Category Archives: Darren Herman

Bored vs. Tired

I met with a friend and seasoned entrepreneur turned academia recently, Aaron Cohen.  For those of you who know him, he’s been around the block and has seen a lot in his days of being a successful executive at digital media companies.    He walked in the room and asked, how I was doing?

I am doing great, I replied.

He said I looked tired, which isn’t the first time someone has told me that.

We then dove into a discussion of being tired vs. bored.

It’s ok to be tired.
It’s not ok to be bored.

Lets discuss this here.

Tired.
Athletes train a lot.  Olympic athletes basically spend their life training.  But even at peek performance, athletes do get tired.  It’s ok to walk off the soccer pitch after a match and be tired.  It’s ok to drop the 400lbs of weights and lie down.  Why?  Because in most cases, you gave it your all.  You put everything you had into the sport.

Business is no different.  More often than not, founders get fat.  I put on weight.  I know plenty more who did as well.  Why?  Tireless persistence to achieve a goal left going to the gym, proper diet, and sleep all secondary and tertiary needs.

If you are giving it (whatever you are pursuing) your all, then tired is in your cards.  That’s good.  Make sure a vacation or time-off is planned to recoup, re-energize and reset.  Without this, you will run yourself down to the point of system failure.  If you get to that point, you’ve gone too far.

Bored.
There is a big difference between being tired and bored.  Boredom comes from not being mentally challenged and leads to complacency.  Boredom is not good because it causes negative attributes and tends to spread to people around you.  It’s like a negative-vibe-virus.

If you are bored, do something about it.  A vacation will not solve boredom.  You need to first analyze why you are bored and then talk to your superior to do something about it.  If there is no room within the organization to move, then get out.  Plain and simple.  You are not being fulfilled and I’m going to guess that your output is not up to standard because you are not mentally there.  You suffer.  The company suffers.

I have met plenty of people who are bored in their jobs.  Being bored is fine as naturally, your learning comes to an end in each role you take.  The smart people then move on to a role that’s fulfilling.  It’s a hard conversation to have with your employers but one that at the end of the day, is mutually beneficial.

I might be tired, but I’m certainly not bored.  I still wake up each day to new and fun challenges.  Some I dislike but they grow me professionally and personally.

Ava and Dad

Trading the Work Grid for the Family Grid

This past week, I took my family to the Outerbanks for a beach vacation.  It was actually the first time my two kids flew on an airplane and it was quite the experience (they did well, FYI).

I made it a point to be “off the work grid.”  While I uploaded some Instagram photos and updated Facebook every now and then, I did less work this vacation than on any of my previous ones.

While I was off the “work” grid, I was on the “family” grid.  It felt amazing – bonding with my kids and wife and some other family and friends who came down with us.

I traded in emails, meetings, vendor pitches, startup pitches, subways, commutes, business lunches for Candyland, donuts, trolley rides, and sandcastles.  The associated smiles were priceless.

I urge any and all of you to shut off every now and again.  I’m juiced and charged and ready for what lies ahead for the remainder of 2012.

2012 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational Right Around the Corner

It’s that time of year again when we’re just weeks away from the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  Or SAGI as I commonly refer to it as.  This event started ~7 or so years ago but only in the past 3 years have I used the fancy name.  It all started with myself and 3 founders of tech companies in 2004.  We played golf and chatted.  It was that simple.  The next year, each of us brought an additional founder.  And each year after, it grew.  The common theme each year was to keep it to either founders of Silicon Alley based startups or venture capitalists funding the innovation.

Fast forward to 2012, we’ve got an absolutely full event of 72+ golfers (can only fit 72 on the course at any given time) and about 30 non-golfers coming for the luncheon and awards ceremony.  We have amazing sponsors who enable the day to happen.  We even have a guest keynote speaker who will be announced much closer to the date…

A lot of planning goes into this event, especially because it’s a labor of love and not a business and I have very limited staff to pull this off.  I personally handpick everything for the event – the invitational list, the swag, the event location, the foursomes, etc.  It’s a lot of work but in the end, it pays off because of all the great conversations and camaraderie that’s had at the event.

Unfortunately, the event does not scale well.  It cannot accompany 1,000 people.  Or even 250 people.  With just one day and 18 holes, you can only accompany so many people on the course.  It’s a fact of life for the event but a good one at the same time – we do not always need to be able to scale in order to have a great event.  In this case, it’s quality over quantity.  This year in aggregate, we have founders representing over $1.2BLN in exits in the past 1,000 days.  Quality is important.  We’ll leave “scale” for the companies we’re building.

I’m super excited for August 6 and look forward to participating with everyone.  Here’s a link to the official video from last year’s event.

If you have any questions about the event, feel free to reach out through my contact form.

A Bit of a New Look Around Here

Things look a bit different around here, no?

Over the years, this blog has gone through different designs.  I like changing things up every 3-4 years or so to keep not only the site fresh, but my mind inspired to keep blogging.  With a new look and feel, I hope to contribute again regularly and keep blogging about the things that interest me:  advertising, marketing, technology, and media.  I’m sure there will be a post or two that’s not listed there, but hopefully they will be welcomed.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the new design when you have a chance.  Leave comments below.

