This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Jeffrey Madoff. Jeff is the founder of Madoff Productions, based in New York City. His company collaborates with ad agencies, public relations firms and directly with clients to produce commercials, branded content and live streaming events.
He began his career as a fashion designer and was chosen as one of the top 10 designers in the U.S. then switched careers to film and video production. You have seen his work and probably didn’t even know it. Jeff and his team are the geniuses behind commercials, online content and brand stories for companies ranging from Victoria's Secret, Calvin Klien, and Ralph Lauren to Harvard University and private equity firms that position companies for sale or acquisition.
Jeff is also the author of the best-seller, Creative Careers Making a Living With Your Ideas.
And that is why I asked him to come on the show, not only the share his incredible wisdom gained during this storied career, but to discuss how to make a great living with your ideas.
Jeff was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. He credits his resilience to growing up there. His parents were entrepreneurs that had retail stores in Akron. Jeff got the entrepreneurial spirit from his parents and so did his sister. It was what he knew, so he’s never had a job. He went to the University of Wisconsin for college. Jeff shares a funny story of how he chose Wisconsin. He also made it on to the wrestling team. He got a double major in philosophy and psychology and Jeff said, “It set him up for no job whatsoever!”
Getting the degrees did help him with critical thinking and an intellectual curiosity that are very important to success.
He was working in a small boutique in Madison after graduating. A good friend of his called him up and had saved some money and wanted to put it to work. Jeff told him that he understood retail and could draw/design clothing, so he could start a clothing company. His friend sent him $2500 which was more money than Jeff had ever seen at any one time and he was off and running. He had no idea how to build the business but knew how to sell retail. He didn’t know how clothing was manufactured, etc. He had a lot to learn in a little time.
He was “ignorant, not stupid.” “Ignorant, you can learn, but stupid is forever.”
What is the process you teach for turning an idea into a living?
- The book “Creative Careers: Making a Living with Your Ideas” is the same name as the course he teaches in NYC.
- Jeff learned when he started into business was that there are protocols to business and everything you learn informs everything else you do.
- For example, clothing started with a sketch. From there, it determines how much fabric is needed, the labor, the shipping, sale prices, profit margin, etc. The idea starts the ball rolling.
- Everything is unified with best practices, but many times they are siloed. They should not be…there is much more in common, than different from business to business. Much of the processes are the same to make an idea happen across different businesses.
- There are no magical secrets to success – there is a lot of work. More than anything, it takes perseverance.
- We cannot lose the patience for process because that is where real success comes from.
After all of the work you did for the book and all of the people you interviewed for it, were there any constants that stood out across them that helped their success?
- They embody best practices.
- They show up and are present.
- The persevere and put in the work.
- They surround themselves with the good and right people to make the business go.
- They develop a sense of empathy in business to understand the other side in negotiation and building relationships.
- More than anything, they push through the difficult times and develop strategies to get over, around, and overcome the challenges that entrepreneurship inevitably brings.
At the 18 min mark, we talk about the DCP formula and how Jeff has seen in his work.
“The only way you get better at anything is to do it over and over again.”
At the 20 min mark, Jeff shares some interesting thoughts on Apple vs. Sony.
- Apple has never originated a product.
- They copied and innovated.
- They sell their products not on what they do, but the experience it gives.
- They are truly unique.
- Jeff worked with Sony when they originated the Walkman and Sony was visionary in creating and whole new way of life when it came to music.
- Apple basically took the idea of the Walkman to create the Ipod.
- Same thing with the smartphone. Apple stood on the shoulders of the Palm Pilot and Blackberry creating a broad consumer market for the phone and increased their eco-system.
- What Apple did well was design something with great purpose and had the discipline to stick to their focus and product set and not get into businesses that are not really their business.
- Companies lose the ability to innovate because they spread themselves thin.
Talk about the power of story when it comes to marketing and branding and how important it is.
- Basically, we communicate through story.
- It is how we retain information because you remember how a story made you feel.
- Stories are the way we bond with each other and it is how products are sold.
- Nike is a great example. “Just do it” is so simple, but means so much.
- Nike is about athletic excellence, but more the idea of it for clients.
- Ralph Lauren stands for status and good taste.
At the 27 min mark, Jeff shares a story of a conversation with Ralph Lauren where he told him he was like Walt Disney.
- A brand is a story that is well told.
- One of the main criteria of a good story is there needs to be an outcome and they live happily ever after meaning the customer will be better off for it.
Talk about the balance of emotion vs. logic and how it relates to business…
- The push and pull between emotion and logic is interesting.
- Most people think they make their decisions based on logic, but they don’t.
- People are not nearly as logical as they think.
- There are 2 ways that decisions are made: Heuristics and Biases
- If you appeal to those things, you can lead people to make decisions.
At the 31 min mark, Jeff shares a story of something a guest shared in his class when it comes to how we make decisions with an example of buying a bottle of wine.
- Most people pick in the middle of the range of wines for price because they don’t want to buy the most expensive, but they don’t want to buy the cheapest one.
- So, if you up the overall price of the selection of wine in a store, you will sell wine at higher prices.
How do we make better decisions as consumers?
- Be informed.
- Educate yourself.
- Do your research and think about larger decisions before you make them.
- Find and use credible sources to help you.
The difference between wander vs. wonder, explain that.
- Wandering makes you wonder.
- When you wander and take in your surroundings, it makes you wonder which leads to curiosity.
- Curiosity leads to asking better questions and leads to learning and better understanding.
- The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask which leads to you having issues later on.
Running your ideas like a business. Tell us about that.
- One of the most important things in business is “proof of concept” meaning someone is willing to pay for your product.
- You cannot be the only one in love with your idea. There has to be people willing to part with their hard-earned money to buy it.
- Ideas need to go through the proof-of-concept process.
What has surprised you most in your entrepreneur journey?
- How there is so much more in common among different disciplines and people. There is a lot more in common than different. We have to be careful not to focus solely on the different.
- The essence of being an entrepreneur is bringing some kind of change by brining an idea to life.
Best Quote: The only way you get better at anything is to do it over and over again.
Jeff's Misfit 3:
- Persistence. Whatever you are pursuing, you will face inevitable difficulties and you must persist through them.
- Not being so enamored with your own idea that you cannot accept criticism and make it better. Don’t become delusional.
- Stay curious. Curiosity is the fuel that makes you want to learn more and grow.
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