I HATE AGENCIES… NOW I RUN ONE. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

I am the ultimate accidental entrepreneur. One of the lucky ones that stumbled into his passion and purpose, like:

My whole life I was an athlete. My world was dictated by factors like: Off season vs. in season, X, and Y. I chose my first college based on the numbers that were retired on the stadium wall (in fairness, Bonds, Jackson, and Brock are pretty compelling) over any thought of the post career implications. I can still hear my Mom trying desperately to convince me that “Princeton is beautiful in the fall;” but it just didn’t matter. I had a one-track mind. So in 2009, when I got a call from the head of player development letting me know that my brief career with the Yankees organization was over, I felt a little like I had reached the end of the earth.

In retrospect, this was my life’s greatest gift. I had reached my athletic ceiling. I remember playing that final year against these two guys: Jason Heyward and Madison Baumgarner. They were a giant, physically gifted signal that the end had arrived.

So I hauled off back to school preparing to go argue professionally (something I loved to do recreationally) as a lawyer, when my childhood friend Josh Rodarmel (that’s him below in the goofy red sweater with his now wife, LPGA star, Natalie Gulbis) asked me to come over to his garage and help him and his brother sew together some wristbands…

24 Months later we (along with a lot of other awesome people), we had built Power Balance into a $60M brand being distributed in over 30 countries on six continents. It was the adventure of a lifetime and the exhilarating twists and turns of entrepreneurship were intoxicating. The experiences we all shared belong in a Ben Mezrich novel. Here are a few fun pics.

As the business grew, each of us had to develop our expertise. I was tasked with running our digital brand (a still fancy term in 2009). That included all e-commerce, social media, and ambassador relationships. This was my business school. I spent countless hours studying e-commerce practices, social media tools, and athlete contracts. Discovering the power of social media felt like inventing the printing press. All of a sudden, I had an audience of tens of thousands of people at my fingertips and could gauge their interest in my content on a moment-to-moment basis. It was world altering for me.

As a small team managing content and store fronts across multiple countries, we decided we needed to enlist an agency to help us manage our e-commerce efforts and digital marketing. And so we did…at first, it was marvelous. Suddenly I had a team of really talented people at my disposal that helped us ramp up our production significantly. But then, agency creep began. Most conversations deteriorated into a debate about hour tracking, “scope of work,” and timelines. Looking back, I feel terrible for my account managers (Sorry Kelly and Sherry) because I would hammer them on every billable minute. It was exhuasting for both of us. I just hated feeling like our interests weren’t aligned (we wanted to finish fast and cheap, they get paid on billable hours). So even though I truly feel like they desired to see our brand succeed and did great work for us, there was always a point of conflict that damaged the relationship. I began to hate the traditional agency business model, believing it was fundamentally flawed. So, as with most problems I encounter, my mind would always race thinking of ways to solve it. It seemed the agency world was ripe for some innovation.

In my mind, the common ground was obvious: Sales!

To borrow from David Ogilvy:

YOUR ROLE IS TO SELL, DON’T LET ANYTHING DISTRACT YOU FROM THE SOLE PURPOSE OF ADVERTISING.

Good marketing sells product. Period. End of story.

I felt like if I could create an agency that made money when my clients did, and was laser focused on the task of helping people sell more product, we could carve out a place for ourselves with entrepreneurs inherently allergic to massive retainers and vanity metrics.

We are in the golden era of e-commerce. It has never ever been easier to create a store and put your product in front of very targeted customers. From the goldmine of data available through Facebook, to the functionality of commerce tools like Shopify, or the reporting capabilities of Google Analytics creating powerful sales funnels, your product has the lowest barrier to creation ever.

So I rounded up my hit squad of some of the smartest and most talented people I encountered along my previous journeys and we have started The Common Thread Collective.

Our mission is to “Unite People of Common Purpose To Power Commerce”.

Our main goal is to build a digital community around your brand that drives your e-commerce sales. If you have an innovative product in the sports, lifestyle, or outdoors space, we would love to connect. And we will put our money where our mouth is, we only wanna get paid when you do…

The Common Thread Collective is the kind of agency I dreamed about. It’s the kind of agency I’m proud to be a part of.

If it sounds like your purpose aligns with ours, let’s unite and power your commerce