ADVANTAGE FAMILY HOLIDAY LETTER 2020
Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings to all Members of the Advantage Family, which includes our Advantage|Business Journals Books|ForbesBooks publishing and Authority Marketing business, our Magnetic Marketing education and media business, and our mLive marketing automation software business. What a nutty year it has been! For some, this is the first holiday letter of mine that you will read. For others, it is the 11th as I began this tradition in 2010. Regardless of tenure, I’m certain that I speak for most with “Hello 2021, good riddance 2020!” I hope this letter finds you healthy, safe, and positive. I am optimistic that 2021 will bring smoother sailing for everyone. I’ll admit writing this letter is a cathartic process for me near the end of each year. It forces me to take stock and reflect upon my many blessings. While we may not see each other frequently, you are a very important part of our Advantage Family. Below is the good, the bad, and ugly from 2020.
Adversity reveals character. While I couldn’t have imagined the turbulence 2020 would bring, I am extremely proud of our team’s response. I’ll admit that throughout the year I’ve strangely been at peace with whatever Covid and its induced recession would bring. Of course we’ve fought like heck to minimize negative impacts, and, I can honestly say I never worried or lost sleep. I jokingly say that my wife, Erin, worries for the two of us. I guess you can’t be much of a worrier if you are going to start and build a business from scratch. Few sane people would do this! That said, 2020 has been a real test in leadership. I believe if you can survive this year there isn’t anything you can’t make it through.
2020 marked the second year of our 5-year strategic plan, Road to 100K. Our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is to help 100,000 Members grow their businesses. In March our strategy had to temporarily change, as it became all about playing defense rather than offense. We closed our physical office and asked all Team Members to work@home. We reopened our offices in June and have given every Team Member the option to work from home until a vaccine is available. While 2020 revenues are down YOY, we’ve aggressively curtailed or paused expenses in our business at a greater rate without a single furlough, salary cut, or nonpayment to a vendor. Our team has exhibited our “Working Together” principles and practices to find ways to temporarily bring down our cost structure to meet the temporary slip in demand while continuing to deliver products and services our Members want and value. When Covid hit, I asked myself a question, “How am I going to position Advantage to exit Covid stronger than when we entered?” I also asked myself “How will I use this unexpected downtime to make myself better?” Our power words for 2020 have been adaptability and resilience.
At Advantage|Business Journals Books|ForbesBooks, we launched our newest imprint with American City Business Journals, the largest local business media print publisher in the US. Working together, we will create a local book publishing imprint with each of their 44 publications. To start, we are focusing on 4 markets: Dallas, Orlando, Tampa, and Washington, D.C. This imprint is focused on helping local business owners in these 44 markets build authority. For example, a local business owner in Orlando whose clients are largely Orlando-based would be published under the Orlando Business Journal Books imprint. Additionally, each author will receive extensive advertising and promotion through the local journal in their city. In response to Covid, we launched the Hook Book™. A 10,000-word book that is singularly focused on one topic, these smaller books are ghostwritten and published in 90-days and used exclusively for lead generation and business development. At an investment of $14,995 they meet the business owner’s needs for authority and lead generation quickly and economically. More at www.AdvantageFamily.com/hookbook We published 133 new titles in 2020 and our News & Experts publicity and media team secured 1,312 radio interviews and 2,978 print or online placements.
No Advantage Family business has been impacted more by Covid than Magnetic Marketing. The year began on a high note with the addition of Darin Spindler as an equity partner and our Chief Marketing Officer. Darin has been a student of Dan Kennedy for 10+ years and successfully implemented Dan’s direct response marketing teachings into his Kids Bowl Free business and his Heartland Pizza Company. Darin is a product of the product, and like me has walked plenty of thankless miles in the entrepreneur’s shoes. In March we launched “Dan Kennedy on Demand” through BusinessAdvantage TV. In truth, this new product had been under development for some time. With Covid, its launch couldn’t be more timely. Dubbed “Netflix for Entrepreneurs,” this video-on-demand platform features hundreds of hours of the best business building and money making education from Dan Kennedy and others. For less than a cup of cheap coffee per day, you can access hundreds of thousands of dollars of business and marketing education. BusinessAdvantage TV now has subscribers in 44 countries! Test drive a free, 1-week trial at MagneticMarketing.com/letter.
