As a leader, Tom always has his eye on the big picture. He is an artist, writer, musician and creative thinker 24/7. A creative perfectionist, Tom repeatedly noodles, nudges, tucks, and tweaks the details. Every assignment begins with Tom‘s vision in thumbnail sketches which truly are the size of his thumbnail, and he sees what no one else can.
Having grown up in a family of nine children, Tom is a seasoned competitor. In his youth, he could be found in the trenches on the gridiron or any nearby hardwood court. He cheers voraciously for his PC Friars basketball and Ice Hockey teams. He can be spotted regularly at 6 am in his local gym or, now and then, behind the drums jamming to Blues, Classic rock, or Motown favs.
Tom is all about knowing your customers and what moves them, discovering the truth of your brand, and then building a program that elevates your product with impact and consistency and stimulates people to action.
His agency, an award-winning, strategic, brand development, and advertising firm has created brands and managed multi-media marketing programs for banks, hospitals, law firms, sports teams, office systems, real estate, schools, insurance companies, accounting, healthcare, energy, transportation, tourism, eyewear, building products, and even a brew pub. Tom’s work has been recognized with numerous awards including Obie, Telly, CLIO, Philly Ad Club, NJ Ad Club, and more.
For more details, visit their website here.
Here we sit down with Tom to learn a bit more about his journey as an entrepreneur.
Q. Tell us a little more about your journey as an entrepreneur – how did you get started? What inspired you?
Tom: When I was younger, I studied and planned to be an architect. That’s what I wanted to be. I was also an artist and painter on the side. Ultimately, I changed course and became a Fine Arts major in college up in Rhode Island. Later, I landed an internship at an ad agency in New York City called Bozell & Jacobs, who offered me a job in their bullpen before graduating from college. That’s how I entered the advertising field.
In the 80s, everybody had gobs and gobs of money that they threw at everything, so I got some really great experiences very quickly. I grew as an art director and worked at different ad agencies until I landed in one in central New Jersey, where I rose to creative director. Over time, we grew that agency from 2 million to 180 million in billings. During that time, the stature of clients that we served and level of talents evolved. Eventually, the agency was purchased by McCann, not long before the events of 9/11.
When the dust settled after 9/11, the new agency realized they didn’t need the management team that came with the agency they acquired, so I was out of a job. At that point, I knew a lot of people and had lots of contacts as a major networker, and decided to start my own agency. I chose to model it as a big-picture branding agency instead of focusing on a specific skill set. That’s how I startedt as an entrepreneur 20 years ago.
I named the agency Stimulus Brand Communications offering work in every medium, from marketing planning to logo design, strategic positioning, sales, collateral, websites, social media, traditional mainstream advertising, as well as media and digital media. We help companies of all sizes, from startups to large companies. As a branding firm, I sometimes need to explain that my agency is about more than just designing logos. Client’s brands are more about the culture and DNA of the people in leadership positions than it is about logos and colors.
Q. What are your long-term goals in business? Paint a vision for the future
Tom: You know, I’m in my 60s, so my vision of the future is not what others may have. I feel I can be creative until I’m six feet under. I will continue to develop business and serve clients in an incredibly evolving industry. I would also like to partner with someone to bring fresh blood, so to speak, to the business and maybe strengthen the digital side of the business. Most of all, I want clients to continue to find their brand as meaningful and to regard our agency as a trusted resource to their success. Overall, I will always love the craft and continue to add value to my clients businesses.
Q. What motivates you?
Tom: Many things motivate me. For one, I’m motivated by the challenge of creating an ad, whether it’s a print ad, a video, a TV commercial, a digital ad, etc. Creating that perfect marriage between the message or idea and the imagery is something that I deeply enjoy.
Every client is different, so every client presents a new learning challenge. I love finding ways to make them stand out as fresh and different so their target audience notices them. I can’t wait for the next creative assignment, no matter what the medium is, so that excitement keeps me motivated.
Q. What business-related book has inspired you the most, or, what is your favourite book?
Tom: They’re not business books, by I like a lot of John Grisham’s books and also Malcolm Gladwell’s book series. My bookshelf is filled with self-help more than business-related books, but these books have helped me quite a lot in business. Recently, I read RANGE by David Epstein, a book that examines how valuable it can be to have a range of experiences to inspire you and make you more diverse and multi-talented.
