Gary Reynolds started out as a musician, left for the West Coast to try songwriting, then followed his entrepreneurial instincts back to Wisconsin. His idea of connecting emerging bands with big company sponsors got him his first client, Miller Brewing. His idea of using his band support network of 300 representatives on campuses across the country to market tech products got him his second client, Apple Inc.
Today, Gary is considered a pioneer in experiential marketing. He sold his company, New Berlin-based GMR, to Omnicom in 1997 but stayed on to build the global marketing communications firm's primary experiential and digital services and lead the acquisition of 23 agencies. Under Gary's watch, GMR has grown to have nearly 1,000 full-time employees and a field force that swells to as many as 20,000 when the firm is involved with big events like the World Cup and the Olympics.
Here are some tips Gary has for other entrepreneurs:
- Put people first: You must know what’s happening with everybody, he says. Gary adds that every person GMR hired went through his office. Not only should you know who they are, but you should also be generous and give them the opportunity to excel on their own dream and vision.
- Stay humble and honest: He says that if you stay humble and honest, it all pays off in the end.
- Never start out thinking you’re going to make $1 million: You’re dead in the water if you’re approaching a business by thinking about how much money you’re going to make, Gary explains.
- Never talk about how big and bad you are or how you dwarf the competition: “Those words never come out of me," he says. "When I’m getting into any type of business, I get excited about stuff I think is contagious.”
- Focus on one thing: Even though the platform you’re building can do many things, you have to take the one aspect that has greatest bandwidth for success and build on that. People try to attack too many things at once.
- Get into something you know: Don’t get into a category you have to learn – then you’re learning that and have to make a business out of it.