Love What You Do
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Name of company: Morpheus Media
Name of woman leader: Shenan Reed
Based in: New York
Description: Interactive advertising and marketing agency
2003 sales: $2 million
2007 sales: $35 million
What was the inspiration for your business?
"We lost our jobs." The three founding partners--Reed, her husband Alex Golimbu and Jamie Driver--were all working at another advertising agency that crumbled in the dot-com bust. "We were in the right place at the right time," says Reed, whose nascent company inherited the last two clients the trio's former employer had left: The New York Times and Hertz Car Rental. "It was a couple of really great brands to start a business with," Reed says.
How much did it cost to start the business?
They spent nothing to get started. "We were really lucky because we were bringing on two clients who already had retainers." Although, she acknowledges, "We definitely lived off our credit cards and didn't pay ourselves a salary for a year."
How did you grow your business so rapidly?
"Do what you do extremely well, and surround yourself with people who do what they do extremely well. If you can't do what you love, love what you do. If you can find something to be passionate about, even if it's not your first passion, and really use all your experiences from everything else that you're capable of, just develop whatever that is."
Reed says that, as a rule, her company doesn't hire online advertising professionals from other agencies. Current employees include a former manager of a Sears store and three members of a band that was signed by Sony BMG. There's a former professional male model and a guy who grew up on a farm. Reed herself has a background in musical theater and her husband is a former attorney.
"I think that works to our advantage because everybody works with another piece of experience--and it's those experiences combined together that make us dynamic, exciting and interesting and able to help each other grow."
What Morpheus does isn't like offline advertising, Reed notes. "When we put it live, within 24 hours we know what it's doing--and we can change it, optimize it, rotate in something new. There are a lot of knobs and levers to turn. It takes a curious mind to want to figure out this puzzle."
How do you balance your family and business responsibilities?
"Business never really turns off. We bring it home with us. But then, any other couple would come home and say, hey, how was your day? We do actually come home and say, what'd you do today?"
Do you have a funny story about juggling kids and work?
Her 5-year-old son (Calvin, named for the "Calvin & Hobbes" comic strip) practically grew up in the office; he has a desk and his own computer right outside Reed's office. Once, he came in and found stacks of software programs. "He grabbed them and 'filed' them all over the office, leaving a different software CD on every single person's desk. We had brand new filing cabinets, and they still had their keys in them. He locked every person's filing cabinet for them, and then hid the keys."
What's on your iPod?
Ann Murray, Louis Armstrong, Bare Naked Ladies, Buddhahead (the band from the office), Buena Vista Social Club, The Carpenters, Chris Rock, Jerky Boys, Osmonds, Chopin, Helen Reddy ("My hero. Everyone knows I'm having a good day when I start blaring, I Am Woman."), Bach, Raffi, Mannheim Steamroller, The Boy from Oz, Avenue Q, A Year with Frog and Toad.
What books are you reading?
She just finished reading Hug Your People and is working on Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.
What's your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to grow their business?
She suggests that business owners hire people who are driven, curious, and smarter than they are. "I want to be surrounded by amazingly intelligent, creative people. This business is not about me. It's about them. I just happen to be a conduit."
Reed also suggests: "Take it one step at a time. Always be honest. Share the glory and own the problems."
In addition, Reed says, "Spend some time at least working on your business, not just in it." Turn over some day-to-day responsibilities "so that you can take a step back and say, What do I need to do to grow this business?, What do I need to be thinking about for the future of my business outside the daily client work?"