Rethinking What I Know About Formal Education

I grew up in a middle class home in Westchester County, NY where the forced dream was to go to college.  I grew up with the pressures of “not if” but “where” I was going to college and from early grade school, I was prepping for the SAT’s.  That one test was the key to getting through the admission door at many top tier schools, all schools in which I had my sights set on.

I graduated (almost did not – was going to leave early to pursue a startup) with my 4 year degree from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.  I did not have the typical college experience as I was only there for 13 weekends in four years due to running a business while in school and traveling to the office and clients Friday-Mondays.  School provided a campus for learning as learning did not happen in just the classroom.  I think I actually learned more outside of the classroom then in it.

Fast forward to today, I have two children, both under the age of four.  I’m thinking about college for them already but I do not know if they will have the same college education I did.  Why?  The forthcoming education evolution here in the United States and how it might impact them.  The NY Times just wrote an article called The Campus Tsunami that outlines a lot of the current landscape.

Companies like Skillshare, General Assembly, Lore/Coursekit, Udemy, Minerva, Khan Academy, Codecademy, Edmodo, and others are forcing us to re-think what education is, not just what college is.  While much of this post has been about college, I think I need to re-think how my kids will even go through grade school.

I do not know what the future holds, but I have to imagine that the Internet will disrupt everything it touches.  This means education as I and my parents know it is being re-written.  I am excited for what lies ahead.

2012 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

I’m about a month behind planning for this year’s 2012 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational, but rest assured, by Friday, I’ll have the date and venue which will get sent out to all of the players from last year to reserve their spot at some point over the weekend.

If you’d like to add your name to the list of potential players, please click here and sign up.  This does not guarantee you a spot, but does get you on a list that will be notified if there is extra availability.  Requirement to participate in the event is that you must be an active senior participant of the Silicon Alley ecosystem as either a founder/executive/partner/etc of a start-up, venture firm, technology company, or other type of organization.  I hand pick every attendee at the event.

This is one of my favorite events as it brings together a fantastic group of business executives and puts us all in a neutral setting to have a good time and celebrate our industry.  It’s nice to remove yourself from the day to day streets of NYC and set foot on the 6,300+ yard courses of Westchester, Rockland, and Northern New Jersey.  We change the course up each year and I spent all of Saturday touring different golf clubs trying to pick the right atmosphere.

A lot of coordination goes into this day as it’s a labor of love and there is no “business” behind it to get things done.  I might change a few things up from the previous years but it’s still too early to tell.  Either way, the 2012 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational is going to be special and I’m looking forward to seeing you on the course.

Mad Men is Back

For 2 hours last night, I sat uninterrupted while watching AMC’s debut of Season 5 of Mad Men.  They did a great job recapping Season 4 and setting up plenty of plot opportunities for the remainder of this season.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to watch Mad Men without having worked in an advertising agency.  I guess it’s like watching CSI Miami for me, as I’ve never worked in public safety.  There are plenty of subtleties that you pick up while watching having worked in the industry.

A few things stuck out from last night’s show:

1.  Pete’s power move of gaurding his potential clients and using them as leverage for a new office.
2.  The Heinz presentation that shows that not everything Madison Avenue does is right the first time… this is so true and often goes overlooked.
3.   Sounds like SCDP are going after a new airlines which back in the day, were the top accounts to have
4.  I like the scenes on Metro North railroad as I too take the train in each day.  It’s a nice touch.

It’s amazing how the producers of the show are able to replicate the 1950s, even down to Metro North.  It’s impressive.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the season!

Oh, I was interviewed by Paper Magazine for an article titled, “Meet New York’s Mad Men and Mad Women.”  Enjoy.

30 Years. Tips for Being the Young Punk At the Table

AppleCakeLast night, Sherri threw me a surprise 30th birthday party.  It was phenomenal as she brought all my best friends that I grew up with together.   We live all over now but people traveled from out of town and it really was a special evening.

I was thinking how I wanted to write a 30th birthday post over the past few days.  Instead of thanking everyone who inspired the past 30 years, I netted out with providing some thoughts on how to be the young person at the table in a room of older and supposedly wiser people.

I’ve pretty much navigated the age-gap ever since I was 16.  So, theoretically, I have 14 years of experience being the young buck at the table.  I’ve been called Doogie Howser, Wunderkid, The Punk, The Turk, The Suit, The Brain, and various other names over the years.  One of the top questions I get from people I meet with is usually around how I deal with always being the youngest around the table.  It’s a very good question and always forces me to think.  I’ve written some thoughts up below.

Note:  I know it’s not always the case that older people are skeptical of younger.  But, I have seen it quite a bit.  I also realize that being older does not necessarily mean that one is smarter.  I do not believe that age is a predictor of future success, but a good case can be made that an older person is more mature and has developed workplace skills such as leadership, operations management, and other skills that can give them a leg up.

Here are five thoughts:

1.  Listen, then speak.  But don’t speak too much.   By being the young one, there generally already is a bias against you from older people.  The more you speak, the more you have the chance to say something dumb, so lessen the chances.  People are looking for a reason to bring you down.  When you do speak, speak wisely, succinct, and controlled.  Do not talk for the sake of talking.

