January 23, 2015

On March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan and I both got very lucky.

Some of you may recall…or you can look it up…that on that day outside of the Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C., the then President of the United States Ronald Reagan narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.

By all accounts, he literally and figuratively dodged two bullets…

And I’m not sure he would have agreed with one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill:

“There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at without result.”

I use that quote to describe the marketing wars I’ve been involved in but I’m not so sure I like using it anymore when we’re talking about live ammunition…and in Reagan’s case, it was no laughing matter when the result was one bullet in his arm and another in his chest, puncturing a lung.

Reagan was courageous through the experience…he did kind of “laugh it off”…and his popularity rate rose to over 70%!

I got lucky that same day because I started working for Marty Edelston.

My first day at Boardroom was far from a “full day of work” as we watched the news about our President being shot…and little did I know that was the day I was beginning a 34 year career helping build one of the most successful direct marketing empires ever.

We went from around $3 million in revenues in 1981 to a high of $150 million in the mid 2000’s. Quite a ride.

We may not have had the sales or profits of some of the other star companies in direct marketing over the last three decades…but because Boardroom was a true “learning organization,” we always worked with the smartest people, produced the highest quality products and we spent as much time teaching and sharing as we did profiting.

Of course our financial advisors often told us: “How about a little less teaching and sharing and a little more selling?” –but we couldn’t help ourselves.

Marty always treated me like a partner in the business and together (with some of the most talented people both internally and externally), we grew Boardroom into something very special.

And clearly I was spoiled.

I had all the advantages of an entrepreneur with a lot less risk.

Once becoming Marty’s partner, I had the freedom to think of new ideas daily with phenomenal resources at my fingertips: The best copywriters, consultants, database experts, list mavens, numbers gurus, 20,000+ articles and pieces of world class content and a database of customers and former customers that fluctuated between 5 and 10 million names.

What a playground for anyone…and Boardroom was more like the best amusement park ever for serial direct marketers like Marty and I.

Don’t get me wrong…we had risk and we went through tough times.

I remember in 1983 when we had a mailing ready to go out and we did not have enough cash in the bank to pay the postage.

And over the years, there were many pay cuts for the ownership and management teams when it was necessary…and we had layoffs that coincided with downturns just like everyone else.

34 years is a long time. The amusement park was lots of fun but the roller coaster had many ups and downs.

But it will never be lost on me that it was Marty’s courage to go out on his own in 1972, from his basement and using his life savings to launch Boardroom Reports, which created so many wonderful careers and legacies…including mine.

(NOTE: If you are interested in additional background on Marty’s thinking about launching the company and the “brand” Boardroom Reports, read my post entitled “Branding without getting hives”).

I am well aware that I didn’t start it…just helped to build it in a huge way…which is why I say I was a bit spoiled.

I am not apologizing for not starting Boardroom…just creating the proper setup for my topic today which is all about “Intrapreneurship” (which spell check will always underline so it’s not even a word)!

But I will make it a word and hopefully an important concept for you to consider after you read this post…

Based on interactions I’ve had with many of you on this list, my gut told me that this is a topic worth exploring.

That is, a good percentage of you are working in different kinds of companies for someone else–but itching to go out on your own.

And of course there are also many of you who are on your own already and I’m hoping this topic will be relevant to you as well…to see if anything I share is similar to your experience moving to full entrepreneurship…or maybe it will give you some insights as to how to deal with your staff, many of whom may be “Intrapreneurial” (also not a word!) themselves…which can lead to incredible growth for your most talented employees.

My thesis: Being innovative and resourceful can never get old or tired no matter what your ownership percentage is of any business.

In my post “Come for the information, stay for the inspiration,” I told you about a recent experience I had speaking to 400 entrepreneurs in France…many very young…and all with incredible drive to go out on their own (despite whatever “day job” they currently hold).

And I’m not sure if the Americans on this list realize every country does not have the same entrepreneurial spirit we have in this country…in some countries it’s even frowned upon to be entrepreneurial…and it’s definitely not as common outside of the U.S. to meet large groups of people who are sick of “working for the man.”

