Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with two of my mentors and close friends, Sergio Garcia and Rick Brutti. Sergio is a multimedia marketing expert, and has published several books in Latin America and a successful business magazine in the United States. Rick is a serial entrepreneur and the first ever CFO of the athletic shoe company, New Balance. Together, they are the co-founders of the UR Business Network, a full-service media production company that features nearly 40 (and growing) internet radio shows, a digital and print publishing arm, and a community of experts on a myriad of topics including how to start a business, how to sell one, and everything in between. I should say in the interest of full-disclosure that my radio show, “Funny Business” is on the URBN, so this interview is a bit self-serving. But since I began producing it, I’ve been fascinated by the two figureheads, and have wanted to share their story. We discussed the origin of their partnership, the UR Business Network, and their advice for young people in today’s world.
What originally brought the two of you together?
Rick: A few years back, my radio show “Mind Your Own Business” was on another station, and Sergio had a magazine. We connected on LinkedIn
thinking that we should collaborate, this is going back 4, almost 5 years ago. We met and hit it off and decided to get something together. The first thing we did was a trade show. I thought [Sergio] was crazy, but I admired his intestinal fortitude for pulling it off.
Sergio: We put a show together in about 6 weeks, and it was down in Rhode Island, we had over 100 booths, I don’t know how we survived it but we got through it.
Rick: From there we started looking at what we could do and at the time social media was really taking off, so we set up a little company helping people with their social media strategy. I would bring in clients, we had a team to execute the work, and Sergio was our “technical guru.”
How did that turn into the UR Business Network?
Rick: At the same time, we were looking to move my radio show to another network, and we interviewed a few stations. Sergio was helping me with it, and we came across the idea of setting up our own online network, because online radio was really taking off. The choice was, to have a station that once you leave the parking lot you can’t hear the signal, or be online and it’s available around the world. From there it took on a life of its own.
Sergio: What we quickly learned was that the content we were generating was very easy to share. It’s about having a two-way conversation with
the audience, and the online medium allowed us to do that easily. I always joke, we’re sitting here in our studio, and people come to us. Any day you come to our office there are 10-20 new people around either as guests or hosts or to do business with us. It’s become a very interesting place to be.
What makes you two successful and how have you built the company as a result?
Rick: One of the reasons we are where we are today is that Sergio and I have a very good relationship. We’re very different so we don’t cross over much into each other’s space. The second step is that as we’ve grown we surrounded ourselves with such incredible people, our team is so talented it really makes it very easy for us to do what we do.
Sergio: We also have a great combination of young people who are doing some great and innovative things along with more seasoned business experts who are starting a new career sharing what they have learned.
Rick: We have changed our business plan, Sergio calls it “pivoting,” so many times. Because a lot of what you think is good, ends up not working out, and you have to be very agile and willing to adapt. If you do the same thing over and over and it doesn’t work, that’s the definition of insanity. I’m not saying we’re not insane, but not in that way!
Sergio: We all like to talk, that’s for sure, but we are very good at talking not about ourselves but about the other people who we are surrounded by. I tell Rick all the time, I think he’s one of the best interviewers I’ve ever heard, because he has the ability to build up everyone that he is speaking to. It’s amazing who we get to sit and consult with by building this community. I laugh when everyone says, “do you have a business plan.” Because we have a business plan but it keeps changing and improving. We started as a social media company, and realized the main problem was that a lot of content exists, but not good, actionable content.
Rick: Besides having a great internal team of people, we have also hand-selected all of our hosts. Not everyone can have a show with us, we make sure they fit in. We develop shows that fill a need, so it isn’t just talking about the stock market 24/7. When we started the network it was just my show, and now only a year later we have almost 40 shows, which we’re very proud about. When you look back you can’t even figure out how we got here, it’s been a great ride. The people we thought we were going to make a million dollars with proved useless and the people we didn’t put as much stock in are doing exceptional, so it shows how many mistakes we made.
Sergio: My mother always used to say, “Show me who you’re with, and I’ll show you who you are.”
How do you define your own personal brands?
Sergio: Since I love anonymity that becomes a difficult question. Fortunately we have “Sergio Garcia” the golfer who takes up the first 3 million spots on Google. What I bring to the table is that I understand the strengths of others and make connections and networks that benefit everyone. People say very intelligent things or ideas all the time that get forgotten, and I try and make note of all of those and actually apply them. With the internet now, the biggest problem that we are seeing is that you are no longer competing against your vertical, you are competing against noise. People need credible content sources to drown out the noise.
Rick: Number one, I consider myself a good radio host and interviewer, which I love to do. I love meeting interesting people and being on the other side so I can ask the questions, this isn’t as normal for me. The other thing I do well and it’s something I’ve learned is to constantly be developing new content. Recording shows and other content that will grow the business. That’s what I would say is my personal brand. I consider my personal brand as one that is morphed into the UR Business Network, I want it to always be growing the business.
What tips would you give to someone starting their career?
Rick: The first thing is to just jump in, to just do it. You could have the best idea in the world, but if you sit on the sidelines and don’t do anything about it, nothing will happen. And once you do jump in, align yourself with people that have different strengths and skills and can help you. Don’t think you have to do it all yourself.
Sergio: The most important thing I’ve learned is to stick to a vision. If you have a vision and nobody sees it or understands it, then you are with the wrong people. Surround yourself with people who can integrate with the vision, and it will grow. Secondly, we have to get out of the way of the younger generation, who are connected to technology and new ways of doing things. You feel it when you come into our office, the culture is set up so we all can learn from each other. It’s not that anyone is the boss, we can joke around, we can collaborate, and good ideas can come from anyone.
Rick: As I tell everyone, I get an MBA everyday just coming here.
Thank you to Rick and Sergio for taking some time to discuss their story with me.