Mission 4 Media CEO James Furman spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about his entrepreneurial journey, pivoting through the pandemic, and lessons learned along the way.
NAN PRICE: When did you develop your entrepreneurial spirit?
JAMES FURMAN: My parents had a real estate property management company when I was growing up and I worked for my dad’s painting company. So, I’ve grown up around that entrepreneurial spirit and it’s always been in me.
NAN: Give us some background about starting your first business.
JAMES: When I was going to school for business management, I was falsely accused of a crime. I had to withdraw from college and serve some time. The circumstances were unfortunate, but it created an opportunity. I started reading everything I could get my hands on when it came to business management, building a team, and, more importantly, how to stay motivated.
I wrote my first business plan while I was in prison. I turned that into my first million-dollar agency within the first year I was out of prison. Since then, I’ve been helping other people do the same thing, using my story as a way for them to overcome some adversity.
Honestly, it was something I really didn’t talk about for a long time until my sister encouraged me to share my story. She convinced me it could maybe help other people, and I think she’s right. It does help people when they hear that others have gone through similar circumstances.
NAN: Then you launched Mission 4 Media in 2013.
JAMES: Right. Mission 4 Media is my second advertising agency. The first company was with a partner when I was living in Arizona. I moved back to Connecticut to be closer to family and kind of started all over.
NAN: Tell us a little about how Mission 4 Media has evolved over the past eight years.
JAMES: I started off just doing social media content management, which included scheduling posts and creating and managing a client’s content strategy. Our clients would stay around for a while, but the biggest questions for them were: How do I get a return on my investment (ROI)? How can you prove it?
At the time, I didn’t know how to do that. I wanted to figure out how, so I educated myself and then that evolved to doing lead generation, where we could actually prove a ROI through our marketing. That was really successful for brick-and-mortar businesses—clients with a tangible product or service they can sell.
NAN: Any major pivots, especially pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic?
JAMES: When COVID-19 hit, about 70% of my clients were restaurants, hotels, or gyms. When the pandemic happened, it felt like every phone call I got was clients canceling. I had already helped about 15 or 20 agency owners scale their business to six and seven figures. I thought: I should be doing this full time. So, the pandemic kind of forced me into developing that program fully and, in March 2021, we had our biggest month after the roller coaster of entrepreneurship. That’s the thing about being an entrepreneur—you never know what’s around the corner. Something could be going really well, but then anything can happen.
So, Mission 4 Media pivoted to a program named Journey To 7 Figures by helping agencies looking to do more marketing for their clients. We’re helping those agencies put a sales team in place, structure their messaging so they separate themselves from their competition, and create their whole sales process at the same time.
We have a little more than 20 people who are broken down into different departments, including sales, fulfillment, and systems. It hasn’t been that difficult to manage all of them during the pandemic. It’s more like managing the head of each department. And then, we’re constantly analyzing and allocating additional resources wherever we see that they’re needed.
We’re responsible for helping five businesses reach over seven figures and many others that are well on their way!
NAN: How did you learn how to manage a business?
JAMES: Over the years, I’ve done a lot of self-education. For example, if I needed to figure out how to hire employees, I’d find someone who was really good at hiring people and pick their brain or I’d buy an online course or watch videos on YouTube to learn more. And then if I can’t find the time, I’ll bring someone on who can manage that responsibility for me.
NAN: Can you share some of the biggest business ownership lessons you’ve learned along the way?
JAMES: The biggest lesson I learned in business in general, is that everyone shows their excitement in different ways. You can’t expect someone to be as passionate about your business in the same way as you. If you expect that, you’re letting yourself down most of the time.
I used to look to work with people who were as pumped up or motivated as me about business, but it was always the wrong match. You need people to be the strengths to your weaknesses. So, if you’re a passionate and motivated person, you may need to find somebody a little bit more chilled out who can handle certain things.
I’ve also learned not to give people too much responsibility where they could potentially mess your up business.
NAN: Did you learn that the hard way?
JAMES: I learned it the hard way for sure. I’ve hired people on, given them responsibility for big projects, and trusted them to do certain things. When your business grows you have to have systems in place to track everything from accountability to conversions. The flip side of that is trusting people to deliver and follow through. The key is finding that balance.
NAN: Any advice or tips for others?
JAMES: If I had to give one piece of advice to any business owner out there it would be to build a culture and an environment that people love and they will ultimately work harder and give your business the respect that it deserves.