We’ve tweaked our product offering with Darin taking over Editor-in-Chief responsibilities of our famous No B.S. Magnetic Marketing Letter. Our biggest decision was to quickly move all in-person events and learning to virtual. We moved our SuperConference to virtual-only with 5 weeks to spare. Realizing the uphill climb to do anything in-person, we hosted our Dan Kennedy Weekend of Wealth virtually in June through our BusinessAdvantage TV platform. We had record attendance. We canceled our fall Growth Summit as people’s appetite for virtual events has been maxed to the limit. While we all anxiously await a Covid vaccine (and it should be deployed by the time you read this), we’ve decided to scrap all large-scale events for 2021. A bright spot of 2020 has been our founder Dan Kennedy’s continued improvement in health after his near death experience in early fall of 2019. Dan is contributing again and back to his old self in so many ways.
In April, the Advantage Family launched a new business, one that had been in the works since 2019. mLive Software is marketing automation and patient education/engagement for general dentists. When we purchased Magnetic Marketing in 2018, I quickly realized that you could teach an entrepreneur how to market, but if they didn’t have tools that made it easy (or better yet, did it for them), nothing would happen. The beauty of mLive is the combination of pre-made patient/prospect education and engagement campaigns combined with automation software that runs everything without the dentist having to lift a finger. If you think launching a business is hard, try doing it during a global pandemic in which the government has mandated that dentists close their offices! Gulp. Through it all, we’ve got 50+ practices using our software with big plans for an official launch and expansion in 2021. To see what we are up to, visit mLiveSoftware.com/letter to watch a 6-minute demo.
For me personally, 2020 has been a year of digging deep inside and bringing my best self to the office and my new marriage every single day. Whew, what a first year of marriage! Erin and I agree that if we can make it through Covid, we can make it through anything. I mentioned that Erin does the worrying for the two of us. In early April she was at witt’s end, the constant negative news and the uncertainty getting to her. I broke down and did something I swear I’d never do, I green-lighted a family pet. The Wittys are +1 in 2020 with the addition of a “Corona Kitty.” The only say I got was our cat’s coat color. I picked “Clemson Orange.” Pecan Pie will look identical to Garfield when he is fully grown. Orange. Smushed face. Always looks like he is pissed. You know, “grumpy cat.” Some industries are booming during Covid, the “pet business” being one of them. We’ve done our part and thoroughly stimulated the economy. Oh yeah, I’ve come to love Pecan Pie, too.
With Covid tearing my travel schedule to shreds, I decided to invest that newfound time in learning. I read books for 214 hours this year (an all-time high since I began keeping track in 2010) resulting in 36 books completed (5 more than last year), which hit my 2020 target. My favorite was Leadership and Self Deception and The Outward Mindset, two books that can change your life and have changed mine. If every leader could understand and embrace what is contained in these two books, the world would operate in harmony. I read A LOT of biographies/autobiographies this year. These are fun because they are stories. I’ll admit I prefer these via Audible as I can listen while I’m at the gym, traveling, or walking to work. I read about Colin Powell, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Joe Ricketts (TD Ameritrade), Tom Golisano (Paychex), Charles Lindbergh, Andrew Carnegie, Charlie Munger (Berkshire Hathaway), and Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com). My favorite biography, hands down, was The Wright Brothers by David McCulloch. Perhaps it meant more to me since I am a pilot. The book reinforces the idea that the best businesses have leaders with opposing strengths. Wilbur Wright, the process-oriented businessman, was ying to Orville Wright, the visionary idea guy’s yang. The Wright’s story is akin to Walt and Roy Disney. If not for Roy, we’d never have known Walt because he would have run out of money!