However, the entrepreneurial spirit is becoming more global every day which I find so inspiring.

Back to my friends in Paris.

They were so impressed with my success and accomplishments–they treated me like royalty.

And frankly, it made me uncomfortable.

I told them the day after my keynote after I had 24 hours to reflect on their warm reception:

I am so grateful that you think I am some celebrity from America, here to dazzle you with my brilliance and my achievements. 

But I want to remind you that like you, I put my pants on one leg at a time (however that gets translated into French!)—and it is YOU who I look up to.

I got lucky…I landed in an entrepreneurial organization, worked hard, read everything and learned something new every day for 30 years…but I never had the true entrepreneurial experience where I had to “kill what I ate” (not sure how that translated either!)  in the same way that you will have to do when you strike out on your own. 

I am not apologizing for being an Intrapreneur…but please know how much you inspire me to truly be an “Entrepreneur Libre” (“Free Entrepreneur,” the name of the conference).

And when I came home from France, I realized it was time for me to leave Boardroom after 34 years.

I saw a bigger mission for myself:

To deliver on my promise to Marty before he passed away that “we have to teach this stuff.”

He and I had been doing that together in smaller doses since the mid 1980’s and we talked about doing something bigger shortly after Gene Schwartz’s death.

We never really got around to it the way we talked about it…and ironically, it was Marty’s death and the launch of “Titans of Direct Response” that took our dream to the next level.

I guess between that epic event in September and this latest epiphany in Paris, I can now tell all of you that as of January 30th I will go from Intrapreneur to Entrepreneur.

I am a little sad since it’s the end of an era for me…but very excited about the new contributions I can make thanks to many of you. You remind me of it after every post.

As I said earlier, I have had the freedom that most entrepreneurs have for much of my career…without the same initial risk…and I was thinking about what I could share about that experience that could be useful and helpful.

And I want to be helpful whether you are simply working in a company as an employee or if you are on your own already as a bootstrap Entrepreneur.

Here’s how I think I can be helpful

For the employee: How can “Intrapreneurship” be present for you…what kind of mindset do you need…and what do you need to bring to the party to make it most fulfilling?

For the entrepreneur: What can you do for your staff to create an environment of Intrapreneurs?

I’ll go back to Marty’s “four pillars to becoming extraordinary,” which was my opening session at “Titans,” to share how living into this concept worked for me.

1) Outwork everyone: Dan Kennedy jumped on this one when I shared it with him…and I believe it’s why he agreed to come and speak at “Titans.”  For today’s discussion, this means that you always need to make sure the person signing your pay check not only knows who you are but that they also know every idea, contribution or collaboration you are personally responsible for in the company.

It’s true that you may not always get the recognition…but you will always get the experience and learning…and if you are lucky enough to have a mentor like Marty, you will get noticed.

2) Have insatiable curiosity: Always be the “idea guy/gal”…keep your ideas in the air as long as possible while listening to everyone else’s…and never stop asking questions.  Don’t look for credit…but look to create wins.

And as I said in last week’s post, there are no losses…only wins and lessons.

3) If you’re the smartest person in the room you are in the wrong room: Many times in my early days at Boardroom, being the “list expert,” made it too easy to show off in that one area. But I worked hard to stay humble while sharing information in the area I was most expert in–and then I became a total sponge about everything else from everyone else. Internally and externally.

The odds are high that you are surrounded in your organization by superstars who have infinite knowledge in areas you don’t know squat about…please take full advantage of that every chance you get. It will serve you well when you are out on your own–where you MUSTlook for expertise in areas you are not an expert in.

And look to the outside for teachers and mentors in those areas as well.

You will never succeed at the highest level as an entrepreneur if you don’t do the things that are YOUR “unique ability” (credit: Dan Sullivan) and delegate the stuff you don’t like to do and the stuff you are not especially good at…

4) With your “work”…whatever it is…always think about changing lives/saving lives: Those lives can be your eventual customers/clients, outside vendors, partners, consultants… or your co-workers.

