Marketing Lessons I learned from my family

Sometimes the best education is right at your front door.

When I hear about small business start ups, I get very excited about their journey. Entrepreneurs are a breed unto themselves. They fight the addiction to the W-2 and stake a claim in the world. They believe in an idea or a product and through their excruciating persistence they succeed. They get up every day and although the odds may be against them, fight to survive and build their brand as they manage their business.

I know many entrepreneurs. Having been one for about 15 years, I know the incredible hard work it takes meeting a payroll, making difficult personnel decisions and finding the right customers. I am very proud that our business made INC Magazine's Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies in 1985

When you are an employee, you take for granted those who borrow against the house or bootstrap a business on a credit card. I salute the entrepreneurs that keep running hard at the wall- because at some point they can break through to the other side.

I want to mention three entrepreneurs from my family and comment on what I admire about them.


George and Fannie Ginsberg 
First is my grandfather- George Ginsberg. I have written about him in many posts on this blog so his background may be familiar to some of you who read my observations. Around 1910, George came to the U.S. from Russia as an orphan. He was 10 years old and came on a boat by himself. His uncle Henry, who lived in Newark, New Jersey, taught him the craft of commercial photography.

Pop started several business but his Philadelphia-based Quaker Photo, which he began in the late 1920’s still exists today as Quaker Chroma. It has a completely different format than it did when Pop was taking pictures of the political conventions from 1948 in Philadelphia. The current owner Bob Marion is the son of my grandfather's first employee (Pat Marion) who bought the business in the 1950's. 

What did it take for an uneducated immigrant in the 1920's to start a business? I wonder if it would have been so much easier to get a job in factory or to just work for someone else. Maybe at the time, it wasn't so easy to get a job and starting a business wasn't as risky as I think it is. It is hard to know. 

What I learned from Pop about running a business was that he trusted the universe. He believed everything would work out in the end. He never doubted himself and that a greater force was watching over him. He had a true and unwavering belief in himself, his creativity and his ability to make a buck. Pop trusted the universe. 


Second is my brother-in-law Jerry Bedrin. Jerry, along with his brother Paul, took over an office supply business in
Jerry and Diane Bedrin
East Rutherford, New Jersey. Their father Murray started Allied Office Supplies sometime in the 1950’s and named it for the Allies in WWII.

Jerry was like fuel in the engine of a vehicle. 

He work long, long hours to make his business grow. I used to laugh at Jerry at Phillips Beach in Deal, New Jersey with his printouts, paperwork and projects that seemed to be with him every moment of every day. But Jerry knew that he had to be better than his competitors to gain and keep business. He succeeded in business by outworking the competition. I learned from Jerry that it takes an incredible level of energy and hard work to make things happen. 

You create your own good luck by putting your head down and pushing for every order and every last dime. I recall a story Jerry told me in the early 1980’s about a customer who needed some office supplies over the weekend for a project he was working on and he needed it in a few hours. Jerry drove home from the beach and went to his warehouse, picked up the things that were needed and delivered them to the man’s home. Jerry told me that this investment of effort will buy him a customer for life.  I may not be remembering the details of this story exactly as it happened, but I do not doubt for a moment that Jerry probably did something like this more than once in building his successful company. Jerry trusted in hard work. 


Jeffrey Slater and Ra El Remez
Last but certainly not least, my wife is the third entrepreneur in this trilogy. Ra El (formerly Rachel), never wanted to be in business and always felt pulled into it by the exquisite brownie that she baked. During the days of Rachel’s Brownies, she had the highest standard for quality on each and every brownie that went out the door.  They had her name on the label and she refused to compromise. 

I love to remember how we would be in the bakery with twenty of the employees who worked with us as we all hand wrapped our brownies in a confectionery conga line. Ra El instructed us on a certain special way to fold the Glad Wrap to secure each individual morsel of heaven. 

I spent hours wrapping like Jay Z

She would come behind me and undo each and every poorly wrapped double chocolate brownie and rewrap it since it wasn’t good enough to meet her standards. 

She held all of us to a standard that was a step beyond perfection. This lesson taught me  about the importance of delivering on the promise of your brand. Our product was our marketing so perfect wasn't even good enough. Often when interviewed on TV shows or newspapers, Ra El would comment that there can’t be any compromise in quality. Period.  None. End of story. If it has her name on it, it must be the absolute best it can be. 

I remember in one TV interview with Charlie Rose that she said "good enough is never good enough." It was at this point that I started to realize how important it was to trust in yourself. I watched my wife work so hard believing in her own instincts and never questioning that without a spectacular and extraordinary product, we would be like everyone else. The power of trusting yourself has been an invaluable lesson for my marketing education. But more importantly, watching my wife trust herself has been a true and sacred blessing to witness. Ra El trusts in herself. 

So if you want to succeed in business, remember these three things I learned from my family about marketing: 

1. Trust in the universe
2. Trust in hard work
3. Trust in yourself

Pop, Jerry and Ra El, thank you for providing me with this marketing wisdom. However, I trust you have all taught me  even bigger life lessons. 

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