2.  Act as if.  We all saw the movie Boiler Room and remember Ben Affleck giving his speech about “Acting as If.”  That has stuck with me ever since I saw the movie.  Always be prepared with confidence, though do not go near the border of confidence with cockiness.

3.  Dress the part. More often than not, I find that dressing “+1″ is better than dressing status quo.  If people are walking around the office in baggie jeans and t-shirts, then buy a nice pair of jeans and a button down.  You do not need to dress to impress, but dress better than the rest.  People will take you more seriously.  We have all heard the quote, perception is reality.

4.  Pick your situations. I can count on all my fingers how many work related events I’ve been to where drinking/partying was the main function.  And when I was at them, I partook with a single glass of wine, a shirley temple or seltzer.  Pick your situations wisely because people want to trust leaders, especially young ones with respect and confidence and the last thing you want to be is the one passed out on the couch after having too much scotch.  Again, since you are young and in a senior position, people are looking to bring you down. Don’t give them a reason to do so.  I’m not advocating not to have fun, but if you’re an aspiring young leader, pick your situations carefully.

5.  Open door. One tactic that’s helped me through the years is to be fully open for virtually anyone to meet with.  While it may take weeks to schedule, getting on the schedule to meet is certainly doable.  I make it that way on purpose.  I want to be available because most other senior leaders are not.  I derive knowledge, intelligence, and inspiration by almost every meeting, so I keep them on my calendar.

Thank you to everyone who helped make these last 30 years special.    I am grateful.

We Are Hiring – Are You Looking?

There’s a lot of talk about job creation in the USA.  Well, we’re certainly doing our part here at the agency.  Here at The Media Kitchen, we are riding a new business win streak and are staffing up at all levels.  At kbs+ Ventures, our portfolio companies are pretty much all hiring too.

Today, we’re going to focus on some roles for The Media Kitchen, which is something I don’t normally talk about on this blog so I figure it’ll be some fresh content.

We are looking for Associate Strategists up thru Group Directors to join our team as we’re staffing up based on some recent new business wins.  The Media Kitchen is an integrated media agency that handles all media types, believes in the paid/owned/earned landscape and is a medium sized shop (about 110 chefs across our NYC and Atlanta office).  I think we’re pretty fantastic but that’s totally biased as I’m the Chief Digital Media Officer here.  Here is some of our thinking on Slide Share.  Here’s our tumblog.

We are looking for “chefs” with the following attributes & talent:

  • Curiosity.  We find that the best chefs are the most curious and like to explore all different areas.  You don’t just have to be curious about digital or media, but that certainly helps too.
  • Digital understanding.  We plan all media types here at The Media Kitchen, however, we are looking people who might have a few more chromosomes who favor digital than other channels as much of the business you’d be working on are skewed towards digital planning.
  • Digital is less of a channel and more of an enabler.  You should share the belief that digital as we know it is changing and it’s becoming an enabler on other platforms.
  • Nice.  We only hire nice people.  If you have a large ego or cannot play well with others, this agency probably isn’t for you.
  • Great.  Are you great?  You should think so, and if so, we want to talk with you.

I’m sure there are  more attributes and talent that we’re looking for and our hiring team will be able to tease that out.  If you meet the above filters, then at least contact me and I’ll make sure to get you in touch with the right people here*.

Reach out to me if you are interested in pursuing a career at The Media Kitchen.  We are looking to hire immediately.

* If you match the criteria I’m looking for and that your first impression is a good one!

An Annecdote about Entrepreneurship Education

I was fortunate to be asked back to my alma matter, Skidmore College, to judge a business plan competition that was open to all students at the college.  I drove up last Thursday eve and spent all day Friday with alumni judges and students.  It was phenomenal and blew away my expectations.  The students had obviously prepped hard for this day and it showed.   We saw 10 presentations that ranged from non-profit dance troupes thru iOS apps for customer service.

I loved the passion for entrepreneurship.  But candidly, even though I’ve been back to Skidmore numerous times to speak to college students, it was weird to be back sitting at a business plan competition.  Let me explain.

When I was a student at Skidmore, I tried to push the entrepreneurial/business vision forward but was met with much resistance from the school.  It was known internally that the business department was necessary but not a place where Skidmore placed many resources.   I started the first entrepreneurial get together (appropriately named Skidbiz) on campus in 2000, but could not get it sanctioned as an official club as it was too business focused.  I pitched it multiple times to the Student Government Association and college administrators to no luck.  My adviser, who was the head of the business department couldn’t believe it and found funding for the get-togethers from a local alumnus and it helped pay for the pizza and donuts for our events.  We never were “legit” but this allowed us to operate under our own freedom.  The club grew and had a great following.   True story.

What’s the moral of this story?  Entrepreneurs don’t understand boundaries.  If things are going to happen, they will.  I’m glad Skidmore recognized this and got behind it, and look forward to participating with them in the future of entrepreneurial education.

btw – Skidmore’s website currently is running a feature story about me on entrepreneurial thinkingFunny the way it is.