Passion never goes out of style…and it gets noticed…and it will help you find your true calling.

Marty used to say: “You only go through life once so you might as well be the world’s best.” I know that’s a repeat…but I can’t emphasize that one enough…

Whether you are an Employee/Intrapreneur or an Entrepreneur…I would love your feedback on this concept and how it has played out for you in your career…and I would love to share some of those stories (and possibly lessons) in future posts.

I’m hoping this topic resonates with many of you.

I know it sounds corny (and maybe a little dreamy too) to hear all of the good things you can still do even if you are feeling like you are prisoner to a pay check and the security of a full time job.

As someone who ran with an opportunity to be an “Intrapreneur” at a very satisfying level, maybe there is something in my story that could be helpful to you…although I understand I had some wonderful luck as well…a learning organization and an amazing role model and mentor.

However, don’t underestimate how much of your luck you create yourself (re-read the four pillars above).

Want the short version?  

Never stop believing in your ideas; never stop asking questions; learn from anyone and everyone around you; and stay passionate about what drives you the most.

Now…if you are one of the many bootstrap entrepreneurs on this list, the heroes I look up to above all others, it’s time for you to give ME advice!

I’m all ears…

Until next week,


P.S. OK…moose on the table…where are the “Titans” DVD’s already????

You will have to excuse me for not making the offer to you yet…the decision to leave Boardroom after 34 years took lots of thought and planning over the last month and there is a lot of work for me to do to leave the “campsite” in the same condition as when I arrived…I love Boardroom and I always will…and to be an ambassador for the company forever involves tying up many loose ends.

And securing all of the rights to all of the materials also took extra time.

I apologize.

Good news: You’ll be pleased to know that I used the extra time to add more items to the package!

The offer will include:

-The full 2 day program, on 12 DVD’s, with the all-star lineup of Kennedy, Renker, Bencivenga, Abraham, Sugarman, Marshall, McCarthy, Catona, Betuel, Deutsch, Johnson, Lampropoulos, Fishman, Kwik, Lee and yours truly.

-The ultimate Boardroom swipe file—the 30 most successful direct mail packages we ever mailed, written by the best copywriters who ever lived, responsible for over a billion dollars in sales.

-A 260 page “manual” created by Dan Kennedy exclusively for “Titans”…some of his best work and thinking from his illustrious career. Not available anywhere else nor will it be in the future.

-“The Bencivenga Interviews” on 4 CD’s…the prize piece in the collections of many of the world’s top copywriters…and very rare. Thanks to Titans Ken McCarthy and Gary Bencivenga for this priceless addition to the package.

-Interview and transcript with Marty and I about how we built Boardroom into a $100 million business.

-Interview and transcript with industry luminaries about the secrets they learned from Gene Schwartz’s “Breakthrough Advertising,” the most important book ever written on copy, creative…and human behavior.

-Exclusive DVD of Gene Schwartz presenting “live” on his best thinking and creative philosophies.

-Another “Titans” exclusive: A CD with critiques on the work of one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived, Gary Halbert. Authoring the critiques are some of the most successful copywriters and marketers on the planet, all of them Titans.

-And finally, an MP3 of all the audio from the two day epic event…something that many of you asked me for…so you can take “Titans on the go.” 

I hope you think that this package is worth waiting for…and I hope the delay will not diminish your enthusiasm.

I should have everything nailed down in the next couple of weeks.

And again, your price will be significantly less than the price I will charge to folks outside of this list.

P.P.S. And I was serious about getting advice and feedback from you on ‘Intrapreneurship,” Entrepreneurship and your own path which may be helpful to others on this list.

As you might expect, I have been inundated with e-mail since the announcement went out that I will be leaving Boardroom…but I will respond to every e-mail eventually…promise.

I would love to hear from you.

This list has become like a family to me.

If you are interested, “Brian 2.0” will be all about teaching, mentoring, consulting, creating Mastermind groups, hosting many more live events…and most of all learning.

