Monday, November 9, 2009
Former CPA Turns Successful Magazine Publisher With A Little Help From The Right Mentors
Rob Levin has a lot of letters after his name letting us know he’s a pretty well educated, smart, business savvy guy: CPA, MBA, CFO, CEO. But after years in accounting and business leadership roles, he still didn’t know a thing about publishing a magazine. But that’s what he really wanted to do.
While working at another media company as a short-term CEO, he met Rose Sullivan, a magazine publishing expert. Rob was not shy about reaching out to strangers. He knew it was a wise move to get to know the speakers because they are just the right people to be strong mentors and connectors. While they didn’t work together at that time, he kept in touch with her and when he came up with the idea for a magazine catering to NY’s small business community he made a quick call to Rose that helped Rob learn a lot about the costs, printing, and logistics of producing a magazine.
In 2003, after reading an article by Norm Brodsky, the highly successful entrepreneur and well-known columnist for INC Magazine, Rob reached out and asked Norm for a meeting. He went to visit him in Brooklyn asking for feedback on his business plan for The New York Enterprise Report. The business model, among other things. entailed paid subscriptions.
Although Norm would not tell Rob what he thought about the business idea, he did go through the plan with Rob in detail. After drilling through the numbers and assumptions, he asked Rob why not consider giving the magazine away for FREE!
Rob, stunned, initially balked at the idea. He knew there was going to be such great value in the magazine. Why give this away for nothing?
After a restless night of sleep, Rob saw the wisdom in Norm’s idea, and decided to build a controlled subscriber base (free to qualified readers). It worked! Norm Brodsky was the first cover feature on The New York Enterprise Report. Their relationship of mentor and protoge turned into real friendship, and ultimately Norm invested in the company.
A year after Rob launched the magazine, Norm ‘fessed up and told Rob he hadn’t really wanted to meet with Rob and that he thought his idea for the magazine was “dumb.” Well, even Norm isn’t right 100% of the time. But Rob feels meeting Norm and taking his input was a key ingredient for the magazine’s success. Today, The New York Enterprise Report is a thriving media company.
Rob has turned his acquired knowledge of networking with the right people into a successful business model as well. The New York Enterprise Report now brings together hundreds of entrepreneurs to network with other like-minded entrepreneurs at highly acclaimed events and seminars (including the Small Business Awards).
When Rob started out in his career, he admits he didn’t establish relationships or maintain them successfully. Recognizing his networking and business development skills were lacking, he took training to improve.
Rob says it is easy to be impressed by people initially. So he is careful with whom he develops relationships. (I can vouch for this. It took years for me to gain Rob’s attention and trust) He is strategic about whom he is introduced to and to whom he introduces others. He carefully considers whether value can be brought to both parties.
In Rob’s view, social capital and influence is developed when you can have value for people who are influential themselves. Whose circles would Rob like to be in these days? He realized he now needed to build awareness in certain circles of the venture capital community.