has helped me to stay in business through the most challenging times.
What is the most important lesson you've learned about leadership in your business journey so far?
The most important lesson I have learned about leadership is that a leader needs to jump into the trenches side by side with his or her team members to demonstrate commitment and to lead by example.
What are the top three things you wish you'd known when you were just starting out?
Hire a competent bookkeeper the day you open your doors Financial mistakes will cost you big time.
Incorporate into your operating agreement what each partner is required to do. This will avoid disagreements later and provide the basis for compensation.
Append a performance-based compensation agreement to your operating agreement, signed by each partner. This will prevent anyone from riding the coattails of others and ensure that everyone pulls his or her weight.
In your experience, what is the most effective way to build a strong network of mentors and advisors to guide you in your business endeavors?
The best way to build a strong network of advisors and mentors involves reaching up to experienced people a a higher level. I formed my own advisory board with retired and semi-retired individuals.
How do you determine when it's time to pivot, and what factors should you consider in making that decision?
When you observe trends changing or your business practices and services becoming obsolete or find demand decreasing, it is time to pivot. You must consider your ability to respond--evaluate your skills and capabilities, your bandwidth and capacity and the financial impact of making the changes.
How do you stay motivated and inspired during the business cycle of ups and downs?
Your motivation has to come from within. Attitude will determine how well you adapt and power through the down cycles. You need to know that there will always be ups and downs and prepare for them--both fiscally and emotionally.
Looking back, what one thing would you do differently if you could start your journey over again?
I would have taken( more) formal business education.