I hope you will remain with me for all of that. And your ideas and feedback are welcome on that as well.

I’ve done a lot…but I truly believe the best is yet to come.

34 down…34 to go (at least).

Thanks for staying on the “learning journey”

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

  1. Hi Brian,

    I’ve listened to you at a few AWAI boot camps now. Ie really learned a lot and enjoyed hearing what you had to say.

    Thanks for putting so much of yourself out there.

    When you speak to crowds like at those events and by using the written word as you are here, the magical connection you create helps me see the awesome power of words, in both spoken and written forms. Those words are amazing tools for selling, but more importantly, for building a relationship with thousands of people at once.

    Thanks for making that so obvious and clear.

    Keep sending good stuff to my inbox. I’ll be watching.



    1. Brian

      RE: You are in the wrong room if you are the smartest one in the room

      Judaic lore has it when one’s time arrives for entry into The Olam Haba (The World To Come) one is asked several question including the following:

      Did you study Torah everyday?
      Were you honest in your business dealings? (This isn’t about business dealings per se – but Shalom. Most think Shalom merely means ‘hello, goodbye & peace’ but it also means completion and payment. Thus, there is no peace – without the reciprocity of payment for completion – a good deal for both.

      And third, relative to being the smartest guy in the room you are in the wrong room, ‘did you surround yourself with yes men.’ (self idolization)

      Finally, anyone who answers in the affirmative or negative is either fibbing or deluded. For myself, a former Phillies fan and now reluctantly a Colorado Rockies fan, I shall wear a New York Yankees cap at the entrance – with an NY on it. Why NY? So when the question is asked, ‘did you surround yourself with yes men (thinking your were the smartest one in the room)? My answer will be NY – for Not Yet (but working on it)…

      My backup plan?

      My standard poodle Moses – who climbed across to the World to Come – going on two years – would sit in my chair and a half for us to study together. And when I would approach to sit down I would say, ‘let me in Moses, let me in.’ And he would lift his head and scootch over.’

      So if Not Yet doesn’t work, I’m hoping Moses and my others (Max, Buddy, Ricki, Nicki, Elle, & Moolah) will dig and let me in…

      Semper Fido – Brian

  2. Brian,

    What an amazing journey you are on, and what a relevant post. I think if most people would take this post to heart and do it they would be lead down a path similar to yours. I see so many people struggle while working for someone else, because they only want to break away, instead of maximizing their opportunity. Your story is massively inspiring.

    Being an intrapreneur serves the company they are working for, and themselves as it gets them thinking differently and preparing them to be an entrepreneur. I love that amazing mindset shift, and the success that you show can come from it.

    I can’t wait to learn more from you on this learning journey. To quote the Grateful Dead, “what a long strange trip its been.” thank you for sharing yours.


  3. Brian,

    I’m looking forward to your future work as an unrestricted free-agent. You know how much I appreciate your insights and experience in this biz.

    In 2008, I walked away from a 9-figure business I co-founded, starting with literally nothing, in a spare bedroom office more than a decade earlier. The process was equal parts terror and liberation… but so very worth it on so many levels.

    Happy to help whenever, however it might make sense.

    Wishing you great success!


    Brian McLeod

  4. Brian,

    First and foremost, thank you for sharing your amazing journey and insights! They are truly very inspirational!

    Second… Marty was very lucky to have you in his life, both as a friend and a partner. I think he would be proud of your decision to become an entrepreneur and follow your heart.

    I personally, like many others, are hungry to learn from such a brilliant and heartfelt entrepreneur like yourself, and can’t wait for the next phase of your Journey to begin Jan 31st, 2015!

    Good luck!

  5. Hey Brian,

    Last week I was jumping of cliffs in Jamaica with friends of mine and I remember standing on the edge looking down at a beautiful “Blue Hole” in the earth. Clearly, it looked much higher than what I thought and more dangerous from my previous vantage point. But you give yourself the courage to stand on the edge, face your trepidation and jump…. All the while knowing that it might not turn out exactly like you plan, but the reward is worth the risk and that experience is something that is uniquely yours that can never be fully expressed, but by those who stand on the precipice and decide to trust in the universe, the creator and themselves.

