Bob Coleman, Publisher, Coleman Publishing, La Canada, Calif.
SIPA: What was your first job out of college and how did you get into this business?
COLEMAN: Management trainee position with a West Coast bank. After a few twists and turns, I became a small business lender. It was in Hollywood that I became aware of the newsletter industry. People come together for a project, then disband. There are a number of vehicles and opportunities that allow people to network and to stay in tune with various industry niches. My “ah ha” moment came when I needed some information and asked around for the small business lending “industry” newsletter. It didn’t exist. Thinking it would be easy and romantic to write for a living, I quit my job and started working from the kitchen table.
Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road.
Being quoted as an expert in the Wall Street Journal the first time was pretty cool.
In brief, describe your business/company?
We supply information to small business lenders any way they want it.
What are two or three important concepts or rules that have helped you to succeed in business?
a) Pick up every phone call. If voice mail and emails, answer asap. (I hang up on a lot of telemarketers!)
b) Prepare and review daily financial statements.
c) Spend at least 30 minutes each day thinking “big picture.” (I nap a lot!)
What is the single-most successful thing that your company is doing now?
Do you see a trend or path in 2010 that you know you have to lock onto?
I think we need to produce a daily live Internet streaming show next year.
What are the key benefits of SIPA membership for you and your team?
Bluntly, ideas from SIPA events have been crucial in my company’s survival. If we had remained a newsletter company, we would have been another failed small business casualty of the Great Recession. Over the past 15 years I’ve picked up several ideas from SIPA that have resulted in millions of dollars of sales to my company. (My apologies that I’ve forgotten the original speaker/owner of the ideas.) Here are the gems, in chronological order:
@ 1998 – “Create your website. I think there will be a way for you to charge for information you put up on it.”
@ 1999 – “Have you noticed everyone is getting an email address? Next time you are at a meeting, get everyone’s business card. You may be able to do something with those email addresses.”
@ 2001 – “We’ve found that we can take our newsletter content and give the information out over a telephone call. We get everyone to call in and we charge them! We’re calling these audio conferences.”
@ 2007 – “We were having a problem tracking all the details of our audio conferences. We started using Quickbase to track everything. The data is stored on the web, so it’s easy to keep everybody informed.”
@ 2007 – “If you email quarterly, do it bi-monthly. If you email bi-monthly do it monthly. If you do it monthly, email semi-monthly. If you email semi-monthly, do it weekly. If you email weekly, do it daily. If you email daily, do it twice a day.”
@ 2010 – “We killed our newsletters and created a website to replace them. If the information is news, then it’s free. If we provide research, analysis, trends or data, then we charge for that information.”
Where did you grow up?
Southern California (My sons are 5th generation Southern Californians.)
What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?
BA, Medieval History, University of California at Santa Barbara. MBA, Real Estate Finance, University of Southern California
We were the first class enrolled at UCSB after the California National Guard killed a student at the Bank of America branch that was burned during the Isla Vista anti-war riots. That was sobering.
Are you married? Do you have children?
Married with three boys. The middle son, Joseph has been with the company for three years since graduating from the University of Colorado. My wife and I are actively plotting against the youngest in the hope of becoming empty nesters.
What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?
Just started geocaching! I was checking apps on my iPhone last spring and saw this Top 25 app. I didn’t have a clue what it did, but it looked fun. I had never heard of the game before. It’s a high-tech treasure hunt game that can be done with an iPhone or GPS unit. You search for caches based on their location anywhere in the world. It’s a great way to get exercise and see corners of the world you never knew existed.
Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?
The TV show “Mad Men.” It reenforces 1) product (content) is king. 2) branding defines your message. 3) marketing copywriting must be spot on (e.g. email subject lines in 2010).
As Bob said, “Over the past 15 years, I’ve picked up
several ideas from SIPA that have resulted in
millions of dollars of sales to my company.”
(He will be on a panel in Miami.)
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