Tuesday Talk with Sean Simon

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Building a Good Network:

I am lucky, are you? When I started in the ad business in 1995, I was eager, excited, and a little scared. I was across the country from my entire family and the only friends I had in SF were the ones I met at Anderson & Lembke. I was excited because I was working within digital advertising at its dawn. There weren’t any rules, structure, or guides. I was given just a little direction and set loose. It was awesome! I was learning something new every day. My colleagues and I were setting the table for the next 30+ years. After only a few month, I thought I knew everything but boy, was I wrong.

Thankfully, I had some amazing mentors to teach me the way. I still made mistakes but they helped me understand them so I could learn and become a professional. One story that sticks out in my mind to this day was when a sales rep from Popular Science (you know who you are) invited me to Chicago for a weekend to hang out with his college buds and go to some Cubs games. He knew that I was a huge fan and we first met at Cubs/Giants game. Of course I wanted to go, this was huge for me. However, I loved my job and wanted to make sure it wasn’t frowned upon by our Media Director, David Yoder. When I asked David, he didn’t say no. He explained to me that when a sales rep offers you something as extravagant as a trip, it comes with certain expectations. Expectations that I didn’t have a right to set because the budgets that I managed were not my money. In the end, David let me decide what was right and we never spoke of it again. I didn’t go on that trip and the experience impacted my decisions as a media buyer and a media seller.

Having the benefit of 27 years of hindsight, I have a few lessons that I took away from that experience that I would like to share with today’s buyers and sellers:

  • Good mentors are hard to come by and more so today. No matter your age or experience, you need to seek out like-minded individuals with experiences to share. Find a few people that you respect for the right reasons and lean on them for guidance. Chances are, they will lean back on you for a different perspective as well.
  • Extravagant gifts like trips, jean parties, and expensive items are lazy ways to sell. If gifts are the main reason for buying from someone, you are not serving your client or company well. Proper vetting and alignment are key to everyone’s success, and the success of our ecosystem.
  • A quality network can all but guarantee your future success and it’s never too late to start building or adding to. Going back to being lucky, I was fortunate enough to work at Anderson & Lembke to start my career. I am still friends with several of the people that I worked with there. Unfortunately, David Yoder passed away 2 years ago before I ever had the chance to share with him the impact he made on my career. I later spent 5 years at Yahoo! which helped my network explode. The people that I met at Y! are still impacting my life today. The connection go on and on and it all started with one job, one man, and one lesson.

If you take one thing away from this Tuesday Talk, it is this; build your network with smart, humble, experienced people that have integrity and respect for our industry and all people. We are in this journey together so let’s support each other and do the right things!