    On Jan 30th I am so proud to walk with you to the edge of the cliff of your own life-changing “blue hole” experience. As you prepare to let go and trust, I want you to imagine all of us, including Marty, swimming below, looking up at you with arms wide inviting you to the next great adventure, 34 years in the making!

    Love you bro!


  6. Wow, huge news and what a great post. I hope you do create a Mastermind group Brian… and host many more live events. Heck, I am at the edge of my seat with anticipation at what you will do next! Let me know if I can assist in any way and best to you in what is sure to be just as a beneficial and rewarding next chapter

  7. Great read, Brian. My career (so far) spans much of yours. Back in the very early ’80s, my brother and I owned a local chain of electronics stores, and I subscribed to (and devoured) most of what Boardroom offered. I learned as much about bonusing and back-ending (oops that sounds nasty) from your stuff than anywhere else. Loved the books like, “How to Do Everything Right, etc.”

    All the best.

  8. I am so proud of you:). You have always been one
    Of my favorite people because you are truly authentic. The fact that you are setting a new course for yourself is truly wonderful. I can’t wait to hear more about Brian 2.0. Congratulations!

  9. What a terrific journey you’ve been on all these years! The partnership you and Marty formed is no doubt unique in the annals of business history generally and in direct marketing specifically. Your unique duo earned the respect and the unwavering loyalty of the very best from the pool of genius talents in the rather cloistered world of Direct Marketing. You and Marty knew how to spot these talents and how to nurture them so they proudly listed Boardroom as a treasured client and more: as valued friends and partners in the never-ending challenge of DM excellence.

    Whatever your plans for the future might be I wish you good health, happiness, and continuing pride in your achievements as a key guy in Boardroom’s amazing success.
    Shel Sachs

  10. Brian, it has been a great 11 years partnering with you on so many projects. We have had such great fun and shared a lot of very cool experiences that I will always remember. You are a great friend and mentor and I have become a better person because of it.
    Stay in touch.

  11. We are both lucky to have found ourselves in such a great industry where we were able accomplish great things and know and work with people like Marty Edelston.

    In particular, Marty’s third pillar of becoming extraordinary “If you’re the smartest person in the room you are in the wrong room” meant a lot to me.

    As we all know, things change. I wish you the best for, as you put it, your next 34 years!

  12. It was great to meet you at the GKIC InfoSummit in St. Louis this past November. You’re both a thinker and a doer and I look forward to the next chapter in your life.

  13. You’ve always inspired me Brian. Keep sharing & teaching the world!!!

    Khairi Your Malaysianman.

  14. Brian – you are 34 years young. Keep on truckin’ and enjoy the next ride. I truly enjoyed working with you and the Boardroom Family from 1994 – 2010.

  15. “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” – T.E. Lawrence

    Sounds to me as if this is you, Brian!

    So happy you sent the email and led me to this post, both about your experience as an intrapreneur and announcement to launch into entrepreneur mode with more focus on teaching, mentoring, consulting, and so on.

    Although my direct experience with you was fairly brief so far, I remember being very impressed as you were one of the most helpful speakers/teachers at the event I first met you at.

    I believe I can learn an incredible amount from you, and look forward to what you share in the Titan’s package and beyond.

    (P.S. I’m out of the country for a couple months at the moment, but when I return I hope to finally have the lunch with you that we talked about a couple years ago now.)

  16. Congratulations Brian! You are a huge inspiration to me and many others. I am excited about your mastermind and the prospect of more events. Titans was the best event I have ever been to and I would be happy to make the huge trip from Australia to any event you hold. Thanks for sharing your journey and yourself. You make the world a better place!

  17. Brian, what an inspiration you are to me, my friend! While so many, as Oliver Wendall Holmes, Sr. once said, “go to their graves with their music still in them”, you are reinventing yourself and have many more “symphonies” to share with the world. The first time I met you at Joe’s $25K group I knew there was something special about you. So much knowledge, yet so humble in the midst of all your accomplishments in life.

