Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

As I mentioned in my last post, this week a bunch of us from Product Partners/Beachbody attended the annual Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) convention in Las Vegas. Basically, it’s where all the infomercial companies and vendors get together each year, and I’ve been going since the association was formed.

It is interesting to return to these events and see the same faces each year. Having been in this business since 1987, it’s like a reunion, or a career highlight film. I enjoy running into guys like Jim Caldwell, who was the first to hire me to produce an infomercial in ‘87. I’ll never forget Jim asking me if I could produce an infomercial, and as an eager TV production salesman I said “of course”, making a mental note to find out what the heck an infomercial was. (In case you don’t know – it’s a program length commercial, usually around a half hour long.) And once I got started, I moved around to every aspect of the business, from production, to media buying, international distribution and operations, and later to being an entrepreneur, sourcing and creating new products.

I would list some of the names of the people I ran into, but it would probably only be interesting reading to me. I’ve worked with most of the leaders in the business, and it’s a list of some of the most interesting characters and personalities you could imagine. Walking the convention floor and seeing the same people I’ve worked with when this business was an infant, who are now ultra-successful, is surreal.

At the same time, I can hardly describe the pride I felt sitting in on meetings with the Beachbody team as they consider opportunities which can improve our operations, telemarketing, and production. Truly, world class. Asking the right questions. Never being arrogant. Open to new ideas, but never getting pushed around. The exact culture Jon and I set out to create when we launched the company in 1998.

One thing I heard at the show is how people in the industry, even competitors I’ve never met, talking about Beachbody with pride in what we do and how we do it. Acquaintances would call me or Jon over and say “This is one of the guys who started that company I was telling you about, Beachbody, with the website and the real customer success stories.” I had a bunch of those moments when you see people pointing at you and nodding from across the room. I figure either I had spinach in my teeth or they’re actually talking about some Vegas showgirl who’s standing somewhere behind me. Nope. They’re talking about Beachbody.

Last night I was lucky enough to attend an informal dinner with senior executives from billion dollar mega-success marketer Guthy-Renker, and spent the meal sitting beside their marketing team of Jonathan Flicker and Jeff Engler, plus Greg Renker (The “Renker”, of Guthy-Renker). I’ve known Greg since 1989 when I was running a national satellite media business that ran what I think was their “Think and Grow Rich” infomercial. And I was lucky enough to work with and learn from them for a couple years just prior to starting Beachbody. When I first congratulated Greg on his success last night, without hesitation he pointed at his executive team of Ben van de Bunt and Kevin Knee who were in another conversation nearby and said “honestly the smartest thing was hiring those guys.” If you’ve ever read “Good To Great”, you’ll recall that the characteristic of a leader that builds a company from good-to-great is called level 5, where the level 5 leader doesn’t bask in the spotlight of success, he shares it. There’s proof.

And with all their success, I was again impressed with how Greg still enjoys what he called “the riddle” of trying to make an infomercial work. The true test of whether you love what you do or not comes when you’ve made your fortune, and you are still motivated to make it bigger and better.

Which is also why I am already back home, while the convention continues through the week. The lion’s share of my job is not in networking or reminiscing, it is creating and working to improve everything we do. That’s what I love. And that happens in the office. Back at it in the morning.


Mary Cecy said...

Ok anecdote... This morning I was channel surfing and found something very interesting, Gilad has a 12 week program with Success Stories and a members only site... MMMM where have I heard of that concept.. Billy Blanks has it also, 6 weeks make over, Yoga Now (loose weight in 6 wks)... It all sounds too familiar. I pondered... isn't that what I already have 6-10-12 wks tape with FREE support 24/7 and WOWY and the chance to talk to the fitness trainers, Fitness advisor and CEO and President of the Company that backs their customers? Well I like it where I am at and the people I have met so far. Sept Success Story and I have become good friends. He lives not to far from me and we email about workouts and life. This is great. I have a friends locally and long distance. I can't find that anywhere else. And like yourself, going to this convention, a fitness camps brings the same feelings to me. Meeting great friends and sharing a common goal, living healthier lives. I got 2 new plastic bands: Passion for Living & Reach for the Stars. One from Playtex, the other one from my kids school. Both of them make me think of what I want and how I want it. Faith over Fear like Tony says. Now if I can teach that to my heart we should be ok.. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Carl,

Welcome back! I'm sure that Ava and your wife missed you! I wonder how many of those mega-business guys use BeachBody products without you knowing?? Probably a few are jealous of BB's success, both financially and personally! hee hee If they only knew, right? What a fantastic company you and Jon have built, Carl. I agree with Mary! Where else can you go to "chat" with the CEO of a company whose product you use?

It all goes back to being REAL, which is what I appreciate most about BB.

Thanks again and happy Wednesday!

mermandrea said...

Hi Carl,

I second Mary and Sarahs sentiments...

I'm curious about the book "Good To Great". We're on the hunt for a new principal at my elementary school...

Is this something that could be helpful in choosing an educational leader as well as a business leader?

Thank, Andrea

Carl Daikeler said...

I don't know that "Good to Great" would be that appropriate, although it will outline what a schoolboard and/or PTA could do to make sure that whatever it is that is making a school Good remains intact through generations. And that would relate to hiring the principal as well. It really is one of my favorite business books.

Angela said...

As an entrepreneur, I enjoy hearing about the interworkings of the business, and the fact that you are not afraid to share these things with others.

Thanks so much,

Jim Caldwell said...

Hey carl,

Cool blog. I am flatterred you still remember those first days when we in direct response TV were all cutting our teeth trying to figure out the "riddle" as you call it. Indeed. You had a glint in your eye then and you certainly have one now. Good to se you at ERA... Let's keep in touch...
best, jim