The Secret Sauce to 30 Years in Business

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What I’ve Learned After 30 Years

What is the secret ingredient in my secret ingredient soup? (- Kung Fu Panda, sorry for the movie quote) 

As was the case with the movie plot, there is no one ingredient, one magical additive. But I have often been asked, and I have often thought about this question. How has PMD Media been around so long? How did it start? When did it become easy? (answer: never

The closest I can get to a “secret sauce” would be these three fundamentals, as I see them, because they have meant so much to PMD, and my own personal and professional development.

Think Organic

I’m not referring to a healthy diet lacking in pesticides and GMO products. I’m talking about a business plan, a model of what you want to do when most people start something. Don’t successful business people give it some thought? Seek advice? Raise money? 

In my case, nothing was planned, at least not at first. Things grew from the client-demand side. What the market wanted, PMD Media would provide. It wasn’t like I had this terrific idea and went and made it a reality. There was a need, and I filled it.

In what has now become our origin-story lore, I had no desire to start a business as an NYU sophomore. I was working for a small ad agency with some very big clients. Madison Square Garden had just become non-smoking, and the Grateful Dead were in town for nine shows. 

“Grab a bunch of your friends, stand in front and tell everyone entering – smoking is NOT ALLOWED in MSG anymore! That means pot too.” Deadheads were not exactly known for their smoking abstinence. It was a fun few nights.

PMD was off and running, as a street team business. Months went by, live event gigs kept coming. Then a prominent theater company came knocking, the marketing director asked us to put up a few posters in some storefronts around New York’s West Village and Theater District. It was strange. It was scary. We had never done anything similar to this before. But we tried it. We talked with owners and management at any type of street-level business that had a window. We hung a few posters up around town.

We had another service to offer. And it happened organically. 

To this day, our clients drive our growth. New markets and expanded venue networks come from client demand. New services are introduced when a need is there.

Listen Carefully

Of course, all the client-driven needs and marketplace signals coming your way will never amount to anything if you don’t have your ear to the ground. What are people saying? More importantly, what are brands doing? What are your contacts telling you?

Having the ability to sit in a room with someone and really take in what they are saying is vital. Early on, I had the chance to sit across conference tables from some pretty terrific, smart-minded, driven people. 

One afternoon, a record label exec scolded me over the phone; “I know you guys are in NYC, that doesn’t help me. I need exposure in LA, not New York.” She hung up. I called back.

I was on a flight to LA the next day, in our first expansion outside of the 5 Boroughs of New York. This turned out to be the beginning of a national PMD, more and more cities would be added throughout the years. I always made a point of listening from there on.

Make Friends

You’ve probably heard this one before; “It’s all who you know”. 

But it’s more than just “knowing” people. To know someone is a good first step, but to be truly friends with colleagues is where I’ve found the most success. 

That LA record label exec who hung up on me? She became one of my dearest friends. Turns out we had a lot in common. And after all, we were in the same business, with many of the same industry friends. This has repeated itself many times over the ensuing years, I still count my clients as some of my closest family. 

I’m not saying that you should pretend to be friendly with people in order to win their business. I’m not advocating being fake or opportunistic, I’m simply stating that to have a lot of genuine friends in your business is not only good for business, but will make your career that much more enjoyable.


Drop me a line anytime – it would be great catching up!

Dean Stallone
Founder & CEO, PMD Media

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