The old adage, “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” is being proven true by northeast Ohioans. Just ask Phil Alexander, Founder, President and CEO of BrandMuscle, a Beachwood marketing firm that just sold for several million dollars.
Alexander left his native India 33 years ago to pursue an MBA in Rochester New York. He arrived with one suitcase and enough money to make it through the first year, taking it for granted he would win enough scholarship money to complete his studies. When that did not happen, he transferred to Case Western Reserve University on a full scholarship and went on to pursue a career in marketing.
"I started out with an idea,” Alexander told Call for Action Reporter Lorrie Taylor, as he explained how BrandMuscle got its start.
Alexander had served as a Vice President of marketing for major corporations for nearly 20 years when he grew frustrated with a common problem in the marketing industry; whenever he created a national campaign it sometimes failed to translate on the local level. For example, no-line bifocals sold well in retirement communities but not in college towns.
"Instead of complaining about the process I decided to address it and I started BrandMuscle," he said.
Alexander said the database behind the BrandMuscle genius was designed for easy use by retailers. In just three easy clicks, they can change a national ad to feature different artwork and copy that appeals to customers they’re trying to attract.
After more than a decade in business, BrandMuscle boasts some of the biggest corporate clients in the world, but it’s the story of the first customer landed by Alexander that may offer a lesson for aspiring entrepreneurs.
His company was still in the idea stage and Alexander had no employees when he got a call from a former colleague. She knew of his idea and shared it with her boss at AT&T Wireless. An appointment was scheduled for Alexander before he ever picked up the phone.
"She said I think it would be a great opportunity for you, they want you up here in New York in four days," he recalled.
Fearing such a large corporation wouldn’t give its business to a one-man-band, Alexander called several friends and asked each to assume the role of a company representative.
“We coached them and they'd be part of the BrandMuscle team,” he said, “We made business cards for them, they had all their specific roles and that's how we went in.”
The presentation was a success and Alexander had his first client. He insists surrounding himself with exceptional people has been the key to his success from the very start.
"Can anybody do this? The answer is yes,” said Alexander, “I really didn't have a financial background, I didn't know how to go to private equity, to a venture capital firm and ask for money, I'd never asked anyone for money before other than your mortgage and your bank.”
He says the business of selling a company, whether on the front end or the back, becomes easier when you seek the advice of more informed people.
"Don't believe you know everything, in fact, if you believe you know nothing and everybody else knows a lot more than you do you’re going to be in a pretty good place,” he suggested.
The BrandMuscle CEO also told Taylor there is no time like the present to launch a million dollar idea.
"There has never been a better environment than there is today for entrepreneurship, especially here in Cleveland, there are so many support organizations,” he said.
He recommended local agencies such as, JumpStart, NEOSA, COSE, and LaunchHouse.
"If you've got a great idea, my advice is, now's the time to go out and see if you can make it happen!”