On the health front, I logged 162 strength and 174 cardio workouts, Covid be damned. I was bummed my gym was closed for 10 weeks so I did what every other American did, I WAY overpaid for home exercise equipment. I paid 3X for my Bowflex adjustable dumbbells and likely made someone’s Christmas. Fortunately, our back patio workouts were in March, April, and May when the Charleston weather was beautiful. On the pilot front, I logged a much more respectable 78 hours in the cockpit this year, which was a vast improvement over 46 in 2019. I also earned my seaplane rating during an August trip to America’s last frontier, Alaska!
Covid bit into business travel like nothing before. Although 2019 was lighter (37 nights), my usual business travel (averaged over the past 5 years) had me out of my own bed 55 nights per year. 2020 clocked in at 26 nights of business travel, with 15 of those nights coming before March 6. In 2019, I logged 43 nights for bucket list pursuits or vacation, 2020 came in at 66 nights. After more facts and data became available about Covid, Erin and I decided we weren’t at high risk and we weren’t going to stop living our lives. With work@home, and “work from anywhere” now en vogue, we decided to go! Within the USA, we visited 32 cities in 15 states. Erin and I made one international trip to Costa Rica for our 1-year wedding anniversary. A personal note about travel: I have never felt safer, I’ve never seen airplanes and hotels so clean, AND, the hotels and destinations we’ve stayed at have been at between 10-40% occupancy, meaning great deals, great service, and feeling like you own the place. Erin and I have made it a priority to travel more over the next 24 months as FEAR will keep many folks on the sidelines. I can tell you first hand the hard-working people in hospitality are so grateful for the patronage.
Covid put a real dent in bucket list pursuits, but I did get one...I flew around Denali (20,310) at 7,000 feet in a PA-28 Alaskan bush plane. It was a “Chamber of Commerce day” with bluebird skies. The size and scale of it all really makes you drop your jaw and drool. I had a similar experience when hiking the Rim2Rim at the Grand Canyon in 2019. I attended the College Football National Championship in New Orleans, watching my Clemson Tigers go down to LSU. In addition to the loss, I’m almost certain I got Covid too! I had flu-like symptoms with a “negative” flu test. I felt like crap for about 2 days and then bounced back. ForbesBooks Authors Scott and Jane Wolfe opened their home in New Orleans and welcomed us with open arms. They even named a daiquiri at their restaurant, Melba’s, after my Clemson Tigers. The daiquiris did make Clemson’s loss feel a little better!
As we prepare for 2021, I’ll end with these words...no matter how bad things are, they could always be worse. That was the line I remember most from a Friday morning motivational talk I attended years ago with ESPN College GameDay personality Lee Corso. This year I’ve reminded myself of that little pearl. Since early March I’ve been repeating that phrase A LOT. You should too. Successful entrepreneurs confront the brutal facts and deal with reality as it is. They also are grateful, counting their blessings and trying to find the best in even the most trying of circumstances. Never forget that when you are up to your eyeballs in manure, it means you are close to finding that pony! ForbesBooks Author Verne Harnish reminded me early on that Global GDP in 2020 might drop as much as 25% (as of my writing on Dec 1 it is projected to fall only by 4.1% for 2020)... AND...with a 25% drop, it would still double Global GDP of just 20 years ago (2000).
I am optimistic about 2021. We are passionate about Growing Entrepreneurs and Business to Benefit All Mankind. During these trying times, it has reminded us that entrepreneurs and business owners are the KEY to a successful recovery. We are proud to be with you on this journey. Thank you for your friendship, confidence, and support. I am grateful for the positive impact you have had on me and our company.
May your seas be stilled this holiday season and may you find a bright sunrise in the new year.
Adam, Erin, and Pecan Pie Witty and the entire Advantage Family Team
Advantage Author Kevin Eastman keynotes our 2020 Kickoff. This would be one of our last in-person events in 2020!
Darin Spindler, Dan Kennedy, and ForbesBooks Author Matt Zagua
Advantage Author Stuart Frost provides a behind-the-scenes tour of his Frost Orthodontics.
ForbesBooks Author Scott and Jane Wolfe welcome us to the reading room of their restaurant Melba's in New Orleans
I fly a PA-28 Alaskan bush plane around Denali (20,310) at 7,000 feet MSL. Fortunately, it was a bluebird day!
The newest member of the Witty family, Pecan Pie