The first chapter of the book compares Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Tiger Woods seemingly grew up with a golf club, so that’s why he excels at the game—the best there ever was. Roger Federer, on the other hand, has played multiple sports since he was a kid. He tried everything.
Along the way, he decided, “I think I can make a career out of this tennis thing.” We all know he has become a superstar in the sport, but he can do so many other things well. He’s had a wide range of experiences, which helps makes him interesting to speak with The book illustrates the influence and value that your range can have in shaping your unique brand.
I have written two books as well, one about personal branding called The Stuff That Sticks, and the other about brand positioning, called The Position Player. In the second book, I focus on the story of a football team that lost every game over nearly three years. Then, the team made wholesale changes beginning with a new heralded coach.
They figured out positioning, striving to understand their competition, their strengths and weaknesses, helping to define its strategy or “game plan.” That also applies to business enabling you to gain an edge over your competition.
Q. What strategies do you use to optimize your performance or mindset?
Tom: To optimize my performance, I go to the gym at 5 am, six days a week. It helps me have the energy to do what I do and clear my mind. I also network a lot and I’m relentless at it. I interact with many people which feeds my business mindset. It also helps me balance my business mindset so I don’t think too much or too little of myself.
I purposely surround myself with positive and accomplished people who are about possibilities and action. I save no space for “debbie-downers.” That’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it’s a lesson I learned a few years ago. I had a critical surgery that set me back a while, which helped me realize the impact that positive vs. negative people can have on your success and happiness.
I’m also a musician and I play the drums. I got into a nine-piece classic rock band playing gigs on the weekends. I also write and I’m a professional speaker. These are things I do for fun and personal enrichness, so it helps me create a good work-life balance, which is key for optimized performance and mindset.
Q. If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it?
Tom: I have already written two books, which I mentioned before and they’re available on Amazon.com as well. They’re both based on my experiences and what I’ve learned in the industry. I share a lot of important lessons that can provide valuable insight!
Q. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
Tom: One of the best investments I’ve ever made is working on myself becoming a strong creative director. In that role, I get to influence teams of people and be their mentor, help them rise, and become the best they can be. In my career, I have surrounded myself with accomplished creative directors and learned from them.
Another investment I’ve made is in public speaking. It’s one thing to present creative campaigns to CEOs or boards of directors which I have done for years, but another thing to be on a stage in front of a bigger audience. So, I enrolled in professional speaker training and learned a “thing or two.”
It became important to me to try to share messages and emotional stories that go beyond advertising to lift people and help businesses have one of those lightbulb moments. To accomplish that, you have to learn to write a good script, rehearse it, and then deliver it as the authentic you. I was wise enough to surround myself with a team of people who were great at that and they helped me become more compelling in my speaking.
Q. Where do you see the future in your niche/industry 3-5 years from now?
Tom: Everything in the industry of marketing and advertising is evolving almost weekly or even daily nowadays. It’s been that way ever since COVID. It’s quite a topsy-turvy industry right now. More and more businesses are adapting richer digital media programs and throwing money at Google ads, LinkedIn, pay-per-click ads, and more, to see what sticks. However, I don’t think digital media will replace traditional media, the same way the Internet hasn’t replaced television as many people thought it would.
I think we’re going to continue to see enormous growth on the digital side but I don’t feel traditional media will disappear. Digital media is efficient, data-driven, and targeted but it remains to be seen how much digital media can create and drive a brand presence. Overall, it’s hard to predict anything because it’s such a fast-paced industry.
Q. What is your ‘one-sentence’ piece of advice you’d like to give to someone who wants to become an entrepreneur, coach, or business owner?
Tom: Have a plan. Write it down. If you don’t write it down, you will not stay on track. My mother used to say if you want to remember something, write it on your forehead. Also, be persistent and believe in yourself through the highs and the lows. If you do the work and push through the challenges, it makes everything so much more worthwhile.
You can download a free digital copy of The Position Player from his company website!