    I’m excited for you, Brian, as your new canvas unveils before you… where no man has written before.

    Your friend and fan for life,
    David Long

  18. Brian, as I read your post this morning it really hit home. Perhaps it was meant to be a sign from the above. Apparently, you’ve thrown down the gauntlet. Now it’s on me to pick up the glove and accept the challenge.

    This marks my 34th (a “magic” number?) year working a family business. A good run for sure and, as you might say “intrapreneurial”, but I’m determined to make this the year I step out on my own.

    I love how you paraphrased your “four pillars to becoming extraordinary”, which bears repeating here.

    “Never stop believing in your ideas; never stop asking questions; learn from anyone and everyone around you; and stay passionate about what drives you the most.”

    So simple really.

    Thank you for sharing these precious pearls of wisdom, gleaned from your 34 years in the midst of “Titans”. I look forward to your future “droppings” so I can scoop them up and put them into action.

    Congrats and best wishes for continued success for the next 34.

    Make every day extraordinary,

  19. Wow…I am so used to getting e-mails to my posts and I don’t even check the comments. These are amazing…thank you so much to all of you who commented.

    Now I am excited about what I will do next! 🙂

    I believe a “Titans Mastermind” focusing on multi-channel marketing will be the cornerstone of Brian 2.0…but I need to decompress after 34 glorious years…and now great comments on my blog.

    Can it get any better than that? 🙂

  20. So excited for you Brian. I always loved and love interviewing intrapreneurs as well as entrepreneurs. What a great blog post describing the difference and adding so much value. Here’s to you and your next endeavor.

  21. Congratulations Brian! I’m so excited for you–and for Brian 2.0. Your story is not only very entertaining, but really inspiring! Thank you for sharing it and best of luck in this awesome new phase, so excited to watch you here!

    All the best!

  22. Godspeed Brother Brian!

    Like I said in my skype to you…

    I wish you all good things brother and if I can be of any service to you at all, please just ask. I know we don’t know each other well but my ever expanding array of gifts and talents are at your disposal.

    Andy Thompson

  23. Congratulations, Brian! I am thrilled for your next adventure. I know you will do amazing things. And I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you from 1991-2001. I remember being fresh out of college and interviewing with you…being so nervous. But you put me at ease and taught me so much as a Marketing Associate. I never said it, but will say it now…Thank you for putting your trust in me and helping me get my foot in the door. You, Marty and the entire Boardroom family helped me grow in so many way. I wish you much luck!

    Susie Wong

  24. Thanks for always being one of the most giving people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in the direct response world Brian. As others have said, you are an inspiration.

  25. Thank you for sharing Brian.

    Your story is very inspiring and you are a great man. My only advice would be to hold your head high and walk into your ideal self, the man you see yourself capable of being.

    I say this because I noticed at Titans, you are so humble – almost TOO humble – sometimes…

    That’s probably the only feedback I have… To be assertive and walk in confidence. You are an incredible person, marketer, businessman.

    It is an honor and pleasure knowing you and being able to call you my friend.

  26. First, congrats and thanks for this great blog post.

    Second, I’m finding myself reflecting on your intrapreneur vs. entrepreneur concept.

    I get what you mean by it. I understand the words. However, I’d consider you more of an entrepreneur than many who would call themselves that.

    As a 10yr entrepreneur myself I’ve learned that it means being the type of person who is willing to jump off a cliff with no parachute and build an airplane on his way down.

    It means always learning, always growing, always selling, always solving problems, always adding value to the world.

    You are all of that.

    I don’t see you becoming an entrepreneur, I see you – the entrepreneur. The truest kind.

    My advice? Solve a really big fucking problem. Masterminds and books are nice, but we have a lot of that already. We need brains of your caliber focused on industry changing solutions to problems.

    Either way I’ll still be a huge fan in awe of every step you take.

    Thanks for all you have already done.

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